Father James Barry Whelan is mentioned in a Melbourne court case

A woman named Anne was sexually exploited by Catholic priest Father James Barry Whelan, the woman's barrister has alleged in an Australian court. The priest sought sexual rewards for trying to save the woman's job, the barrister alleged.

Anne appeared in the Ringwood Magistrates Court in Melbourne's east on 23 October 2002, when she was aged 45. The alleged sexual abuse occurred in 2001.

Father Barry Whelan, aged 67 at the time of the court case, had been a priest of the Melbourne archdiocese since the early 1960s, working in parishes (in Kilmore, East Melbourne, Geelong, Noble Park North and Heidelberg) and also as a hospital chaplain in Melbourne and Geelong.

Anne's lawyer, Philip Dunn, QC, told the court that in 2001 Anne had been an employee at the Catholic Church's Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda (in inner-Melbourne), helping disadvantaged people. Father Barry Whelan had been moved to this same parish, Sacred Heart, after allegations that he had used his priestly role to have sexual liaisons with women parishioners in previous parishes, Mr Dunn alleged.

Mr Dunne alleged that when Anne's job at Sacred Heart Mission was threatened, she asked Fr Barry Whelan to help save her job. In return, Fr Whelan requested (and received) sexual favours from Anne, Mr Dunn alleged. But Anne still lost her job.

Consequently, on 15 July 2002, feeling exploited, Anne smashed eight windows at the home of Father Whelan's brother Tony, who was on the Sacred Heart board of management.

In court, Anne pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage. The magistrate, after considering what led up to the offence, did not convict Anne but placed her on a good-behaviour bond and ordered her to pay compensation for the damage.

Resignation

When Anne brought her sex-abuse allegation to the attention of the archdiocesan authorities in 2002, she made it clear that she was not afraid to go public if necessary.

On 5 July 2002, the vicar-general of the archdiocese (Monsignor Christopher Prowse) issued a media statement, saying that Father Barry Whelan had resigned from the archdiocese. The resignation, on 27 June 2002, had been accepted with immediate effect. "Father Whelan is now officially retired," the statement said.

The statement also said: "Father Whelan does not have the faculties (rights and responsibilities) of the Melbourne archdiocese, and accordingly is no longer permitted to celebrate Mass publicly, to preach, to hear confessions or administer the sacraments."

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