Father Finian Egan in Sydney's northern suburbs

By a Broken Rites researcher (article updated on 2 May 2012)

On 1 May 2012, New South Wales police charged Catholic priest Father Finian Egan with alleged sexual abuse of four children in the Sydney region in the 1970s and '80s.

Father Finian James Egan, who was aged 77 in 2012, belongs to the Broken Bay diocese, which covers parishes to the north of Sydney Harbour (including on the NSW central coast). He is listed as a priest in the 2011 edition of the annual Australian Catholic Directory.

Father Egan, who maintains his innocence, was charged with 16 counts of indecent assault and one count of rape, relating to alleged assaults while he was a priest in Sydney and the NSW central coast.

The charges related to the alleged assaults of an 11-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl at Carlingford in 1979 and 1987 and a 17-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy at The Entrance in 1972 and 1973.

Father Egan was granted conditional bail until he appears at a Sydney court on a later date.

Police said their investigations (by Eastwood detectives) are continuing.

Church background

In 2008, a former parishioner asked the Catholic Church authorities to investigate certain matters regarding Father Egan.

Two years later, on 17 May 2010, the church issued a media statement, confirming that this investigation had taken place.

The statement was issued by Bishop David L. Walker, who is in charge of the Broken Bay Diocese. The statement referred to matters which allegedly occurred during the 1980s.

Bishop Walker's statement said: "Fr Egan was asked to stand aside from ministry while the process [of investigation] took place. He currently remains suspended from public ministry."

Bishop Walker said that the initial process of the church's investigation "has now been completed." The bishop added: "I acknowledge that this initial process has taken some time, which may have caused additional stress to those involved."

Bishop Walker confirmed reports (made in the media) that, despite being suspended, Fr Egan had conducted Mass during his suspension without obtaining approval from the bishop.

Media reports have stated that, during his period of suspension, the Catholic Church allowed Fr Finian Egan to say Mass during a visit to Ireland. The Broken Bay Diocese did not inform the Irish church authorities that, at the time of the Ireland trip, Fr Egan was supposed to be under suspension from priestly ministry.

Broken Rites research

Irish-born, Finian James Egan was ordained on 14 June 1959 and spent his career as a diocesan priest in the Sydney metropolitan area. Broken Rites has ascertained that one of his his early postings, as an assistant priest, was in the Leichhardt North parish (this is listed in the 1961 edition of the annual Australian Catholic Directory).

His next parishes included, for example, Cronulla (St Aloysius) and Fairfield (Our Lady of the Rosary).

His later work included parishes at, for example, The Entrance (Our Lady of the Rosary) and Narrabeen (St Joseph's).

For twenty years, from 1979 to 1999 he was the Parish Priest in charge of St Gerard Majella parish, Carlingford. He took an interest in the "Antioch" youth group in that parish.

In the 1980s the Sydney archdiocese became divided into smaller dioceses, and Fr Egan then came under the new Broken Bay diocese, comprising Sydney's northern suburbs, while the Sydney archdiocese became confined to the south side of the Harbour.

The 1988 Australian Catholic directory stated that Fr F.J. Egan was the secretary of the Clergy Remuneration and Retirement Fund in the Broken Bay Diocese. (This enhanced his significance among his fellow priests.)

Finian Egan retired from full-time parish work in 1999. In the 2000 Australian Catholic directory, he was still listed for the Broken Bay diocese — as a "supplementary priest". He is still listed in the mid-2011 edition, which is the edition currently available when police charged him on 1 May 2011.

Priests who are listed publicly as "supplementary" are still presumed by the public to be available for weddings, funerals and other freelance work, including sometimes acting as a relieving priest for another priest who is away.

A church website said that, even after retiring from full-time work, Fr Finian Egan continued to "have a presence" at the Carlingford parish.

Finian Egan was also associated with a church group (the Serra Club) which seeks to attract new recruits to the priesthood. A church website said in 2007: "Fr Finian Egan will be celebrating Mass for Serra [Club] on Wednesday 22nd August 2007 at the Catholic Parish of Waitara, Our Lady of the Rosary Church, and will be our guest speaker."

According to a church website, the objective of the Serra Club is "to foster and promote vocations to the ministerial priesthood of the Catholic Church."

New South Wales government

At Fr Finian Egan’s final parish (St Gerard’s parish in Carlingford), his parishioners included Gregory Eugene Smith, a lawyer who was elected in March 2007 as the Liberal Party’s member for the metropolitan seat of Epping in the New South Wales parliament. When Barry O’Farrell’s Liberal Party government came into office in NSW in 2011, Greg Smith became the Attorney General, putting him in charge of the state’s legal affairs.

In his inaugural speech in the NSW Parliament in 2007, Greg Smith mentioned that he had been a parishioner of Fr Finian Egan at St Gerard Majella's parish at Carlingford.

Greg Smith added:

  • "At St Gerard's, Father Finian Egan charmed us with his Irish wit and his pastoral devotion to his flock."

Greg Smith’s website has stated:

  • “Greg is a man of enduring faith and commitment and has been heavily involved in the life of the Catholic Church…

    “Greg was also formerly the President of NSW Right to Life…

    “Greg is a Cantor at St Gerard’s Church, Carlingford…"

When Greg Smith became the Attorney-General in 2011, he appointed Damien Tudehope (a lawyer) as his chief of staff. According to media reports, Damien Tudehope had been a long-time associate of Fr Finian Egan in the Catholic community.

Damien Tudehope has been connected with the Australian Family Association. Tudehope has a great interest in family issues — he has stated that he and his wife have nine children.