This priest 'befriended' young schoolgirls

By a Broken Rites researcher

Some Australian women, now advancing in years, are still complaining about having been abused (when they were children) by Father Dominic Phillips, a senior Catholic priest from the Vincentian Fathers religious order.

Phillips worked in several Australian parishes that were staffed by the Vincentian order (officially called the Congregation of the Mission).

He also taught trainee priests at seminaries in Australia and New Zealand.

Even while working at seminaries, he would frequent a nearby parish, where he would befriend local families and their children. He would invite a child to visit the priest's house, where he would maul the child indecently. He evidently had a preference for girls.

Another worry about Phillips is that he was a chaplain to deaf-mute children in New South Wales and New Zealand — and these vulnerable children could have been at risk.

The priest's background

At the age of 17 in New South Wales, Dominic Phillips somehow became recruited by the Vincentian order as a trainee priest. A part of his training was done in a Vincentian seminary facility attached to St Stanislaus College (a boys' high school) at, Bathurst NSW. After being ordained, Phillips spent several years teaching trainee Vincentian priests at St Stanislaus College. (This mention of St Stanislaus College will raise some eyebrows, because the Vincentians have developed a reputation for a culture of sexual abuse and cover-up, and there have been public revelations about this at St Stanislaus.)

Phillips taught future priests at three seminaries:

  • a Vincentian seminary in Eastwood in Sydney;
  • New Zealand's national seminary (Holy Cross College), situated then at Mosgiel (staffed then by the Vincentian order); and
  • South Australia's seminary (St Francis Xavier) in Rostrevor, Adelaide (this was from 1957 to 1964).

While at these seminaries, he also became known in the local parish.

In between his seminary postings, he spent some years working full-time in parishes:

  • in Malvern Victoria (St Joseph's parish), 1953-55;
  • in Southport, Queensland (Mary Immaculate parish), 1956; and
  • in Wandal, Rockhampton, Queensland (St Vincent's parish), 1966-70,

Complaints from women

Three women, who do not know each other (they are from separate parts of Australia) have contacted Broken Rites), complaining about having been handled indecently by Fr Dominic Phillips when they were children.

The first woman who contacted us about Phillips was "Deirdre", of Rockhampton QLD (born in 1958), who told us in 1994:

  • "In the late 1960s, from when I was 10 until when I was 12, I was living in St Vincent's parish, Wandal, Rockhampton, Queensland. I was a pupil at the local primary school, St Joseph's, in Grades 4, 5 and 6.

    "We girls used to visit St Vincent's church at lunch-time to clean the brass vessels in the sacristy. Also, one or other of us would visit Fr Phillips in his office — at weekends, as well as on school days.

    "He would sit me on his lap. On several occasions, his hands wandered, touching my private parts.

    "Another girl told me that he did the same thing to her."

Another woman, "Rita" (born 1943), told Broken Rites in 2003 that she was molested by Fr Phillips at St Joseph's parish, Malvern (in Melbourne's inner south-east) about 1953, when she was aged 10.

And, thirdly, "Mandy" (born 1957), told Broken Rites in March 2011 that she encountered Fr Phillips when he was the spiritual director at Adelaide's St Francis Xavier seminary in Rostrevor. Mandy's family lived near the seminary. They attended the local parish church, where Fr Phillips befriended her family. Mandy says that Phillips dealt indecently with her in his room at the seminary, when she was seven.

These women are particularly alarmed that, as a child-abuser, Fr Dominic Phillips was helping to train future Catholic priests.

And his role as a chaplain to deaf children in New South Wales and New Zealand gives cause for concern. Profoundly deaf children are particularly vulnerable and it would not be difficult for an offender to intimidate them into remaining silent about any abuse.

Fr Dominic Phillips died in 1970 but his victims still feel harmed.

Article posted 17 March 2011