A bishop's deputy committed crimes against young girls

By a Broken Rites researcher (article updated 8 May 2015)

Australia's child-abuse Royal Commission has become interested in how the Catholic Church's "Towards Healing" process is handling (or mis-handling) complaints about a senior Australian cleric, the "Right Reverend" Monsignor Maurice Tully, who had a long career (until 1975) in northern New South Wales.

Broken Rites research has found that Tully was an abuser of young girls, and these victims are now mature-age women who are still feeling hurt by the Catholic Church's protection of Tully.

The church's Professional Standards Office (the PSO) in Sydney, which operates "Towards Healing",  possesses information about Tully's offences, but the PSO has been slow in doing anything for Tully's victims. Therefore, the victims need to talk to the Royal Commission.

One victim has told the Royal Commission that she went through "Towards Healing" but the Armidale diocese authorities behaved evasively. Therefore, she felt hurt by "Towards Healing" as well as by the church's original cover-up of Tully. Recently, after several years of evasiveness, the Armidale diocese has finally agreed to make a financial settlement with this victim

Background

Maurice Tully, born about 1901, was a priest of the Armidale diocese. This diocese includes many towns — and Armidale town is merely the town where the cathedral is situated.

Tully began his career as an assistant priest in parishes such as Tamworth (St Nicholas's parish) and Glen Innes (St Patrick's parish). Later in his career, he was in charge of parishes such as St Brigid's at Quirindi.

By the 1960s, he had been promoted as "Monsignor" Tully — one rank below a bishop. In those years, as well as being in charge of a parish, Tully was also the Vicar-General of the whole Armidale diocese, meaning that he administered it on behalf of the bishop (and he was in full command when the bishop was away or if the bishop died).

Broken Rites has researched the annual editions of the Australian Catholic Directory for the 1960s, and these volumes referred to the "Right Reverend" Maurice Tully.

In 1971, pending the appointment of a new bishop, Monsignor Maurice Tully was listed as Vicar Capitular of the Diocese.

In this capacity, Tully was able to ensure that no written complaints about him were preserved in the diocesan archives (but, anyway, it was normal for the church hierarchy to ignore or conceal such complaints, preferably without keeping a written record).

Monsignor Tully used to take a particular interest in the children who were attending his local Catholic primary school. He also befriended the families, who trusted him because he was a Catholic priest.

Throughout his career, Tully's status as a Catholic priest enabled him to avoid scrutiny. Many of his victims would have remained silent or, if they told their Catholic parents, the parents would not welcome hearing negative things about a Catholic priest and would be reluctant to report a Catholic priest to the police.

Some of his victims would now be aged in their fifties or sixties.

Monsignor Maurice Tully died in 1981, aged 80. Therefore, it is too late for police to prosecute him. It is still possible now for Tully's victims to demand some justice (including a written apology) from the church authorities but, so far, the "Towards Healing" process is being evasive on the Tully matter.

Fortunately,  the  national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child-Abuse is NOT evasive. In August 2013 the  Royal Commission held a private hearing at which it received certain information about Tully and "Towards Healing". Broken Rites knows of two other women who are seeking to have an interview with the Royal Commission.

Because Tully is now being scrutinised by Broken Rites and by the Royal Commission, there are signs that the Arnidale diocese might have learned a lesson and that it might become less evasive towards Tully victims in the future.

Meanwhile, Broken Rites is continuing research into Monsignor Maurice Tully and "Towards Healing".