Priest guilty of 23 child-sex charges

In New South Wales on 2 May 2012, a Catholic priest was convicted on multiple child sex offences after a five-week trial.

A jury found the priest guilty of all 23 counts of indecent or sexual assault against boys as young as eight years old. The incidents occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s.

For legal reasons, the priest's name cannot be published at this stage but the court will allow publication of the name in due course. (This kind of temporary suppression-order frequently happens, for good reason, in criminal proceedings.)

The jury of seven men and five women heard evidence of how the priest told an eight-year-old victim to look at a "Sacred Heart of Jesus" image on the wall and "Just look up at Jesus" while he committed oral sex on the boy.

The boy, who had a physical disability and was teased at his Catholic school, was proud to be an altar boy because it was "something important" and a chance for him to "belong" to a group, the jury heard.

"He wanted his parents and relatives to see him up on the altar, being important. That was his dream," barrister Kate Traill (for the prosecution) told the jury. Instead, the boy was repeatedly molested by the priest He was confused because of his age, and because the priest told him they needed to be naked together so the boy could demonstrate he was "worthy".

When the boy told his devout mother that he did not want to be an altar boy any more, without revealing what had been happening at the church, she told him she wanted him to continue.

Regarding another of the charges, the court was told that a Catholic primary school teacher referred this victim to the priest because there were problems at the boy's home.

The priest took the boy to a park and molested him before asking: "How's that, do you feel better now?", then warning him not to tell anyone because "No one will believe you anyway".

In his defence, the priest accused his victims of fabricating claims against him to obtain compensation. He also argued that if they were abused by a priest, it was by other known paedophile priests living and working in the same district..

Prosecutor Kate Traill told the court that it would have been easier for the men to obtain compensation if they had made allegations against the named convicted paedophile priests.

The court will sentence the priest at a later date and, by then, the court will allow the priest's name to be published.

Article posted 3 May 2012