What did the church leaders know about this priest?

By a Broken Rites researcher (article updated 23 June 2014)

Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission is investigating how the Catholic Church authorities dealt with a priest, John Gerard Nestor, who was convicted by a magistrate in 1997 for the alleged indecent assault of an altar boy. In a higher court, Nestor successfully appealed against this conviction. But the church authorities possessed certain "additional information" about Nestor (not regarding this boy). Perhaps the Royal Commission might be able to uncover this information.

During his twenties, John Nestor worked in secular jobs as an administrator. In his early thirties, he
became a student in a Catholic seminary, aspiring to become a priest. He was ordained as a priest in 1989 (in his late thirties) and was accepted into the Wollongong Diocese, south of Sydney.

A relative of his was Bishop William Murray, head of the Wollongong Diocese.

When police charged Nestor in the 1997 court case, Father Nestor (then aged 45) admitted that he had slept on mattresses on a floor with a boy (aged about 14) and his younger brother in July 1991, but denied assaulting the boy.

Mr Tony Abbott, who was a member of the Federal Parliament in the Howard Government, gave "good character" evidence for Nestor before the sentencing. Mr Abbott told the court that Nestor was an upright and virtuous man whom he had known since 1984 while studying at Sydney's St Patrick's Seminary to become a priest. Mr Abbott said: "He [John Nestor] was ... a beacon of humanity at the seminary."

The magistrate found Nestor guilty and sentenced him to jail. But Nestor appealed against the conviction, and in October 1997 a higher court quashed the conviction. Nestor never served any time behind bars.

The Royal Commission hearing (starting  in Sydney on 24 June 2014) will take a fresh look at how the church authorities dealt with Nestor during and after his time as a Wollongong priest. It will also examine correspondence between the Wollongong Catholic diocese and the Vatican in relation to preventative and disciplinary action taken against Nestor.

After all the media publicity about the 1997 court case, the Wollongong diocese realised that it would be  bad for the church's reputation to continue to have Nestor working in any of its parishes. Nestor rejected this ban and appealed to the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, which decreed in 2001 that the Wollongong Diocese must reinstate Nestor.

But following lengthy appeals to the Vatican by the Wollongong Diocese,  the Vatican, finally struck him off the clergy list in 2008, based on what it described as "grave reasons". It has been revealed that the Wollongong diocese possessed "significant additional material" relating to further complaints made against Nestor.

The alleged victim in the 1997 court case told a journalist in 2013 that he wants the royal commission to take another look at the case.