A Brisbane priest is charged with a sexual offence

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated on 1 June 2017

A Queensland Catholic priest, Fr Michael McKeaten, had a preliminary mention in a Brisbane magistrates court on 31 May 2017 about an alleged sexual offence believed to have occurred in the 1990s. McKeaten was not required to attend court on that day, and was represented by a lawyer. McKeaten has been charged by police with one count of procuring a sexual act by false pretence, allegedly involving a male victim. The court process will continue during 2017.

According to Brisbane's Catholic Leader newspaper, Father Michael McKeaten has ministered at several parishes in the Brisbane diocese, including at Annerley, Bulimba, St Stephen's Cathedral, Surfers Paradise, Sunnybank, Stafford, Indooroopilly, Booval and most recently Beaudesert. He was about to move from Beaudesert to take charge of four parishes in Ipswich but on 23 May 2017 the Brisbane Catholic Archdiocese announced that "a priest" had withdrawn from active ministry after notifying the archdiocese about the police charges. The May 23 statement did not give the name of the priest.

At 6.45am on 31 May 2017, the name of Michael Joseph McKeaten appeared on the court's list of cases due to be mentioned during the court's session later that day.

The police charge relates to Father McKeaten's time at the Stafford parish in Brisbane's north, between July 1991 and December 1992.

The magistrate re-scheduled the McKeaten matter for for another date. McKeaten has not yet been required to indicate how he will plead (this happens later in the court process).

When Father McKeaten was leaving the Beaudesert parish recently to transfer to Ipswich, Catholic school children farewelled him with a cake at his final mass.

The principal of a parish school said that students had filled a book with heartfelt messages to give to the outgoing priest.

"The children have written messages for you and said they were going to miss Father Michael's presence among us, his smile and their conversations about footy," the principal said. "We wish him all the best and we are a part of your story as much as you are ours."

On 31 May 2017, after the case's mention in court, the Brisbane Catholic archdiocese issued a statement, saying:

"Michael McKeaten – a priest in the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane – today appeared in Brisbane Magistrate’s Court charged with a sexual offence alleged to have occurred more than two decades ago... The charge does not relate to his work in a Catholic school. Michael McKeaten withdrew from ministry when he was charged earlier this month. The Archdiocese issued a public statement at the time to confirm the charge and the priest’s removal from ministry."

The archdiocese's May 31 statement gives the phone number of the church's professional standards office which could "assist" any complainant in going to police concerning any church-related abuse matter. However, the archdiocese's statement does not publish any phone number for the police.