An ex-Marist Brother eventually became a priest — and now he admits child-sex crimes

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 17 November 2019

Originally, "Brother" Carl Edward Stafford was teaching in Marist Brothers schools in New South Wales. Then he left the Marists and worked as a lay teacher ("Mister" Stafford), still in Catholic schools. Eventually the church recruited him to become a priest (making him "Father" Stafford) in parishes in Sydney's outer-north. In 2019, he appeared in Sydney District Court (aged 80) to face a criminal trial, charged with committing sexual offences against boys during his forties and fifties. Stafford, who had previously pleaded "Not Guilty", changed his plea to "Guilty", making a trial unnecessary. The court will sentence him later in 2019.

Broken Rites possesses a copy of an official document in the Marist Brothers archives stating that "Carl STAFFORD (born 8 July 1939)" was originally a Marist Brother but this document does not indicate in what year he left the Marist Order.

In the 1980s, Carl Stafford was working as lay a teacher (known as "Mister" Carl Stafford) at St Gregory's College, Campbelltown (in Sydney's south). St Gregory's College, which was established by the Marist Brothers, was an agricultural boarding school with boarders from various regional areas in NSW.

He also taught (as "Mister Stafford") elsewhere - for example, at St John's College, Dubbo (in north-western New South Wales).

In 1989, Stafford entered a Catholic seminary to train as a priest for the Diocese of Broken Bay which comprises parishes in Sydney's northern suburbs plus parishes on the NSW central coast. After completing his training, he was ordained as a priest in 1994.

Bishop Peter A Comensoli (formerly of the Broken Bay diocese) stated publicly in 2017 that (after being ordained) "Father Stafford held appointments in Mona Vale, Gosford, Toukley/Lake Munmorah and Kincumber parishes."

Father Carl Stafford retired from parish work in 2010, when he was 70. After this, the Broken Bay Diocese section in the annual printed edition of the Australian Catholic Directory continued to include "Rev. Carl Stafford" among the Broken Bay Diocese's list of "Retired Clergy".

On 16 October 2017, following an investigation by detectives, police arrested Carl Stafford who was living in retirement at a town in north-west NSW. The police charged him with child-sex offences allegedly committed some years ago.

Stafford was granted conditional bail pending his court proceedings. The case had preliminary procedures with a magistrate in the Gosford Local Court in late 2017 and during 2018.

At the Local Court, Stafford indicated that he would plead "Not Guilty". This plea would necessitate a criminal trial in a higher court, the District Court.

On 9 August 2019, after the case reached the Sydney District Court, Stafford changed his plea to "Guilty" on eight charges, involving offences against four children. Therefore, he was automatically convicted on these charges, making a trial unnecessary.

His guilty plea was for sexually abusing children at Campbelltown between 1984 and 1987 (while working as a lay teacher) and at Gosford between 1996 and 1997 (while he was a parish priest).

The court is scheduled to sentence Carl Stafford on 6 December 2019. Meanwhile, he is released on bail under strict conditions.

The District Court case number for Carl Edward Stafford is 2017/00314987.

One victim's story

A former student, "Percy", was aged 13-14 when he encountered Carl Stafford who was then a staff-member at St Gregory's College, Campbelltown, in the 1980s. Percy has told Broken Rites:

"I attended St Gregory's College from Year 7 onwards. I was feeling lonely with not many friends. One staff member, Carl Stafford, befriended me. He was not teaching me any of my subjects. He worked in the school's agricultural area and he sometimes drove the school bus He looked after social events including camping trips.

"During a school camping trip, we students stayed in a cabin with bunks. Carl Stafford had his own camper-trailer, with a fold-out tent containing a mattress. Sometimes Stafford invited me to stay in his camper-trailer but, while I was in bed, he molested my genitals. This happened several times when I was aged about 13 or 14, while I was in his custody.

"Also, I started spending an occasional weekend with Stafford at his family's house at Copacabana, on the NSW Central Coast. He also molested me there, repeatedly, again while I was in his custody.

"Thereafter, I avoided Stafford at school and didn't go on any more of his camping trips.

"My twenties and thirties were difficult for me. Finally, in my early forties, I had a chat with a NSW Police detective and told them what Stafford had done to me."