An ex-Marist Brother became a lay teacher and then a priest — now he is facing court charges

  • Article updated 1 November 2017

In late 2017, New South Wales police have charged a retired Catholic priest (now aged 78) with child-sex offences allegedly committed in NSW earlier in his working career. The case is listed for court in 2018. The Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay (in Sydney's north) has announced that the retired priest is Father Carl Stafford. And Broken Bay bishop Peter A Comensoli has stated publicly: "Originally a Marist Brother, Fr Stafford left this Order [the Marists] and took up a lay teaching position with St Gregory’s College Campbelltown before entering the seminary in 1989. Ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Broken Bay in 1994, Fr Stafford held appointments in Mona Vale, Gosford, Toukley/Lake Munmorah and Kincumber parishes. Fr Stafford was removed from public ministry [that is, parish work] in 2010." [However, according to church sources, Father Carl is still a priest and he is merely in retirement without any further parish appointments.]

An official document in the Marist Brothers head-office archive confirms that "Carl STAFFORD (born 8 July 1939)" was originally a Marist Brother but this document does not indicate what year he left the Marist Order.

On 16 October 2017, following an extensive investigation by detectives, police arrested the 78-year-old retired priest at a town in north-west NSW.

The police charged him with sexual offences against three boys:

  • two boys while he was a priest based in a parish in East Gosford (north of Sydney, in the Broken Bay diocese) in the 1990s;
  • and another boy in the 1980s, while working as lay a teacher (known as "Mister" Stafford) at the Campbelltown school (in Sydney's south). St Gregory's College was an agricultural boarding school, with boarders from various regional areas in NSW.

Carl Stafford was charged with a total of 13 sex-related offences against these three boys.

He was granted conditional bail until his court proceedings begin. The case was listed (on the NSW courts website) to have its first mention in a courtroom at Gosford Local Court on 30 October 2017 (for the matter to be officially filed in a brief administrative procedure) but this preliminary procedure has now been adjourned until January 2018, when the magistrate would usually fix a date (later in 2018) for the next step in the judicial process.

On the court schedule, the Stafford case-number is given as 2017/00314987, and the defendant's full name is given as Carl Edward Stafford.

Meanwhile, the Detectives Office at Gosford Police are continuing their inquiries. The Gosford detectives are also handling the other allegations regarding Carl Stafford at St Gregory's College Campbelltown. The Gosford and Cambelltown allegations are being combined in the same police investigation. The detectives wish to hear from anybody with factual information relevant to this case.

FOOTNOTE: After Father Carl Stafford retired from parish work in 2010, 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". The 2014 edition of the Directory gave Father Carl Stafford's retirement address in that year as a villa unit at Kincumber.