A priest is charged regarding alleged incidents in Sydney in 1993

  • Article updated 10 July 2019

In 2019, New South Wales police have charged a Catholic priest (Father Ron Peters) with having indecently assaulted a schoolboy in Sydney in 1993 (this was before Ron Peters became a priest). Ronald Peters (born in 1958) has written about how he was originally a Brother in the Catholic teaching order of Patrician Brothers in NSW (in the 1980s and 1990s). Early in the 2000s, he was accepted by the Wollongong diocese (south of Sydney) as a trainee priest and, after training as a deacon in parishes, he was finally ordained as a priest for this diocese in 2005. The indecent-assault charge is due to have a preliminary mention in court in mid-2019.

Father Ron Peters has stated (on a website of the Dominican order) that he is from a family of Dutch immigrants who settled in Sydney. He stated:

"I was educated by the Mercy Sisters and Patrician Brothers in Blacktown, western Sydney. In February 1979 I was professed into the Patrician Brothers. I served in a number of schools run by the Order and also served some time as Director of Formation as well as working in the Catholic Education Office of Sydney as an adviser in Religious Education for secondary schools . . .

"I decided to apply to the Bishop of Wollongong for admission into the formation program for ordination. I spent some time at the Beda College in Rome, as well as the Good Shepherd Seminary in Sydney. I was ordained by Bishop Peter Ingham on 4th June 2005 in the Cathedral of Saint Francis Xavier . . ."

[Wollongong is one of the eleven Catholic regional dioceses in New South Wales. This diocese covers some territory known as the Illawarra region, situated on the coast immediately south of Sydney. Wollongong is the city where the diocesan cathedral is located.]

On 21 March 2019, the Sydney Morning Herald website published a news item (from Wollongong's daily Illawarra Mercury):

'Wollongong priest Father Ron Peters has been charged with historical indecent assaults.

'Father Peters, a co-founder of Illawarra People for Peace, was arrested in Berkeley [a suburb of Wollongong] on Tuesday [19 March 2019]. The 61-year-old priest, who is chair of the Diocesan Schools Council and works in many Illawarra school communities, was charged at Lake Illawarra Police Station with three counts of aggravated indecent assault and aggravated indecency.

'The charges follow an investigation launched in 2018 by Fairfield police [in Sydney] after they received allegations of indecent assaults on a 15-year-old boy at a high school in the Fairfield area in 1993.

'Father Peters has been granted conditional bail to appear in Port Kembla Local Court on May 15. He is suspended from the church, according to NSW Police.

'The Wollongong Diocese refused however to comment on Father Peters' status.

"This is a situation where the police have laid charges and will be bringing the matter before the courts. For all involved, this process needs to be given the total respect it deserves," the diocese said in a statement.

'A spokesman refused to answer questions on how parents and students would be informed of any change to Father Peters' status and whether there was counselling available with regard to the sudden removal of a priest.

'Illawarra parents said they were concerned about the lack of information. One said she saw a brief note in a school newsletter late last year saying Father Peters was on leave "with no details".

'Another said: "I believe more information and advice on how to talk to children would be very valuable."

'Father Peters' profile has this week [March 2019] been removed from the Wollongong Catholic Diocese website.

'It previously stated that Father Peters was ordained by Bishop Peter Ingham in 2005 and briefly served in the Ruse and Nowra parishes. He was a chaplain for the Berrima Womens Correctional Facility before being appointed Dean and Administrator to the Wollongong Cathedral in 2006.

'He "continues his role as Dean and is now the Administrator of the Lumen Christi Parishes, Wollongong", the site stated. "He is the Chair of the Diocesan Schools Council and sits on a number of the diocesan school committees."

[A website of the Catholic order of Dominican priests has stated that, on 17 March 2015, Father Ron Peters (of the Wollongong diocese) was received into the "Priestly Fraternities of St Dominic"]