An archbishop was slow in taking action against his deputy who committed crimes against children

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 8 September 2017

In a statement issued in June 2010, an Australian Catholic archbishop confessed that he had been too slow in taking action about a senior fellow-cleric who was a danger to young males. Archbishop Adrian Doyle, in charge of the Hobart archdiocese in Tasmania, made this admission in a June 2010 pastoral letter to Tasmania's Catholics. The pastoral letter was about the Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis, the exposure of which is causing a worldwide public-relations problem for the church. The pastoral letter outlined how the worldwide revelations are undermining the church's public image in Tasmania.

The June 2010 pastoral letter stated: "I have admitted that in one instance, I could have and should have acted more promptly in response to a situation that was brought to my attention."

On 28 June 2010 the Hobart Mercury newspaper said that, in making this admission about slowness, Archbishop Doyle was reflecting on his actions in not dealing quickly with complaints against Monsignor Philip Green.

In 2003, Monsignor Philip Richard Green, was Tasmania's highest ranking Catholic priest, second only to Archbishop Doyle. Monsignor Green was once the director of Catholic Education in Tasmania

According to the Mercury, Monsignor Green had been a childhood friend and close associate of Archbishop Doyle.

In 2001 and 2002, two Tasmanian men (who did not know each other) came forward (separately), complaining that they had been sexually abused by Monsignor Green when they were teenagers:

  1. First, in 2001, a 30-year-old Hobart man (who Broken Rites will refer to as Mr K) wrote to Archbishop Adrian Doyle about Monsignor Green. Mr K said that Monsignor Green indecently touched him for four years, from age 14, usually in a Hobart chapel where he used to help Monsignor Green to prepare for daily Mass. Mr K said that Green would "corner" him in a secluded area of the chapel in order to perform the attacks. After writing to Archbishop Doyle, Mr K also contacted Broken Rites, and he kept in touch with Broken Rites during his ensuing dealings with the church.

    But in 2001 and 2002, the archdiocese dithered about Mr K's complaint, and Monsignor Green was left undisturbed, continuing to minister in his parish at Lindisfarne, Hobart.

  2. Meanwhile, in a separate development in 2002, another victim (who Broken Rites will call Mr M) told the Hobart archdiocese about encounters he had with Monsignor Green over a nine-year period from the age of 13 . Mr M's complaint met a similar round of dithering from the archdiocese.

The church concealed from both Mr K and Mr M the fact that the church was dealing with more than one complainant about Green.

Television interviews

In 2003, Mr K (like Mr M) discovered that the church was keeping Green in the ministry. So, in early August 2003, Mr K told his story on Channel Nine's "A Current Affair" program and in the Tasmanian press. Mr K told the media that he had once wanted to become a priest but Green's abuse (and the cover-up) had profoundly affected his life and he had since left the church.

Similarly, the other victim, Mr M, told his story too on "A Current Affair" on 31 October 2003.

Both programs suggested that Archbishop Doyle was being slow to take action about Monsignor Green.

Following all this bad publicity in the media, Archbishop Doyle publicly apologised to the public for the manner in which the church had handled sexual abuse complaints.

In October 2003, the archdiocese arranged for Green to take early retirement. In the next edition (July 2004) of the annual Australian Catholic directory, he was listed as one of Tasmania's "supplemtary priests" (that is, no longer having an on-going parish appointment), with his address given as care of the archbishop's office.

Mr M and Mr K are not necessarily the only young males who had a problem with Monsignor Green during his long career — they are merely the two who came forward. Did the church protection of Monsignor Green (plus the church's age-old practice of covering-up) discourage others from coming forward?

The court case of Mr M

Meanwhile, because of the church's slowness to act, Mr M contacted the Tasmanian police in 2003. As a result, Monsignor Philip Richard Green appeared in the Hobart Supreme Court on 9 December 2004, charged with indecently assaulting Mr M.

According to the prosecution, Mr M had told police that Monsignor Green dealt indecently with him over a nine-year period from the age of 13. Originally, police charged Philip Green with two of the incidents — one in 1970 (when Mr M was a child at Marist College in Burnie, Tasmania) and one in 1977 (when Mr M was 22).

At the Supreme Court, however, Green was presented on only the 1977 offence, to which Green pleaded guilty. The court heard that Phillip Green had been a friend of Mr M's family and was consoling the family after Mr M's sister had been killed in a car accident the day before.

The court heard that Mr M (aged 22 in 1977) was sitting in a car, in the dark, in northern Tasmania, grieving over the death. Green, then 41, got into the car, pinned Mr M in his seat, and invasively performed indecent actions on Mr M's body. Mr M tried to get out of the car but was unable to do so, because Green had hold of him. Mr M eventually broke free and fled. Later, at home, he found Green talking to his father as if nothing had happened.

Prosecutor Daryl Coates said Mr M felt he could not discuss the incident with his parents at the time because they were grieving over his sister's death. Mr M eventually told his father, but his father (a prominent Catholic layman) did not believe that a priest would misbehave. This caused a 20-year rift between Mr M and his father.

Mr Coates said that, by 2002, Mr M had reported Green's sex abuse to the church. After having a meeting with church officials, Mr M understood that Green would no longer act as a priest. But, in 2003, Mr M learned that Green was still performing church duties, so he complained to police.

Chief Justice Peter Underwood said the crime was a gross breach of trust. The crime was aggravated because Green was ministering to Mr M and his family, all traumatised by the death.

Addressing Green, the judge said: "You, as an ordained priest of the Catholic Church, held yourself out to this young man and his family as a custodian of moral values and a person in whom trust could be placed when in need...

"Your public humiliation is complete, for your former high standing has been transformed to disgrace and odium from which you are unlikely to recover."

Justice Underwood said the crime was further exacerbated by a long-term rift after Mr M's family disbelieved his story.

Convicted, Phillip Green was given a three-month jail sentence, which was suspended if he observed a two-year good-behaviour order.

Mr M is vindicated

Green's guilty plea and conviction stunned many Tasmanian Catholics. As the second-most senior Catholic in Tasmania, Green had been held in high regard and, until he pleaded guilty, some church members had refused to accept his guilt.

In mid-December 2004, after Monsignor Green's conviction, Archbishop Doyle issued a pastoral letter to Tasmania's Catholics, in which the archbishop apologised to the victim in the court case [Mr M.].

However, some Catholic laypersons accused the church of failing the victim, and accused Archbishop Doyle of being slow to take action against the monsignor who had been his childhood friend and close associate throughout their lives.

After Monsignor Green's guilty plea and conviction, Mr M finally received support from his family — 20 years too late.

The death of Mr K

Police were interested in Mr K's complaints about sexual abuse, but they found that they were unable to charge Monsignor Green with the Mr K incidents, because of a technicality in Tasmanian criminal law.

Mr K, like Mr M, had become estranged from his respective family after revealing the church-abuse. Therefore, he changed his name and left Tasmania.

Broken Rites has preserved a file, containing our long correspondence with Mr K as he fought to obtain justice.

Mr K's battle with the church exhausted him. He felt re-victimized by the church. He coped with this through medication but in June 2009 in South Australia he died at the age of only 38.