A trainee priest jailed held "prayer meetings" for his victims

  • By a Broken Rites researcher

Broken Rites is doing further research about Paul Ronald Goldsmith (born about 1945), a former trainee priest who indecently assaulted boys. In the 1960s he trained for the Catholic priesthood in Melbourne but failed to reach ordination. About 1970 he left the seminary. In the 1970s and 1980s, as a layman, he continued his interest in boys by acting as a sports coach at Catholic boys' schools in Tasmania and on the mainland. According to submissions in court, he took boys on camping trips, held prayer meetings at his home and would serve alcohol to teenagers before indecently touching them.

  • In 2005, at Burnie in north-west Tasmania, Goldsmith was jailed for sexual offences against 20 boys, committed in that region between 1976 and 1987. This prosecution was confined to the north-west region.
  • In 2008, the Catholic church paid an out-of-court settlement to a former schoolboy from St Patrick's College, Launceston, in north-eastern Tasmania. The settlement related to 1969 when Goldsmith was still a trainee priest doing work-experience at parishes and schools in Tasmania.
  • In 2007, Australian Federal Police went to Goldsmith's jail in Tasmania to interview him about an alleged incident involving a boy from a Catholic school in Canberra in the early 1970s, after Goldsmith had left the Melbourne seminary.

Goldsmith was born in Hobart, Tasmania. In the 1960s, he was accepted by the archbishop of Hobart (Archbishop Guildford Young) to train as a priest for the Hobart archdiocese. Goldsmith entered Melbourne's Corpus Christi College seminary, which trains priests for dioceses in both Victoria and Tasmania.

About 1969, when he was in the final stages of his course, Goldsmith would visit schools and parishes in Tasmania and would take schoolboys away on a camping trip. What happened in 1969 is unclear but Goldsmith's ordination as a priest, which was due soon, never eventuated.

Athletics coach

Despite missing out on becoming a priest, Goldsmith continued to offer his services to schoolboys in the 1970s onwards as an athletics coach. For example, he had an athletics coaching role at Marist Regional College (conducted by the Marist Fathers) in Burnie, north-west Tasmania. He also met boys through other organisations.

Goldsmith was regarded as a respectable citizen and was active in the Lions community-service organisation. He also spent many years working in the insurance industry in Tasmania's north-west, retiring in 2000.

By 2004, however, Goldsmith's past finally caught up with him when Tasmanian police interviewed adult males who had been some of Goldsmith's victims from Tasmania's north-west. In 2004, he was extradited from Western Australia to face court in Tasmania.

Guilty plea

In the Tasmanian Supreme Court on 28 November 2005, Paul Ronald Goldsmith (aged 60) pleaded guilty to sexual offences against 20 boys, aged 13 to 16, between 1976 and 1987, at his homes at Ulverstone and Port Sorell in Tasmania's north-west and on camping trips around the state. The charges included four counts of maintaining a sexual relationship with a person under 17 years, one count of aggravated sexual assault, one count of unlawful sexual intercourse and 36 counts of indecent assault.

Crown prosecutor Cath Rheinberger said that, because of Goldsmith's status in the community, he was able to perpetrate these crimes for as long as he did and with so many complainants.

Ms Rheinberger detailed more than a decade of abuse during which Goldsmith would lure boys to his home with alcohol and cigarettes.

"The accused had an open-door policy for young boys where they were free to drink alcohol — which he often supplied — they could smoke cigarettes and they could come and go as they liked," Ms Rheinberger said.

The court heard that he would hold prayer meetings and serve alcohol to teenagers before touching their genitals. On other occasions he would play strip poker with boys as young as 13 and would make them masturbate if they lost a game.

Ms Rheinberger told the court of camping trips to Trial and Granville harbours on the West Coast, Bruny Island and other locations around Tasmania.

On one occasion he directed a 14-year-old to strip and sleep in the same sleeping bag with him. During the night, he touched the boy sexually.

While coaching athletics, Goldsmith was giving one boy a rub-down and touched his genitals. When the boy refused to take his shorts off, Goldsmith wrestled him to the ground and tried to pull them off, but the boy fought his way free.

On 2 December 2005, Justice Peter Evans sentenced Goldsmith to jail for six and a half years (with parole possible after four years).

Further victims?

The 20 victims in this prosecution are not the only complainants about Goldsmith — they were merely those who agreed to provide a sworn, signed statement to police. This court case was confined to victims in Tasmania's north-west in the years between 1976 and 1987.

The charges did not include any victims that Goldsmith had in other parts of Tasmania. After the sentencing, a Tasmanian legal source told Broken Rites: "A family in Tasmania's south knows of a similar incident involving their son but this incident has not been reported to the police."

Launceston and Canberra?

It is believed that Goldsmith took Launceston Catholic schoolboys away on a camp in 1969 when he was ministering as a deacon, nearing the end of his training for the priesthood. Launceston is in Tasmania's north-east, not the north-west; and the year 1969 is prior to the time-span in the court charges.

It is believed that one Launceston family contacted Hobart Archbishop Guildford Young in 1969, intimating that there would be massive problems for the church if Goldsmith's impending ordination went ahead. After this, Goldsmith and the Melbourne seminary parted company. Goldsmith then switched to helping boys in his new role as a lay citizen.

In 2008, the Hobart Catholic archdiocese and the Christian Brothers paid an out-of-court settlement to a former pupil of St Patrick's College, Launceston, relating to an allegation about Goldsmith in 1969.

It is believed that Goldsmith associated with boys in mainland states. In 2007, Australian Federal Police began investigating allegations that in 1970-71 Goldsmith visited Canberra, where he allegedly associated with boys including some from Daramalan College, a prominent Canberra Catholic school. Any allegations about Goldsmith outside Tasmania would be handled by courts in the relevant state or territory, not by Tasmania.

The Melbourne seminary

Goldsmith was not the only trainee at Melbourne's Corpus Christi College seminary in the late 1960s who ended up in jail. Two others were Father Terry Pidoto and Father Michael Glennon