The church protected an abusive priest, Fr Syd Morey, in western Victoria

By a Broken Rites researcher  

Broken Rites Australia is researching a sexually-abusive priest, Father Sydney Morey, who flourished in western Victoria in the 1960s and 1970s. Now, many years later, many of his victims (and their families) still feel hurt by the church's negligence in recuiting and protecting Morey.

Morey died in the late 1970s, aged in his mid-sixties. According to an obituary in a church journal, Morey was originally an agricultural herd-tester in western Victoria. He trained as a Marist Brother (and Broken Rites has found his name in a Marist list of all Brothers who ever were members of the Marists' New South Wales province). But, for reasons that are not clear, Morey parted from the Marists at an early date.

He was aged 35 when Bishop James O'Collins accepted him as a trainee priest for the Ballarat diocese.

The Ballarat diocese covers the western half of the state of Victoria, from the city of Mildura in the north to the city of Warrnambool in the south. (The city of Ballarat is merely where the bishop resides).

Morey served in several parishes, including Mildura, Horsham and Terang, and Broken Rites has received reports about Morey from parishioners in all those areas.

A woman who was once a parishioner of Morey has told Broken Rites: "When I was a young girl, Fr. Sydney Morey often visited my grandparents' farm house. I have memories of Fr. Sydney Morey visiting there.  My grandmother would fuss over Fr. Morey such as making sure he only ever was served the breast of the chicken etc  and she would clean the house (which was always spotless) if he was coming.

"My large extended family includes a number of male cousins who would have been aged from 8 to 15 about that time.  I have recently learned that Father Morey targeted these boys sexually. The facts are finally emerging.  When we were children, Morey was protected by his status as a priest and by the holy image of the  Catholic Church."

In one of Morey's parishes, there was a family who owned a holiday house on the west Victorian coast, and Morey was allowed to use the house. A victim, “Paul” (not his real name), contacted Broken Rites in 1996 and said that, about 1970, he and other young boys used to stay at the holiday house with Morey. The boys' parents presumed that their sons were "safe with a Catholic priest".

Paul told Broken Rites: “He [Morey] engaged in smutty talk about sex. He would sit us on his knee and we had to take it in turns to sleep in Morey's bed, where we got touched up."

Broken Rites has learned that, in at least one case, Morey's child-sex offences included sodomy which is a child-sex crime carrying a substantial jail sentence.

As has usually happened in church sex-crimes, the church culture intimidated Morey's victims into remaining silent at the time, thereby protecting Morey from jail. Now the police cannot arrest Morey because he is dead.

Syd Morey (whose name has also been spelt as Sid Morey) was not the only sexual abuser in his various parishes. For example, one of Morey's parishes was Horsham (the parish of Saints Michael and John), which had at least four sexually-abusive priests — Fr John Day about 1950, Fr Leonard Monk about 1959, Fr Sydney Morey about 1967 and Fr Gerald Ridsdale in 1986-8.

These abusive priests were well protected during the administration of Bishop O'Collins, who ran the Ballarat diocese from 1941 to 1971. It was Bishop O'Collins who promoted Father John Day to the rank of a monsignor in the 1950s.

In 1961-63, Father Syd Morey ministered in Mildura (the Sacred Heart parish) — and other offenders (John Day and Gerald Ridsdale) also served at this same parish in the 1960s.

  • See a Broken Rites article about Bishop James O'Collins HERE.