This priest assaulted girls — and the church kept giving him more victims
Priest accused of child abuse ‘sent to Australia’
- Charles Miranda in London
- From: News Limited Network
- March 04, 2013 12:00AM
TWO priests are under investigation by church authorities both in Australia and the UK amid allegations they sexually abused at least two boys in the 1960s and 1980s.
News Limited can reveal one of the priests, Father Gordon Bennett, died in 2011 but not before the church had been told the priest, who was sent to Australia in September 1985, was being accused of child sex offences.
The victim, who asked not to be named, had been writing to the church in the UK and later Australia with his claims for more than five years prior to Fr Bennett dying at the age of 90.
The victim, now aged in his 60s, last month retained legal counsel and is to pursue a claim of damages against the Catholic Church in Australia or in London where last Friday the UK’s highest court ruled clerics were akin to being “employees” of the church and thus diocese are liable.
In a second unrelated case, a Queensland man now aged in his 40s is also seeking legal redress after being allegedly abused by Jesuit priest Father James Chaning-Pearce who in 1997 pleaded guilty and was jailed in England for three years for abusing another three boys aged 12, 13 and 15.
The Australian man was allegedly abused in the mid-1980s in Zimbabwe – where his parents had been posted – and he met the priest who was working at a school.
He approached authorities including the police in the UK after he realised the man who had allegedly abused him was back working at a prestigious Catholic boys’ college in the UK.
It was his information that then sparked the police probe which led to Chaning-Pearce’s prosecution for the UK abuse.It is understood the priest, having served his time, is now at a monastery in Wales. No charges have been brought against him in relation to these latest allegations.
Legal sources close to both investigations said material gathered so far including letters written to the church authorities would be made available to the landmark royal commission announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard last November.
The commission, with its wide-ranging powers, was created after NSW police claimed the Catholic Church covered up evidence of pedophile priests.
Since then the church has created the Truth, Justice and Healing Council to work with the commission on claims.
Truth, Justice and Healing Council CEO Francis Sullivan said yesterday his group would look at the latest claims and was committed in supplying whatever evidence to get the truth out.
“The suffering of victims and those damaged from the abuse scandals remains the number one issue to be addressed and that our church, like other institutions, must keep up with best practice process to protect children and prevent any sexual or other abuse,” he said.