The Herald Sun (Melbourne, Austrlia)
A THIEVING alcoholic priest accused of molesting orphaned teenage boys can work with children again after winning an appeal against a Working With Children Check (WWCC) lifetime ban.
Family and Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard slammed the decision as “extremely concerning”.
Mr Hazzard told The Saturday Telegraph he was “calling on the Catholic Church to reconsider the man’s involvement in pastoral activities”.
“(It should) do what it probably should have done years ago by erring on the side of protecting our kids and not the former priest,” he said.
The case has also exposed how potential predators can work for months while their applications are assessed.
The 68-year-old former priest, known only as “BQC” in court, was banned from working with children by the Children’s Guardian in April 2014 after an investigation discovered “sustained” historical workplace allegations he had sexually abused two teenage Aboriginal siblings. One was a ward of the state.
The alleged conduct involved genitalia fondling and masturbation.
There was no police record of the incident, which happened over 1983-1984. Yet church inquiries came to “sustained” findings.
The priest took part in the Encompass program, a psychosexual treatment clinic for clergy that has been revealed to have shielded paedophiles.
While assessing his application for a WWCC, the Children’s Guardian discovered a 2008 workplace misconduct report that included allegations of theft and alcoholism.
The Children’s Guardian first became aware of BQC in September 2013 when he applied for a WWCC clearance so he could continue to volunteer among children in his retirement. In January, 2014, the priest was told a risk assessment was required because of the discoveries about his past.
In April he was given a “notice of interim bar”. A Children’s Guardian spokeswoman this week confirmed he was able to work with children for the six months prior to the ban because of a loophole where “a person is able to commence work while their WWCC application is being processed”.
He was banned forever in November, but launched an appeal in the Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The court found in his favour this month.
It ruled it could not be sure the abuse occurred because there was no police record. Yet it conceded this did not mean “the allegations did not factually amount to any inappropriate conduct”.
An Archdiocese of Sydney spokeswoman last night said they were unaware of the issue and “the relevant Church authority” would have assessed the priest.