Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Catholic Church moves three former priests away from Canberra schools after community concerns

Sign at the front of the school.In the wake of community outcry, the Catholic Church says it has now removed three former priests from a Catholic-run retirement home neighbouring two Canberra primary schools.

One of the men, who was sacked after an internal investigation into inappropriate behaviour towards children, had been living at the Garran home for more than two years before the schools were alerted by the Catholic Church.

It is not known why the other two priests needed to be moved or how long they had been living at the home.

In a statement, Matt Casey from the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn simply said the other two priests were "removed from the ministry for other matters".

"I reiterate that the safety of children was not compromised at any time," Mr Casey said.
The archdiocese has been contacted for further explanation.

Two retired priests remain at the property with both described by the church as "in good standing".

Schools weren't told for years

The decision to immediately relocate the three priests to "appropriate alternative accommodation" comes after days of sustained pressure on the archdiocese to explain why it allowed a priest accused of inappropriate conduct to live near primary schools.

On Wednesday the Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Christopher Prowse, admitted it was a "mistake" not to tell the neighbouring Malkara Specialist School, but maintained the nearby Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School in Garran was made aware when he arrived in 2014.

The principal of the Catholic school at that time denies he was consulted or informed in any way about the priest's relocation.

Ross Fox, the director of Catholic Education at the Canberra and Goulburn diocese, wrote to parents at the Catholic school today correcting the church's record.

"You will be aware of media reports in recent days in relation to a former priest residing in a residential facility adjacent to the school," he wrote.

"The school was advised of the presence of [the priest] in May 2016.
"At that time the assessment was that the strict safety protocols in place at the school were sufficient.
"At no time has the safety of any child been compromised."

Archbishop Prowse is yet to respond to requests from the ABC to explain the apparent discrepancy with his earlier comments.

Though in his letter Mr Fox defended the Archbishop saying he had "acted quickly to address community concerns".

"I can now inform you that [the priest] has been moved to a setting that is not in proximity to children or vulnerable people," he wrote.

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