A Melbourne priest accused of sexual abuse has apologised to his parish for “any hurt or disappointment” his behaviour caused following revelations a church investigation found his conduct inconsistent with his duties.
The ABC has revealed that in 2012 the Catholic Church paid $75,000 compensation to John Roach, who claimed he was sexually abused by Father John Walshe in 1982.
Father Walshe, who now works at St Patrick’s at Mentone-Parkdale, denied he abused Mr Roach, but had engaged in “consensual conduct” with another adult.
“My conduct was contrary to my religious beliefs. However it by no means constituted any form of abuse,” he said in a statement.
Mr Roach, who said the abuse took place while he was an 18-year-old seminarian, made a formal complaint to the Melbourne Response in 2002, which was later upheld following an investigation by Peter O’Callaghan QC.
The Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, accepted Mr O’Callaghan’s recommendation Father Walshe remain in public ministry, despite finding his conduct was “inconsistent” with his duties.
Mr Roach told the ABC he felt compelled to speak publicly after seeing Father Walshe giving evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, where he defended Cardinal George Pell.
Mr Roach said he believed Father Walshe’s actions meant he was a “compromised witness”.
In response to the ABC’s report, Archbishop Hart said the church understood the situation was “upsetting”.
“Mr O’Callaghan upheld the complaint and found Father Walshe’s conduct to be inconsistent with his public vows and integrity of his ministerial duties and professional responsibilities,” Vicar-general Monsignor Greg Bennet said in a statement on behalf of Archbishop Hart.
“Father Walshe has admitted that he engaged in consensual conduct contrary to his religious beliefs and acknowledged that he then undertook extensive counselling.
“Mr O’Callaghan strongly recommended to Archbishop Hart that Father Walshe not be withdrawn from public ministry and this recommendation was accepted by Archbishop Hart.
“Later Mr Roach applied for and was awarded compensation through the Melbourne Response’s Compensation Panel.”
Revelations ‘upsetting’ for all
Monsignor Bennet said Father Walshe apologised to his current parish in Melbourne’s south-east.
“Father Walshe has spoken to his parishioners [on Thursday] and apologised for any hurt or disappointment his behaviour has caused,” he said.
“We are aware that these revelations are upsetting for all concerned.”
In 2012, Archbishop Hart apologised to Mr Roach for the “wrongs and hurt” he suffered at the hands of Father Walshe.
In its statement on Thursday, the church said it had also offered ongoing psychological care through Carelink, a scheme set up to provide support to victims.