Criminal Law

By Satomi Hamon


Calls for Canberra Catholic archbishop to resign after children allegedly put at risk

Earlier this week it was revealed that a former parish priest of Tumut, who was removed from his position after complaints about inappropriate behaviour towards children were made against him, was moved by Catholic Archbishop Christopher Prowse to live in a retirement home next to two Canberra primary schools.

Various news sources report that the New South Wales Police were notified of the allegations, however after consultation with the Catholic Church the priest was dealt with internally, under the supervision of the NSW Ombudsman.

Former priest Brian Hassett had been living at Lanigan House in Garran, next to St Peter and Paul Primary School, for about two years before the truth about his relocation came to light.

The founder of Bravehearts, an advocacy group, has since called for Archbishop Prowse to resign over the relocation, claiming the decision was “unfathomable”.

Founder, Hettie Johnson said, “If they haven’t learnt already, they haven’t learned by now how to keep children safe and they don’t get it … then they shouldn’t be in those roles because people’s lives are at stake — literally.”

Archbishop Prowse said the decision to house Brian Hassett near the schools had been carefully considered, and that the retired priest has no contact with the children at the neighbouring schools. According to him, Brian Hassett’s accommodation at Lanigan House was meant to be temporary, but he remained there after his health deteriorated.

On Wednesday, Archbishop Prowse admitted to ABC Radio Canberra that the situation could have been handled better and that the church was urgently looking for different accommodation for the former priest.

“I do acknowledge the concerns of this community and in moving forward, I am seeking alternative accommodation which addresses the community concerns and meets the medical needs of this retired priest.”

According to the Canberra Times, it was only a week before these revelations that Archbishop Prowse said to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that the days of the church examining these issues in-house were gone.

“I think the gravity of the sex abuse is really starting to dawn on us, and we can see that, no, no, we simply don’t have the resources on our own to be able to cope properly with this. And even if we did, it’s not appropriate,” Archbishop Prowse said.