15 Feb 2009

Priest must resign or face axe

Brisbane Times - February 15, 2009

CATHOLICS are questioning why the church hierarchy is determined to sack rebel parish leader Peter Kennedy, but is slow to act against pedophile priests.

by Kate Dennehy

Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby has given Father Kennedy, of St Mary's Church in South Brisbane, until Saturday to resign or face the axe. The archbishop said police would be called "as a last option" to remove Father Kennedy from the church.

He has accused Father Kennedy, 71, of being "out of communion" with the church by presenting unapproved services including giving Holy Communion to gay and divorced people, baptising babies using unorthodox wording and not wearing traditional vestments.

Father Kennedy's supporters include Gold Coast nurse Mary Adams, who said the St Mary's priest helped her and others set up a support group for victims of child sex abuse by the clergy.

Ms Adams said she had been sexually abused in 1962 as a 12-year-old boarder at the St Joseph's Home orphanage at Neerkol, near Rockhampton. She said the priests had not been charged. Ms Adams and hundreds abused as children had received no help through the Catholic Church's Towards Healing program, set up in 1996 after the jailing of several priests and brothers for sexual abuse, she said.

The program was promoted as an in-house alternative to civil court action and promised justice and compensation to victims.

"A lot of people abused by the priests and brothers are now in their 70s and have spent their whole lives suffering because nobody in the church would acknowledge the abuse," she said. "If the church thinks it can get away with the abuse, it will continue to ignore victims and just move priests to other parishes, states or overseas where they continue to abuse."

She said she had met victims who later committed suicide because they could not cope with their memories and being ignored.

Father Kennedy allowed Ms Adams to use his office in 1994 to run the Neerkol Action Support Group in support of sexual abuse victims.

"I went to St Mary's last Sunday to support Peter [Kennedy] because I was so angry about the church's hypocrisy that protects pedophiles and abusers in the church," she said.

Ms Adams wrote to the Catholic Church's professional standards office last month protesting about the way the church had treated her and other victims. It had left her "very saddened and disillusioned", she wrote. "It's only clergy like Father Peter Kennedy that has been there for us. . . and I admire this wonderful man . . . "

Father Kennedy said last week pedophilia had turned thousands of parishioners away from the religion in Australia and overseas.

"I'm threatening the church's power base by questioning their way of thinking and that's why they want to get rid of me," he said. He said many priests suspected of pedophilia were told to stop saying public Mass, then moved to another parish, state or country while their crimes were covered up.

Last year, The Sun-Herald revealed convicted pedophile Father Ronald McKeirnan celebrated weekly private masses at The Marist Brothers House, which adjoins a school, in inner-city Paddington.

McKeirnan, who remains a priest, served a year in prison in 1998 and 1999 for molesting nine boys.

In 2006, a parent whose son attended the nearby school, Marist College Rosalie, complained to the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, about McKeirnan and a "cover-up" by the Brisbane Archdiocese.

"Cardinal Pell replied that the issue . . . was a matter for the Brisbane Archdiocese," she said. After further complaints by parents, Archbishop Bathersby withdrew his permission for McKeirnan to say Mass.

Ms Chris McIsaac, president of victims' support group Broken Rites, said more than 100 brothers and priests had been convicted of sexual assault since 1993. "From the victims' point of view we find it disappointing that the church finds these sorts of issues [complaints against Kennedy] more important than child abuse," she said.

An archdiocesan spokesman said last week: "Any priest convicted of sexual offences has their faculties [permissions to exercise priestly office] suspended and is . . . removed from all public ministry." Once Father Kennedy was removed from St Mary's, he would hold "no office".

This article was found at:



  1. Neerkol: (Or: Mercy! Sister!)

    by Lewis Blayse, Commentary on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Australia) May 28, 2013


    The Neerkol Children’s Home (or St. Joseph’s Orphanage) was located on an old cattle property in the bush outside Rockhampton, in Queensland. After Bindoon (see previous entry), it was one of the first cases to reach public attention in the early 1990s. It was run by the Sisters of Mercy, a group of Catholic nuns, and overseen by the Queensland Government.

    Neerkol has been the subject of a book by Garnett B. Williams, “Nightmare at Neerkol”. It has also been the basis of a Ph.D. thesis by Jody Jackson of the University of Miami in the U.S., based on interviews with a former Neerkol resident, David Owen (“Stain on the Brain – the David Owen Story”).

    Neerkol was the destination point for some of the “Child Migrants” (see previous postings) sent from Britain to Australia to provide “good white stock”. Many were orphans, but many also were from disadvantaged homes and were simply told they were orphans. One former resident states that she “grew up in Neerkol orphanage in Rockhampton. I went to the orphanage when I was 11 years of age. We were taken off our parents and charged with being neglected. We were taken to court. The five of us were in court. My grandfather went there to try to stop them from taking us, but they wouldn’t give us to him. He went away and he was so upset.” She was subsequently abused in Neerkol.

    As Garnett Williams has noted, it really was a nightmare sort of place, for both the boys and girls. The violence was extreme, and sexual assaults of both boys and girls was common. As with most of the old “Homes” the abuses were possible because of the lack of scrutiny.

    An old friend of the author, the late Mary Keel, a child migrant, (see previous posting) was the first to detail the abuses to the media. She found a sympathetic ear in the form of Tony Koch, a Courier-Mail editor who later wrote extensively on the Homes issue (see reference below). Along with about 70 other former residents of Neerkol, she was awarded “compensation” by the Catholic Church, of $1,300. To Mary, that was a lot of money.

    There was one very disturbing aspect of Neerkol which has received little attention. It was raised by Western Australian Member of Parliament, Dennis Jensen, who took the issue to (then) Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, which was a turning point in obtaining the formal apology from the Australian Government. It was that residents of Neerkol were used to test vaccines against certain viruses, including cancer-producing viruses. As more than one person has stated, this is a crime against humanity which should be investigated by the United Nations. [The author has heard of cases in other Homes and other institutions in this regard.]

    Along with a groundsman, a “chaplain” at the Home, Fr. Reg Durham, was prosecuted for sexual assult of residents. Durham was at the Home from 1965-1997, though the local Bishop, Brian Heenan, denied he was ever there. Police settled the matter by proving he was indeed there at the time of the complaints against him.

    Bishop Heenan outraged victims by denying, initially, all of their claims, calling them scurrilous. He later, in 1997, acknowledged the abuses, and issued the standard apology for the “mistakes” when he said: “I regret having expressed my reaction the way I did. I recognize now that they were not accurate.”

    continued in next comment...

  2. A judge had the following to say about the Catholic Church’s response to victims, “The reprehensible attitude of the church to date in trying to squash the complaint and to cover it up, does not bode well for an honest, compassionate and meaningful approach by the church in the future to go some way to compensating her.”

    The monster, Fr. Durham, was convicted in 1999, but the judgment was set aside on appeal, and a new trial ordered. However, it was then ruled, by the Mental Health Tribunal, that he was not fit to stand trial, on the basis of dementia. He died in 2003, unpunished.

    When one of Durham’s victims accidentally obtained documents on the case, (then) Premier Peter Beattie’s office threatened the victims with criminal charges if they contacted other victims. The Queensland Crown Solicitor had also threatened to take the victims to the Western Australian Supreme Court, but they had vowed, at the time, to release the mountain of paper only to a Royal Commission. Now that we do have a Royal Commission, this may be possible.

    The Catholic Church continued to be unsympathetic to Neerkol victims. Fr. Kennedy, of St. Mary’s in Brisbane, had allowed the Neerkol Action Support Group to use his office. Fr. Kennedy was forcibly evicted from his church by the local Archbishop.

    A previous posting has addressed the issue of slave labour laundries, such as the notorious “Magdalene Laundry” in Ireland (the subject of an official enquiry). One former resident of Neerkol has reported that “leaving the orphanage was conditional upon going to work in the Good Shepherd laundry which served the Brisbane area.” The laundry was run by an order of nuns associated with the Sisters of Mercy who ran Neerkol.

    Previous enquiries have referred to avoidable deaths at Neerkol. Records reveal that at least 19 children died during the time the orphanage was in operation. There are no headstones to mark the burials, nor is there any indication of where the burial ground is located. The site of the Home itself was only identified by a number of fruit trees planted by Neerkol’s children.

    A memorial has been placed near the site, funded by the Australian Government and dedicated by the head of the Forde Enquiry into abuses in Queensland Children’s Homes, Leneen Forde, in 2003. It reads, “Dedicated to the English boys and girls who left the security of their Birmingham and Middlesex Orphanages in 1951 to a brave and unknown future at Neerkol – St Joseph’s Orphanage”.

    [Postscript: Apparently, the old site of Neerkol is owned by the Stanwell Power Corporation. A petition to make the site publicly available can be found at http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/restore-and-open-the-orphanage-grounds-and-burial-sites-at-neerkol-qld-to-the-public. At present, it has very few signatories].

    Read more here:


    http://scholarlyrepository.miami.edu/oa_dissertations/843/ (Jody Jackson, University of Miami, thesis)





    http://www.clan.org.au/resources-books-details.php?resourceID=376 (Nightmare at Neerkol / by Garnett B. Williams)