A MAN has accused Maitland-Newcastle Catholic diocese of using Taree as a ‘‘dumping ground’’ for its problems in a civil claim alleging four men linked to Taree parish sexually abused him as a child.
The claim comes only months after Bishop Bill Wright outraged Taree parishioners with his handling of complaints about a Hunter priest sent to Taree following troubling evidence to a commission of inquiry in Newcastle.
The man taking civil action against the diocese alleges he was sexually assaulted in the late 1970s and early 1980s by notorious paedophile priest John Denham, former Taree parish school employee Ray ‘‘Plonky’’ Wine, nurse David John O’Grady and a fourth man, who cannot be named.
The first offences occurred in 1978 and 1979 when the man, John, was less than 10 and O’Grady was in his late 20s. A court heard O’Grady sometimes stayed at Taree presbytery and John’s home.
‘‘Such a child was little match for adult manipulation,’’ said Judge Nicholson about John in 2006, when O’Grady was convicted for sexually abusing him.
John alleges he was later sexually abused by the fourth man, Denham and Wine, in Taree parish buildings between 1979 and 1984, often after he was given alcohol. He was an altar boy and attended St Joseph’s primary school which was close to the church and presbytery.
John contacted the Newcastle Herald after a private hearing with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse early this year, and a suicide attempt several months ago.
His children, and holding the church accountable, were the reasons why he did not end his life that day, he said.
‘‘That was a turning point. I thought, I’ve hit rock bottom, now I want to fight back. I want people to know what they did to a child,’’ John said.
O’Grady was guilty of a ‘‘disproportionate power play’’ when he sexually abused John, Judge Nicholson said in 2006.
Blackbutt North parish priest Barry Tunks gave evidence at O’Grady’s trial, and a character reference based on knowing O’Grady for more than 30 years. O’Grady was a ‘‘changed’’ man from when he first met him in the early 1970s, Father Tunks said.
John alleged Denham raped him between 1981 and 1982 in Taree church while he was an altar boy, and at the presbytery. Denham is in jail for sexually abusing more than 60 boys over decades.
John alleged the late Ray ‘‘Plonky’’ Wine sexually abused him in 1981 in a building on the Taree Catholic school grounds where he sometimes lived. Wine was a well known Taree rugby league coach, occasional woodwork and PE teacher and groundsman at the school. The Catholic Church has already paid compensation to at least one of his victims.
John alleged the fourth man sexually abused him on church property from 1979 after giving him alcohol.
The diocese did not respond to questions.
John’s solicitor, Jodie Scanlon of Kelso Lawyers, said it was ‘‘staggering to contemplate the possible number of victims abused’’ at Taree in the 1970s and 1980s.
‘‘Taree appears to be the dumping ground for known perpetrators. In the 1970s and 1980s it was a small rural community heavily influenced by the Catholic Church,’’ Ms Scanlon said.
While John’s experiences were extreme, she believed there were others from Taree with similarly horrific histories.
NOTORIOUS Hunter paedophile priest Vince Ryan was arrested at Taree in 1995, more than 20 years after the diocese was first told he was a child sex offender.
Parishioners at Forster forced the diocese to remove another notorious Hunter priest, Denis McAlinden, from their area in 1976 after child sex complaints. He was later sent to Western Australia.
Bishop Bill Wright outraged Taree parishioners in September last year after urging them to forgive a ‘‘repentant’’ priest despite their ‘‘concern and distress’’ about his evidence to the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry. The evidence did not relate to child sex offences. Bishop Wright told parishioners there was ‘‘more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than 99 just people’’.