Sex Priest Serves in Local Parish

By Barney Zwartz
The Age (Melbourne, Australia)
January 16, 2004

An Australian priest who left Boston after he was reported for having sex with a teenage boy is serving in a Melbourne parish.

Father Barry Robinson, now in his 60s, was appointed assistant priest in Williamstown in 1997 after "intensive and successful treatment", according to a statement by the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne. His ministry is restricted, including no contact with youth in the parish or school.

Father Robinson, who could not be contacted yesterday, has admitted having sex with the teenager in 1994, and also admitted misconduct (though not with juveniles) while a priest in Chile between 1979 and 1985.

Father Robinson told his Boston therapist in March 1994 that he had sex with a teenager three times in the rectory of his church. The therapist reported it to the Department of Social Services, who reported it to the District Attorney's office.

The Boston Globe reports that US authorities tried to investigate whether the priest had committed a criminal offence - it says the age of consent is 16 - but church authorities would not identify the youth.

The newspaper, quoting court papers filed on Tuesday, reports that Father Robinson returned to Australia in April 1994 without being questioned by legal authorities.

A senior Boston clergyman later advised church officials in Australia that the case against Father Robinson was dead, the court documents show.

The Globe reports that authorities interviewed the youth in 2002, but he refused to co-operate.

Melbourne's Vicar-General, Monsignor Les Tomlinson, yesterday confirmed the accusations. He said Father Robinson's licence to act as a priest was withdrawn in March 1994.

He said Father Robinson had spent time in hospital and received intensive treatment, after which the treatment team recommended he be allowed to return to some form of active ministry.

When this opinion was confirmed by his psychiatrist and two independent psychiatrists, Father Robinson was made part-time chaplain at a leading Melbourne hospital.

The then Melbourne archbishop, George Pell, appointed Father Robinson to Williamstown with the approval of Peter O'Callaghan, QC, the church's Independent Commissioner Against Sexual Abuse.

"Archbishop (Denis) Hart acknowledges that it will only be in a rare case that a priest will be returned to the ministry after he has abused the trust placed in him. This was such a case," the archdiocese's statement said.

Father Robinson had acknowledged his activities and, over 18 months, had received intensive and successful treatment.

A parishioner at St Mary of the Immaculate Conception said Father Robinson was the best priest she'd known. "I'm really, really shocked. The church will be devastated," she said.

The parishioner, who did not want to be named, said Father Robinson reconciled old-fashioned Catholic teaching with modern thinking.

"He's a thinker, even a bit of a philosopher, and everyone in the church loves him. It's sad for him, sad for the church, and sad for us."


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