Priest's Return Worries Parents
By Farrah Tomazin
The Age (Melbourne, Australia)
May 13, 2004
A Catholic priest who admitted having sex with a teenage boy 10 years ago has returned to work at a Williamstown church that adjoins a primary school.
Father Barry Robinson's return to St Mary Immaculate Conception comes after public pressure forced him to leave the parish, where he had been assistant priest for seven years before his past was revealed in January.
Former Melbourne archbishop George Pell appointed Father Robinson to Williamstown with the approval of the church's Independent Commissioner Against Sexual Abuse.
The priest is widely supported by the Melbourne Archdiocese and many parishioners. But some parents have raised concerns about his re-emergence at the church, which is next to St Mary's Primary School.
One parishioner told The Age he was shocked to see Father Robinson taking Mass last Sunday, describing his return as "reintegration by stealth" on the part of the church.
The father of another child attending the school said: "There are definitely parents who have concerns that he's back. Why can't the archdiocese just cut their losses and move him to a different job entirely?"
But Father Robinson, now in his 60s, said concerns about him were unfair and unwarranted.
"Let those without sin cast the first stone," he said.
"People have got a right to be concerned about things, but if it's continuously trying to tear the guts out of somebody or some issue, obviously you've got no good intentions and you're not considering the wellbeing of anything or anybody."
Father Robinson had been at St Mary's for several years before it was revealed in January that he had sex with a 16-year-old boy while serving as a priest in Boston in 1994. He had admitted the incident to his therapist, but left Boston in April that year without being questioned or charged by American authorities.
Under the conditions of his ministry, he was not allowed to have contact with youths in the parish or at the school.
When reports of his past surfaced in the media, the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, issued a statement saying Father Robinson had been appointed to the parish after "intensive and successful treatment".
But a month later Archbishop Hart sent a letter to families notifying them that Father Robinson had asked to leave.
Father Robinson said he had withdrawn "because of the pressure of cowards".
"I was the one who had a problem and I went and reported myself to try to get help, and this is what it's blown into," he said.
"The unfortunate thing is I think most of these people have their own agendas. Whether that be with abortion . . . whether it be living double lives, or whether it be they're frightened of their own demons or not, I don't know."
Melbourne Archdiocesan Vicar-General Monsignor Les Tomlinson said Father Robinson was helping out at St Mary's, but did not live there.
"I don't think his presence at the church on a Sunday poses any risk to the children," Monsignor Tomlinson said.
Authorities at St Mary's Primary School - which drew fire last week for banning children from playing outdoors before classes start - declined to comment on the issue. The Catholic Education Office, which oversees Melbourne's Catholic schools, also declined to comment.
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