Parents at schools in Mentone and Parkdale seek legal action to remove priest
By Nicholas Payne
February 24, 2016
|Father John Walshe in 2007.|
Photo by Chris Eastman
ANGRY parents at two Catholic schools have hired a prominent sexual and institutional abuse lawyer as they demand the resignation of the parish priest.
Parents from St Patrick’s Parish Primary in Mentone and St John Vianney’s in Parkdale want Father John Walshe to quit his post.
Their lawyer, Angela Sdrinis, told the Leader the school community “has lost confidence” in the priest and that his position “is untenable”.
Ms Sdrinis said the concerned parents believe they “strongly represent the vast majority of the parents in the school community”, and have requested an “urgent response” from the Melbourne Archdiocese.
“We’ve had many, many issues raised with us — multiple concerns,” she said.
In December, Father Walshe was asked to make a statement by Cardinal George Pell’s legal team at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse about his recollection of a 1993 phone call between Cardinal Pell and a child abuse victim.
It emerged Father Walshe had years earlier been accused of abusing an 18-year-old seminarian in the early 1980s after the pair had been drinking together.
Father Walshe has denied this and said the incident was consensual. It was revealed last December that the victim received $75,000 in compensation from the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne in 2012.
The parish of Mentone-Parkdale has two schools and Father Walshe has said he is the “manager of all matters” concerning the schools.
A few days ago St John Vianney’s told parents that Father Walshe would stop saying Mass for the time being.
Catholic Education executive director Stephen Elder said it was “not a permanent arrangement”.
A letter signed by Father Walshe was recently sent to St Patrick’s Mentone families urging them to “support the parish at a minimum level of $660 per annum”.
The Leader understands some parents want to take the protest to the next level by refusing to pay.
Despite the rising tensions, St Patrick’s school principal Tim Noonan and St John Vianney’s school principal Shane Regan said they stood by Father Walshe.
There are also school parents who side with the principals and support Father Walshe’s position there.