Mentone-Parkdale parents boycott child sacraments in protest of priest Father John Walshe
By Nicholas Payne
April 19, 2016
|The Parent Committee Mentone Parkdale spokesman Andrew Pope (centre) and committee members are calling for the resignation of parish priest Fr John Walshe.|
Photo by David Crosling
PARENTS of students at two Catholic schools are refusing to allow their children to take important sacraments with the schools’ priest.
About 60 per cent of year 2 students at St Patrick’s Parish Primary School in Mentone and St John Vianney’s Primary School in Parkdale will attend other churches as the parents’ push for administrator Father John Walshe to resign continues.
The students were due to take part in sacraments of reconciliation and eucharist.
The Parent Committee Mentone Parkdale — the group calling for Fr Walshe’s dismissal — said “more than 60 per cent” of year 2 families from the schools would go elsewhere, including “32 out of the 44 at St Patrick’s”.
“People don’t want Fr Walshe celebrating Mass with their children,” committee member Andrew Pope said.
“He’s the wrong moral leader for our children.”
Fr Walshe has been accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old seminarian in the early 1980s after the pair had been drinking.
Fr Walshe, who was in his early 20s at the time, has denied any wrongdoing and maintains the incident was consensual.
It was revealed last December that the victim received $75,000 compensation from the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne in 2012.
The committee, which has hired sexual and institutional abuse lawyer Angela Sdrinis, said the Archdiocese was trying to paint the parents as homophobic but said the issue had “absolutely nothing” to do with homosexuality or paedophilia.
“This issue is about Fr Walshe’s credibility as a priest given his past behaviour,” Mr Pope said.
Catholic Education executive director Stephen Elder said his organisation stood by Fr Walshe.
“A small section of parents have made claims in relation to Fr Walshe that have lacked substance and indeed been proven to be unsubstantiated,” he said.
Mr Elder said the parent group continued “to push personal beliefs and agendas” but did not “understand the damage this crusade is causing the school communities and the education of students”.
Fr Walshe did not respond to a request for comment.