Catholic priest denies historical abuse


March 16, 2021

By robyn muth

A former Catholic priest has denied sexually abusing a teenage schoolboy almost 50 years ago while stationed at a remote northwest Queensland parish.

Neville Joseph Creen, 80, pleaded not guilty to four historical counts of indecent and sexual abuse of the teenager in Mt Isa, where he served as a priest in the 1970s.

The alleged victim, who cannot be identified, had just lost his father in a mining accident when he first met Father Creen, crown prosecutor Katrina Overell said in her opening in Brisbane District Court.

He remembers church members being at his home when he first learned his father would never be coming home.

Creen was allegedly one of those men from the church sent to comfort the family and allegedly put an arm around the teenager’s shoulders before promising to see him when he started high school.

When the teen started high school, he remembers Creen seeking him out in the schoolyard his first day, reminding him they had met before.

“He asked (the victim) to accompany him to the chapel, and they sat on chairs in his office,” Ms Overell said.

The priest put his left arm around the teen’s shoulders, asked him how he was coping and told him he knew many children had lost their fathers in the mines before rubbing his hand along the boy’s thigh.

“This is grooming type behaviour,” Ms Overell said.

After that first day, Creen repeatedly asked for the boy to be sent to his office under the guise of preparing the chapel for Easter and Christmas services.

They would then go to the priest’s office, where he allegedly rubbed the teen’s thigh and groin on at least four occasions.

“The defendant also touched the complainant in a sexual way on a number of other occasions.”

After more than 40 years of silence, the alleged victim finally complained to detectives in 2016.

In a formal interview, Creen has admitted being in the Catholic ministry at the relevant time but has denied abuse allegations.

The judge-only trial before Judge Ian Dearden continues.

Australian Associated Press