Sydney Morning Herald [Sydney, New South Wales, Australia]
June 4, 2021
By Natassia Chrysanthos and Sarah McPhee
A Catholic priest in Sydney’s inner west and a police officer have been charged after an investigation into the alleged possession and distribution of child abuse material.
Father Joseph Kolodziej, the parish priest at All Hallows Catholic Parish Five Dock, was asked to step down from his public role at the parish and its neighbouring primary school this week after child abuse material was allegedly found on his phone.
The principal of All Hallows Catholic Primary School in Five Dock, Helen Elliott, wrote to parents saying Mr Kolodziej would not be involved with the school nor live at the parish next door while the police matter is investigated.
“I understand this news may come as a surprise, given Fr Kolodziej’s active involvement in our community, and you or your child may be experiencing feelings of disappointment and concern,” she wrote.
“Please be assured that the safety and wellbeing of our students is our priority.”
Police attached to the professional standards command last month began an investigation into allegations that child abuse material was being stored and distributed on an electronic device.
The investigation led them to arrest Mr Kolodziej in Five Dock on Wednesday. The 62-year-old was taken to Burwood police station and charged with possessing child abuse material and using a carriage service for child abuse material.
The possession charge, if proven, carries a maximum penalty in NSW of 10 years’ imprisonment. The carriage service charge, under Commonwealth legislation, carries a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment.
Mr Kolodziej had previously been the parish priest at St Mary Queen of Heaven in Georges Hall, which he left for the Five Dock posting in late January this year. In that role, he was a leader of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School Georges Hall, which is embedded within the parish.
Both the Five Dock and Georges Hall Catholic primary schools are part of the Sydney Catholic Schools education system in the Archdiocese of Sydney.
A spokeswoman for Sydney Catholic Schools said it had been made aware “that a Parish Priest of the Archdiocese of Sydney has been charged with offences related to child abuse material found on his phone”.
“We want to assure our school communities that the safety and wellbeing of our students is always our highest priority. We have been advised by the Archdiocese of Sydney that there is no indication the matter involves our school or parish,” she said.
“As this is an ongoing police investigation, we are unable to make any further comments at this time.”
Police executed a further search warrant at a Georges Hall address after they charged Mr Kolodziej on Wednesday.
At the scene, they arrested a 49-year-old police sergeant attached to a specialist command and seized electronic storage devices.
The specialist command is not the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad.
The officer was taken to Liverpool police station and charged with possessing child abuse material. He has been suspended with pay and is due to face Liverpool Local Court on June 21. Mr Kolodziej is due to face Burwood Local Court on July 13.
All Hallows Catholic Parish, Five Dock and St Mary Queen of Heaven, Georges Hall have been contacted for comment.
Natassia is the education reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Sarah McPhee is a breaking news reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.