Australian Catholic Bishops Conference [Canberra, Australia]
September 24, 2022
MEDIA RELEASE: September 24, 2022
[Click here to see our PDF cache of the media release as it appeared on the letterhead of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.]
The Holy See has initiated a canonical investigation into former Broome Bishop Christopher Saunders, with Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane appointed to oversee the investigation.
Bishop Saunders stood aside as Bishop of Broome in March 2020 after media reports that Western Australia Police had begun an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. He strongly denies the allegations.
At the conclusion of its investigation, Western Australia Police confirmed that no charges would be brought against Bishop Saunders.
Bishop Saunders later tendered his resignation to Pope Francis, which was accepted in August 2021.
A letter being read at Masses in the Diocese of Broome this weekend, signed by Apostolic Administrator Bishop Michael Morrisey and Archbishop Coleridge, says the Church investigation “could not happen” until the police inquiries ended.
“The investigation is now underway,” the letter states, before indicating it is not known how long the investigation will take. However, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith “has granted an extension beyond the normal three months for such an investigation”, the letter explains.
Archbishop Coleridge, who has appointed a group of qualified persons to conduct the investigation, has also issued a decree stipulating that Bishop Saunders is to reside outside the Diocese of Broome “for the duration of the investigation”.
The public announcement of the investigation coincides with the time when the first Masses celebrated this weekend in the Diocese of Broome would commence.
“The Church’s protocols, particularly those enshrined in Pope Francis’ document Vos Estis Lux Mundi, mean the outcome of a police investigation does not prevent the Church from conducting its own inquiry,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“I have assembled a team of people who are highly qualified to conduct this investigation in a thorough way, mindful of the particular needs of the people of the Diocese of Broome.
“Their job will be to gather, as best they can, all relevant information to pursue truth and justice for everyone involved.”
Archbishop Coleridge said with the investigation now underway, it would be improper to make additional comment until the outcome could be announced.
He said if people wished to bring any matters to the attention of those carrying out the investigation, they should approach the Western Australia Professional Standards Office by calling 1800 072 390 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The Holy See has initiated a canonical investigation into allegations against Bishop Christopher Saunders. This could not happen until the Western Australia Police had concluded its investigations. The canonical investigation has now begun.
The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has assigned Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane to oversee the conduct of the investigation. He has appointed qualified persons to assist in that process. It is not known how long the investigation will take, and the Dicastery has granted an extension beyond the normal three months for such an investigation.
The Holy See has also authorised Archbishop Coleridge to issue a Decree stipulating that Bishop Saunders is to reside outside the Diocese of Broome for the duration of the investigation. That Decree has been issued.
+ Michael Morrissey
Apostolic Administrator of Broome
+ Mark Coleridge
Archbishop of Brisbane
Media contact: Gavin Abraham • 0408 825 788 • email@example.com