Retired Australian bishop investigated for abusing young boys

La Croix International [France]

September 19, 2023

By La Croix International staff

The former Bishop of Broome has been described by witnesses as a sexual predator who preyed upon vulnerable Aboriginal men and boys

A Pope Francis-commissioned investigation has discovered that Retired Bishop Christopher Saunders of Broome, 73, in Australia allegedly sexually assaulted four young people, while grooming another 67.  

According to 7NEWS, the investigation came under Pope Francis’ “motu proprio” Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”), his apostolic letter on preventing the “crimes” of sexual abuse against minors and vulnerable people that came into force in June 2019. 

“The bishop has been variously described by witnesses as… a sexual predator that seeks to prey upon vulnerable Aboriginal men and boys,” 7NEWS reported, quoting the investigation’s final 200-page report. “During the investigation, four victims of sexual (delictual) acts were identified… Sixty-seven additional Aboriginal boys and men were also identified as persons that may have been subjected to delictual acts or grooming behaviors by Bishop Saunders,” it said adding that the alleged offences go back to the late 1970s when Saunders was ordained and working in Sydney as a parish priest. 

The investigation claims that Saunders groomed Aboriginal teenagers using drink, money, phones, and travel, spending up to $4000 of Church and charity funds a month on alcohol. In addition, the bishop is reported to have bought boats, automobiles, and guns and allegedly once had five bank accounts with a combined $3 million balance. 

Although the investigation was completed in April of last year and delivered to Rome, no decision has yet been made about the former Bishop of Broome, according to 7NEWS that reported it obtained a copy of the final report. Only the pope has the authority to appoint or defrock a bishop.  

Saunders was ordained a priest in 1976, a bishop in 1996 and resigned in 2021, with the Vatican accepting his resignation as Bishop of Broome following months in office marred by controversy. 

After Cardinal George Pell, Saunders is the highest-ranking Catholic in Australia who is the subject of a sex crimes inquiry. In 2018, Pell was wrongly found guilty of abusing two teenage choirboys in 1996 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral while serving as the archbishop of Melbourne. He was imprisoned for 13 months before a unanimous decision of the High Court of Australia (Australia’s final court of appeal) cleared him of all charges in 2020. Pell died of complications from hip surgery this past January.