Priest Abuse Source of Endless Years of Pain

By Gavin King
Cairns Post
November 1, 2010

Lawsuit: Bishop James Foley said he had spoken to other priests and nuns who all denied ever being aware of any sex abuse complaints against Father Sultana.

THE man at the centre of a lawsuit against the Catholic Church yesterday vowed to follow his legal claim "all the way through" in a bid to end decades of pain he suffered after repeated abuse by a Far Northern priest.

The Cairns man, now 38, yesterday told The Cairns Post he suffered severe depression before seeking professional counselling to come to terms with the abuse he suffered at the hands of Father Joseph Sultana.

"This matter has been pushed aside for so long, I've held it back for 30 something years," he said.

"It's been many, many endless years of pain and tragedy."

It comes as the Catholic Church moves to distance Queensland's highest ranking priest John Bathersby - now the Archbishop of Brisbane - from ever having knowledge of abuse claims against Father Sultana.

Archbishop Bathersby was ordained Bishop of Cairns in March 1986, about three-and-a-half years after the Cairns man said he told another priest - Father Patrick Mc-Kenna - about the abuse by Father Sultana.

Father Sultana remained as a serving priest in the Diocese of Cairns, including the parishes of Ravenshoe and Dimbulah, for the entire duration of Archbishop Bathersby's time as Bishop of Cairns between March 1986 and December 1991.

In a statement to The Cairns Post, Bishop of Cairns James Foley said Archbishop Bathersby did not receive any sexual abuse complaints about Father Joseph Sultana during Archbishop Bathersby's tenure as bishop in Cairns.

The Cairns man launched the personal injury civil claim in the Supreme Court against the Roman Catholic Trust Corporation for the Diocese of Cairns and the Corporation of the Sisters of Mercy for the Diocese of Cairns.

In his sworn affidavit, the man said he was repeatedly abused while he was a student and altar boy at St Joseph's School and Church at Atherton by Father Sultana between March 1979 and November 1982.

He said the church failed to report the matters to police or remove Father Sultana from contact with children when they were alerted to the allegations of abuse.

The Cairns Post has learned that the Catholic Diocese of Gozo in Malta, where Father Sultana is believed to have moved to in 1997 or 1998, is investigating if he is still residing there.

Bishop Foley said he had spoken to other priests and nuns who all denied ever being aware of any sex abuse complaints against Father Sultana.

The Cairns man, who said he still has nightmares about the abuse by Father Sultana, yesterday said he was "strong and determined" to fight his legal claim.

"I'm determined to follow it all the way through and I hope it brings other kids forward," he said.

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