A Jesuit priest is jailed after admitting offences against children

Broken Rites
July 22, 2015

Broken Rites is doing further research about Father David Rankin, a Catholic priest in the Jesuit religious order, who was jailed in 2014 after pleading guilty to acts of indecency committed against three young boys in Sydney. These particular offences occurred in the 1960s when Rankin was a school teacher (by 1970, he was ordained as a Jesuit priest). These three boys are not necessarily Rankin's only victims during his 50-year career; they are merely three who took the opportunity to speak with a New South Wales Police detective. This shows that, even after 50 years, it is never too late to report a child-abuse crime to the child-protection police. After becoming a priest, Father Rankin ministered in Melbourne and Tasmania — and in Canada.

During 2014, Father Rankin (full name Gregory David Rankin), aged 79, appeared in Sydney District Court for pre-sentence proceedings. He confirmed his guilty plea.

Later the court handed down its sentence. Rankin was given an 18 months jail sentence, with 12 months to be served behind bars before he becomes eligible to apply for parole for the final six months.

According to court documents, David Rankin was a lay teacher at Northbridge Primary School in northern Sydney when he committed 11 acts of indecency on three boys in the 1960s.

The court documents said Rankin molested one boy after volunteering to tutor the 11-year-old after school in late 1963. The abuse continued at tri-weekly tutoring sessions the following year.

On one occasion, Rankin drove the boy to another school in Manly to commit an assault.

Rankin told the victim he loved him and gave him money on a number of occasions.

He swore the boy to secrecy, warning that he and the boy would both “get into big trouble” if the incidents were discovered.

About the same time, Rankin sexually abused two other boys during rehearsals for school musicals. Both of those victims gave statements to police in 2012, leading to Rankin’s arrest.

One victim told a number of family members of the abuse, but did not report it to police until 2009.

The police investigator in the Rankin case was detective Daniel Mason (formerly at Chatswood Detectives Office, Sydney), who has since moved to the Organised Crime Squad at NSW State Crime Command.

Broken Rites research

When he was a school boy, David Rankin attended a Jesuit school (St Aloysius College, Sydney), finishing there in 1953. He later became a school teacher in New South Wales and this is evidently the period (in the 1960s) in which he abused the boys who figured in the 2014 criminal court case. Broken Rites does not know which schools Rankin worked at but at some stage he was on the staff of St Aloysius College (according to their school magazine).

Eventually, by 1970 (when he was aged in his thirties), Rankin joined the Jesuits as a mature-age entrant to the priesthood, thus becoming "Reverend David Rankin SJ."

The Jesuits are an Australia-wide organisation and therefore Rankin ministered at various locations, not just in a particular diocese. Broken Rites has searched for Rankin in some of the annual printed editions of the official Australian Catholic Directory (published on behalf of the bishops of Australia) and also in another directory (published annually by the National Council of Priests in Australia).

In a 1979 edition of the directories, Rankin was listed at Post Office Box 216, Hawthorn, Victoria. This was the postal address of the Immaculate Conception parish at the corner of Burwood Road and Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn. Rankin was one of seven priests listed at that address in the 1979 directory. The Jesuits also had another address in Hawthorn, which was the head office of the Jesuits for the whole of Australia.

Broken Rites research has ascertained that, in the early 1980s. Father Rankin was the Catholic chaplain at the University of Tasmania in Hobart. He resided with other Jesuits in the university-affiliated St John Fisher residential college for Catholic students (most of the college's students were male).

On Sunday evenings, Father Rankin conducted a Mass at Holy Spirit parish in Sandy Bay, Hobart, for university students. In preparing the liturgy for the Mass, he was assisted by some university students. In conducting the Mass, he would use a school-age altar boy from the pool of altar boys in the Sandy Bay parish.

A source from Hobart in the early 1980s has told Broken Rites:

"During this period, there were stories circulating amongst the students at St John Fisher concerning the activities of David Rankin.

"Information about David Rankin was reported to Hobart Archbishop Guilford Young but apparently this was swept under the carpet as David Rankin remained on staff and continued in his role as chaplain."

Rankin's court case in Sydney in 2014 relates only to offences which a victim has reported to the police and it relates only to offences committed in New South Wales. Any victim from outside New South Wales (for example in Tasmania) would need to have a chat with detectives in a different police force (for example, the Tasmanian police). It is not wise to report a clergy offence to the Catholic Church authorities; the church does not arrest or jail any offenders (only the police can achieve this). As shown by the above-mentioned Hobart Archbishop Guilford Young, the church has a record of concealing its crimes.

Rankin surfaced in Canada

For many years, from the 1980s onwards, the Australian Catholic directories were unclear about Rankin's exact location. In some years, his postal address was listed as being care of the Jesuits' Australian head office in Hawthorn, Melbourne, but this does not mean that he was physically living at that address. In one edition (in 1988), he was not mentioned at all. In the late 1990s he was listed as being "overseas".

Broken Rites has ascertained that, beginning in the year 2000, Father David Rankin SJ (from Australia) spent six and a half years working as a priest in Canada (in the diocese of London, in the province of Ontario). He worked in two parishes in this diocese, Broken Rites discovered:

  • From late 2000 to 2003, Rankin was the priest in charge of the parish of St. Francis-St. Martin in the city of London in the province of Ontario, Canada. But in 2002, while Rankin was in Canada,  the Directory of the Natoinal Council of Priests in Australia was still giving Rankin's official address as care of the Jesuits' Australian headquarters in Hawthorn, Melbourne.
  • From mid-2003 onwards, Rankin was the administrator of St. Christopher's parish in Forest, Ontario, Canada. A source in this Canadian district has told Broken Rites Australia: "I searched a bunch of funeral services [in this Canadian parish] where Rankin officiated and the last one was in mid-2007. By 2008, there was a new priest here."
Back in Australia

About 2008, Father David Rankin returned to Australia and lived with Jesuits in Sydney and Canberra. The school magazine of St Aloysius College Sydney, in its Spring edition for 2009, reported: "Fr David Rankin SJ has recently moved from North Sydney parish to St Christopher’s Cathedral in Canberra where he is the Assistant Priest. David is living in the Jesuit Residence in Canberra."

The website of the Canberra-Goulburn archdiocese reported:

"The Jesuit presence in the Archdiocese has been strengthened by the arrival of Fr Frank Brennan, who will be involved in the new Institute for Public Policy at Australian Catholic University, and Fr David Rankin, who has extensive experience in pastoral work. They join long-time member of the Canberra Jesuit community Fr John Eddy."

The 2011 edition of the Australian Catholic Directory listed the address of Fathers Frank Brennan, David Rankin and John Eddy in Canberra as: "Xavier House, 122 Empire Court, Yarralumla ACT."

On 13 October 2010 a Jesuit newsletter published this news item (under the heading "A trinity of jubilees"):

"On Sunday October 10 [in 2010], John Eddy, Frank Brennan and David Rankin celebrated significant anniversaries at the Jesuit residence in Yarralumla, Canberra.
"John Eddy, the doyen of the community who has spent most of his life as a Jesuit at the Australian National University in Canberra, celebrated his sixtieth anniversary as a Jesuit. David Rankin celebrated his fortieth anniversary as a Jesuit.  Frank Brennan celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of his ordination as a Priest.
"Special guests at the celebrations included Australian Jesuit Provincial Fr Steve Curtin and the former Australian Prime Minister, Hon Kevin Rudd MP.
"The afternoon tea also offered guests the opportunity to see the renovations at the Yarralumla residence, which will enhance its value as a centre of ministry."

David Rankin was arrested by NSW police on August 2012 on the charges that later brought him to the Sydney District Court.  In April  2014, the Jesuits' Australian provincial-superior (Father Steve Curtin) told the media that, after being charged by the police, David Rankin had moved from the Jesuit residence in Canberra to a Jesuit community in Victoria, where he was living with other Jesuit priests while he awaited the outcome of his court proceedings.

In the mid-2014 edition of the Australian Catholic Directory, Rankin was still listed as a priest and as a member of the Jesuit Order (in a section containing the names of retired Jesuit priests).  This listing says:
"Rev. David Rankin SJ."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.