Melbourne Priest Father John Walshe Resigns from Mentone-parkdale Parish

By Timna Jacks
The Age
November 24, 2016

Controversial Melbourne figure Father John Walshe has resigned from his position as parish priest in Melbourne's south east, following a parent-led campaign calling for him to step down.

In a bulletin leaked to Fairfax Media on Friday, Father Walsh announced he would be stepping down after nearly 25 years in the job.

Father John Walshe conducting mass in October 2016 after he returned from Ireland

The news was to be circulated at the Mentone-Parkdale parish mass on Saturday evening.

"I have this week, with the agreement of the archbishop, submitted my resignation from the office of parish priest of the Parish of Mentone-Parkdale," he said in the statement.

"This will take effect from 18 January 2017.

"I wanted to communicate this to you as soon as possible. When I leave early next year I will be four days short of having completed 25 years in the parish. It has been my immense honour to have been with you for this time."

Fairfax Media understands Father Walshe will not continue his services at another parish and will instead pursue further study.

The resignation comes after revelations Father Walshe was banned from ministering in Ireland for committing an act of sexual abuse, but was allowed to oversee two Catholic primary schools by the archbishop, who described the act as simply a "breach of his vow of celibacy".

Father Walshe came under fire last year after he testified on behalf of Cardinal George Pell at the sexual abuse royal commission, which was investigating claims then Bishop Pell tried to buy the silence of a victim of notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale in 1993.

The appearance prompted a former student priest, John Roach, to reveal he was sexually abused by Father Walshe in 1982, for which Melbourne church authorities paid him $75,000 in compensation - the maximum available under the Melbourne Response scheme.

Under the Melbourne Response, a finding of sexual abuse can include child sexual abuse, sexual abuse of an adult and even sex between consenting adults that violates a priest's vow of celibacy. Such a finding is not equivalent to a sexual abuse conviction under Victorian criminal law.

In 2012, the Melbourne Archdiocese's Independent Commissioner accepted Father Walshe had sexually abused the then 18-year-old seminarian and paid him $75,000 in compensation, the maximum available under the Melbourne Response scheme.

Mr Roach claims he was sexually assaulted while drunk and unconscious. Father Walshe strenuously denies committing any abuse, characterising the incident as "completely consensual".

In a letter obtained by Fairfax Media, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart maintains that what happened between Mr Roach and Father Walshe was a consensual "homosexual relationship" that only breached the "teachings of the church" and vow of celibacy taken by both men.

"While it amounted to 'sexual abuse' within the meaning of the Melbourne Response, it was not illegal, it was not child abuse and there was no finding that it was non-consensual," Archbishop Hart wrote on March 24, 2016, to solicitors representing concerned parishioners.

Mr Roach claims he was sexually assaulted while drunk and unconscious. Father Walshe strenuously denies committing any abuse, characterising the incident as "completely consensual".

Parents at St John Vianney's Primary School in Parkdale and St Patrick's Primary in Mentone, two schools overseen by Father Walshe, have led a forceful campaign against the priest over the past year, with parents pulling their kids out of the school and staging protests at mass.

The parent body has also filed a complaint with the Victorian Ombudsman, alleging a recent decision by the Victorian schools regulator that Father Walshe was of "good character" was insufficient.

Andrew Pope, who pulled his daughter out of St John's Vianney's due to his concerns, said the lobbying effort had "taken its toll" on the parents.

"It's a bittersweet moment, it should never have got this far," he said.

"It should have been dealt with years ago."

Another parent at St Patrick's, who did not want to be named, said they were "relieved" to hear the news.

"It has been such a stressful year. It was the best thing that has happened to me all year," they said.

"I was considered removing my kids from the school but I don't think I will be doing that now. It's a great result."

Fairfax Media has sought comment from the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.








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