Parents and students at a Melbourne school have boycotted Mass after calling for their priest to resign over abuse allegations, reports The Age.
A group of parents at St Patrick’s School, Mentone, and St John Vianney’s School, Parkdale, are demanding that parish priest Fr John Walshe stand down.
Fr Walshe, who gave evidence last year about Cardinal George Pell at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, has been accused of sexually abusing a young seminarian in 1982. He denied the abuse and said the incident was consensual.
It was reported in December that the victim received $75,000 in compensation after the Archdiocese of Melbourne apologised and accepted that the seminarian had been sexually abused by Fr Walshe, who is chairman of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.
The St Patrick’s School’s weekly Mass was noticeably quieter yesterday morning. In a sign of protest, about 20 parents withdrew their children from the religious service, dropping them off at primary school later in the morning.
The protesting parents believe that Fr Walshe’s position is untenable, and said the situation had been handled dreadfully. “If it was a problem between a teacher and a student, the teacher would be gone,” one parent said.
In a letter sent to parents last week, St Patrick’s principal, Tim Noonan, and St John Vianney’s principal, Shane Regan, said they had no reason to doubt Fr Walshe’s “ongoing encouragement and support for our schools.”
They said the Parish Education Board – which includes parents and representatives from the parish and school – unanimously supported Fr Walshe.
The Melbourne Catholic Education Office executive director, Stephen Elder, said he had investigated the parents’ concerns and there was no evidence that children’s safety was at risk.