The Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders has stood aside amid claims of serious but undisclosed sexual abuse allegations. Source: The Australian.
By Victoria Laurie, The Australian
The Catholic Church in Perth issued a communique from the Vatican, dated March 10, indicating that Bishop Saunders, 70, had “voluntarily stood aside from the ordinary administration of the diocese.”
The Church move was in response to a Channel Seven TV report that police have been investigating historical allegations by two men that they had been victims of sex abuse by Bishop Saunders.
According to the Seven report, WA police have interviewed past and present members of the Bishop’s staff, including priests, who allegedly laid complaints against his behaviour. No charges have been laid against him.
WA Police Minister Michelle Roberts confirmed she had “directly referred correspondence in relation to Bishop Saunders to police.”
When confronted by a reporter in Broome outside his church, Bishop Saunders said: “Without any reservation, without any doubt whatsoever, that has never happened, and it never would happen.”
He is one of the Kimberley’s most prominent religious figures, respected as an advocate and outspoken commentator on indigenous affairs and education in the region.
Former Broome mayor Ron Johnstone, a friend of the bishop, said the airing of the allegations would be “a shock to Broome and the Kimberley.”
“Bishop Saunders is a visionary who has done fantastic work for the community,” he said. “He is a generous spirit, and I will not desert him in his hour of need,” he said.
In an official communique, Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB announced the Emeritus Bishop of Wollongong, Peter Ingham, would be travelling to Broome to oversee the diocese, while Monsignor Paul Boyers took care of the day to day management of the parish.
Communique from the Archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe SDB (Diocese of Broome website)