A report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on St Joseph's Orphanage at Neerkol in Central Queensland has found the retired Bishop of Rockhampton, Brian Heenan, placed children at risk of abuse by a paedophile priest because of his inadequate response to complaints.
— AAP/Nine News
The Commission examined St Joseph's Orphanage, which was operated by the Sisters of Mercy between 1940 and 1975.
In a report released yesterday, the Commission found Bp Heenan failed to provide an adequate response to a complaint of sexual abuse by the disgraced former member of his clergy, Reginald Durham, in 1996.
"In failing to do so, he placed other children at risk of sexual abuse by Father Durham," the report said.
Bp Heenan told the priest not to approach young children or schools, but there was no supervision of the restriction.
He failed to follow Church protocols because the priest, who is now dead, was not suspended until he was charged by police in February 1998, the report found.
But the report also noted the capacity of both Bp Heenan and Sr Berneice Loch, who became the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Mercy (which ran the orphanage) in 1991, to respond to complaints was undermined by a lack of training in detecting abuse.
The Queensland Government also failed to adequately supervise and protect the children because scrutiny over the living circumstances was lacking.
Victims had "little or no opportunity" to speak with inadequately-trained department inspectors, the report said.
Ex-Qld bishop 'placed children at risk' (AAP/Nine News)
Neerkol orphanage probe raises systemic abuse issues (Brisbane Times)
Ex-Qld bishop 'placed children at risk' (AAP/Seven News)