Commission that slammed Pell praises sacked Bishop Morris

Australia’s royal commission looking at institutional responses to child sex abuse has backed the way sacked Toowoomba Bishop William Morris handled a case.

Fr Frank Brennan, SJ, writing for the ABC, noted how this is in stark contrast to how the commission lambasted Cardinal George Pell’s handling of the case of abuse victim John Ellis.

This month, the commission produced a report on the case of Gerard Byrnes, who abused girls when he was a teacher in a Toowoomba Catholic school.

In 2010, Byrnes was sentenced to 10 years jail after he pleaded guilty to 44 child sexual abuse offences against 13 girls, who were then aged between eight and 10 years.

After Byrnes was arrested, Bishop Morris sacked a principal and two education officers, who knew about the allegations, but did not tell police.

The commission’s report found fault with the way the school and diocesan education office responded to the offending.

But when Bishop Morris found out about the offending and the responses, the bishop acted “appropriately”, the commission found.

Bishop Morris commissioned an independent investigation and appointed an independent mediator to assess and advise on reparations.

He also established a Child Abuse Response Team to advise on improvements to child protection.

The commission noted Bishop Morris acted to help ensure “that each victim received fair compensation for what had happened to them”.

Bishop Morris “felt that it was important that the matter be dealt with quickly and fairly so as to avoid any further suffering which might be caused by a lengthy and difficult legal process”.

Fr Brennan said the contrasting findings between the way Cardinal Pell and Bishop Morris handled these cases, “highlight the tragedy that such a pastoral bishop and decent man as William Morris could be sacked by Pope Benedict XVI [in 2011] for failing in his duties as a bishop”.

In a recent book, Bishop Morris said he personally told Pope Benedict of a sex abuse case at a Toowoomba school.

But the Pope dismissed the bishop’s request to remain at his post to deal with it.

Cardinal Pell apologised to Mr Ellis at a commission hearing.


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