Aussie bishop acquitted on sex abuse charges

An Australian bishop has been acquitted of historic sexual abuse charges after a trial in Perth.

Bishop Max Davis, who stood down as head of Australia’s military ordinariate, was found not guilty on six charges of indecent dealings with male children and youth between 1969 and 1972.

In this time, he was dormitory master at St Benedict’s College in New Norcia, north east of Perth.

He stood aside from his duties as Catholic Bishop of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) when he was charged two years ago.

A jury on Monday deliberated for about four hours before finding Bishop Davis not guilty of all six charges.

Bishop Davis made no comment as he left court after the verdict.

He will now take some time to decide whether to return to public ministry or not.

The bishop’s defence counsel had told the court that while there was “no dispute” the complainants had been sexually abused at the college, Bishop Davis was not responsible.

Bishop Davis took the stand on Thursday and denied under oath that he sexually abused any of the teenage boys at New Norcia.

In his evidence he said he had no “independent recollection” of any of the complainants.

He also testified he had no sexual interest in children.

He stated he was appalled when, in 1971, he was told by a group of students that another clergy member was behaving inappropriately towards boys.

Bishop Davis said he immediately reported the concerns to the abbot and the priest, Fr Justin, was removed from the school that day.

Defence counsel Seamus Rafferty has suggested two alternative suspects, who are now dead, including Fr Justin.

The other was Brother Benedict, who was in charge of discipline before Davis took this over.

During the trial one former student said he was abused by a “Brother Max”.

Bishop Davis told the court he was never referred to as “Brother” because he was not a member of any order.

Bishop Davis was ordained as a priest in 1971.


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