Bishop of Broome on leave after sexual misconduct allegations

Broome sexual misconduct allegations

The Bishop of Broome, who is at the centre of a police investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, has taken a sabbatical.

Bishop Christopher Saunders will take six months leave away from his outback diocese, effective immediately.

No charges have been laid, and Bishop Saunders has strenuously denied the allegations.

The Vatican says the bishop’s sabbatical will help clarify matters that have created suspicion, confusion and uncertainty within the local church.

The Vatican has launched its own, separate investigation into the bishop’s administration of the Broome Diocese.

Saunders is one of the longest serving bishops and has led the diocese since 1995. The diocese which covers the vast Kimberley region of northern WA has been hit by a series of scandals.

The Vatican’s initial action began in March when Kimberley priest John Purnell went public with concerns over the Catholic Church’s lack of action over the allegations against Bishop Saunders.

The ABC has confirmed multiple staff contacted Catholic Professional Standards with concerns. Correspondence from as early as April 2019 revealed the church was repeatedly told by multiple individuals of the allegations. They urged the church to remove the 70-year-old bishop from his post.

The bishop maintains significant support from some local parishioners. But others suggested it was untenable for him to remain in the diocese while the investigations were ongoing.

Chris, a former Kimberley priest who resigned because of his concerns over how the allegations were handled, spoke out earlier this month. He said the bishop’s continuing presence in the Kimberley sent the wrong message.

“It shows that the Church has not learnt from its mistakes of the past,” said Chris, who wished to remain unidentified.

“There is something terribly wrong when it cannot deal with someone as powerful as a bishop.”

Monsignor Paul Boyers will lead the Broome Diocese in Bishop Saunders’ absence.




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