The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Townsville Tim Harris didn't mince words when asked why those who may have known about the abuse paedophile Neville Creen was inflicting on children in Mount Isa didn't go to police.

"I know of people today who still struggle to come to terms with the acts of abhorrent abuse committed by Neville Creen and how he abused his ordained priesthood to betray all that it represents," Bishop Harris said.

"It's an example of the culture permeating right through, even with the sisters (nuns). That was the culture and it was rotten to the core.

"They had raised the view of the cleric to such a degree, everyone had, that he was so pure that he couldn't have done this stuff."

 

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Bishop Tim Harris at Townsville's Sacred Heart Cathedral. Picture: Evan Morgan
Bishop Tim Harris at Townsville's Sacred Heart Cathedral. Picture: Evan Morgan

"Creen exploited the vulnerability of children and he groomed their families and community so he could sexually abuse children, and continue in his abuse.

"No words from a Bishop can adequately convey what victims and survivors of child sexual abuse have suffered.

"For this, and as Bishop of Townsville, I am deeply sorry."

He said times had certainly changed from the era of predators like Creen, the church was learning from the past and trying not to make the same mistakes that saw children like Kathleen Walsh abused over years because no-one had the gumption to do anything about it.

"The alarm bells should have been ringing.

"I think today we have an obligation if someone comes to us, we need to take it seriously. Take the accusation seriously, morally we have an obligation to investigate."

Neville Creen worked as a priest in Mt Isa and Charters Towers.
Neville Creen worked as a priest in Mt Isa and Charters Towers.

When Bishop Harris came to Townsville he brought in Craig Brereton as the Diocesan Safeguarding Coordinator to make sure the horrors of the past are never repeated.

"It was the culture across many institutions, including Child Safety, including many departments as well. The Royal Commission, in my mind, shone a spotlight on all institutions, certainly this one is no different," Mr Brereton said.

He said the actions of the offenders wasn't just against the children they abused, the grooming of the community put them in a position where they could abuse children without question.

"A lot of the offenders groomed the child, but they also groomed the family and the community around them, so even if that child had the courage to speak up, they weren't believed.

Neville Creen
Neville Creen

"In fact they were further abused or punished, and in some cases some predators used their disclosure to then access them and abuse them.

"That's the problem I see when looking back, so many people and I include my own parents as well, they've known paedophile priests in the past, and they say things like 'we just cannot believe it, he's done so many good things'.

"They're grappling to come to terms with it themselves, because they were groomed as well and that's the problem, the child speaks up and they speak with a nun and they say 'how dare you talk about father like that'. His crime is as much about the grooming.

"In today's world because of education and training, those days are gone, thank goodness. Of the day, where people were in a position to protect and speak up, they chose not to, for whatever reason."

Mr Brereton said they could never return to those days, the protection of children was everyone involved in the church's responsibility.

"It's everyone's responsibility, that's the critical part, because that's where we went wrong, so far back here, people have the courage to speak up and no-one knew what to do with the information, it fell on deaf ears or people weren't prepared, or actually covered up whatever happened.

"We can never, ever get to that point."

Originally published as 'Rotten to the core': Bishop speaks out on predator priest


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