Child Abuse Detectives Search Property Linked to Disgraced Bishop Christopher Saunders
Child abuse detectives have recently conducted a search at a property in Broome, Western Australia, which has been reported as the temporary home of the disgraced bishop emeritus Christopher Saunders. The ABC had previously reported allegations against Saunders, who has denied accusations of sexually assaulting and grooming young Aboriginal men over his 50-year career.
Saunders voluntarily stood aside in 2020, and his resignation was accepted by Pope Francis in 2021. While police had investigated the allegations from 2018 to 2020, they did not find enough evidence to press charges. However, a Vatican inquiry was subsequently launched, revealing that it was likely four sexual acts had occurred, with an additional 67 youths potentially subjected to sexual or grooming behaviors, according to Seven News.
In addition to the allegations of abuse, the Vatican report also claimed that Saunders had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on various items, including alcohol, cigarettes, bus fares, and air fares. The report was handed to the Western Australia police in May 2023, but as of last week, there was no update on the situation.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) stated last year that no potential victims in the Vatican report were confirmed or identified as being under the age of 18. However, as recently as October last year, Saunders was still listed as the responsible person for diocese charities, which possessed significant assets and revenue.
Since Saunders’ departure, Bishop Michael Morrissey has been overseeing the Broome diocese and is now listed as the responsible person for the charities. Father John Purnell, a whistleblower who worked with Saunders in the Broome diocese, expressed frustration on behalf of the alleged victims, noting the lack of progress in the case. Purnell is calling for Saunders to be defrocked, a decision that lies in the hands of the Vatican.
Guardian Australia reached out to Saunders and the diocese for comment, but no response has been received as of yet. For those in need of support, various helpline numbers are provided for children, young adults, parents, teachers, and adult survivors in Australia, the UK, and the US.
The investigation into historic child sex offenses is ongoing, and authorities are determined to bring justice to those affected by these alleged crimes.