A dumping ground for problem priests

Another church horror, this one in a suburb of Melbourne.

From the 1970s to the late 1990s, a string of priests abused children in the Australian outer eastern Melbourne suburb of Doveton.

Father Thomas O’Keeffe was a violent offender who tortured some of his altar boys in his time in charge of the Holy Family Parish in the 1970s, Ms Last said.


The article doesn’t use the word “Catholic” until more than halfway through, and then only twice. These are Catholic priests, protected by the Vatican.

Father Peter Searson liked to walk around the Holy Family Primary School playground carrying a revolver and dressed in army fatigues.

Broken Rites also believes the independent commissioner for the archdiocese’s Melbourne Response has abuse complaints against Searson from his earlier parishes in the 1960s. His only conviction was for physically assaulting an altar boy, for which he received a six-month good behaviour bond in 1997.

Searson had a fetish for confessional, former Holy Family Primary School principal Graeme Sleeman told Victoria’s child abuse parliamentary inquiry.

Some of the children would say “Father’s creepy”.

They were frightened of Searson. They did not want to go into the church when he was there. They did not want to go to confession with him.

Parents complained regularly about the priest’s treatment of the children, Mr Sleeman said.

And nothing happened. Nothing at all.

Sixty parents and parishioners petitioned for the priest to be removed, yet nothing happened.

Mr Sleeman resigned in frustration in 1986, hoping it would force the church authorities to take action. Instead he was cast aside.

A later teacher, Carmel Rafferty, was told when she started at the school that children were not safe around the priest and staff must be vigilant.

Children reported being abused by Searson, begging for safety.

Ms Rafferty told the Victorian inquiry she felt her career was jeopardised after she raised Searson’s behaviour with senior Catholic Church representatives.

All of them male.

The parish appears to have became something of a dumping ground for problem priests, Dr Chamley said.

“There was a series of problem priests and they all seemed to end up down there. These priests were dropped in there and it was hoped that the problem was going to go away and unfortunately it didn’t,” he said.

Another Doveton priest sexually abused women, Ms Last said.

The number of offending priests in Doveton could be six in a row over 35 years according to Ms Rafferty’s inquiry evidence: the four pedophiles and two who abused women.

Why use Doveton, home to many battlers and factory workers, as a dumping ground? Ms Rafferty had a theory.

“For the archdiocesan people who do the placing I suppose they figured out it was a community of people who would not wake up too quickly, if they had a problem priest in their midst, and a community of people who would be brought up to believe in obedience and loyalty, and the mystique and aura of the priesthood.”

Sure. They don’t put priests like that in neighborhoods where people with power and clout live – that would be silly!

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