First Australian Bishop Charged With Child Sexual Abuse: Appears in Court

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By Sarah Thomas | July 26, 2014 1:20 PM EST

The head of the Australian Catholic Church's military diocese, Bishop Max Leroy Davis had appeared in court for being charged with an offence of child sexual abuse that dates back to 1969.

Reuters
A Catholic bishop prays near the wreckage of a TransAsia Airways turboprop plane that crashed, on Taiwan's offshore island Penghu July 25, 2014. Taiwan authorities launched an investigation on Thursday into the crash in which 48 people were killed with the weather expected to be a factor in the inquiry. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang (TAIWAN - Tags: TRANSPORT DISASTER RELIGION)

The Bishop allegedly abused a 13-year-old boy who was a student at St Benedict's College at New Norcia, north-east of Perth, 45 years ago. Davis was a teacher there and the incident is said to have occurred two years prior to him being ordained in 1971.

The 68-year-old senior clergyman of the Catholic Church has been charged with three other cases for his indecent behaviour with children below 14 years of age. He is also believed to be the first most senior Australian church official to be charged with a case of child sexual abuse.

On Davis' defence lawyer Seamus Rafferty's request, Magistrate Paul Heaney of the Perth Court granted permission for the exclusion of his client's presence in the future proceedings, including the one which is to be heard on October 17 and any other date in which his presence would not be necessary; provided, he reports to Belconnen Police Station. The request was made because Davis resided in Canberra, where he returned after his bail.

Rafferty also told the court that Bishop Davis would plead not guilty and the charges would need to be dealt with in the District Court.

The Catholic Military Ordinariate of Australia acknowledged the allegation in a statement on Sunday, "An allegation has been made by the police that in 1969, Bishop Max Davis abused a 13-year-old boy at St Benedict's College in New Norcia. At the time - 45 years ago, the bishop was not ordained." It also said that the bishop emphatically denied the allegation and the charge will be defended.

According to the statement issued, Mr Davis has stood aside from his office and his role as Catholic member of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services while the matter is dealt with by the courts.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
A Catholic bishop prays near the wreckage of a TransAsia Airways turboprop plane that crashed, on Taiwan's offshore island Penghu July 25, 2014. Taiwan authorities launched an investigation on Thursday into the crash in which 48 people were killed with the weather expected to be a factor in the inquiry. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang (TAIWAN - Tags: TRANSPORT DISASTER RELIGION)
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