The church promoted this abusive priest to a more senior position

Parishioners have disclosed to Broken Rites that the Melbourne Catholic archdiocese promoted a priest, Father Anthony Eames, from Assistant Priest to Parish Priest in 1969, despite complaints that he was committing sexual crimes against young girls.

Eames was convicted in Dandenong Magistrates Court (in Melbourne's south-east) on 31 July 1995 on four counts of indecent assault. He was sentenced to six months' jail on each count (concurrent). This sentence was then suspended for 24 months.

Further research by Broken Rites indicates that Eames had many other victims, aged about 10 to 14, but usually they merely complained to the church. Thus, most of his crimes were concealed from the police.

The priest's background

Eames, born in 1923, was a late entrant to the priesthood. According to his fellow priests, Eames was a "loner". He had no close friends and kept to himself.

It is clear that Eames was a danger to young girls from the time of his ordination in 1955, aged 32. He had victims in his very first parish (Oakleigh, 1956-9), and at least one of these has received a compensation payout from the Melbourne archdiocese in the 1990s.

There were more victims at his next parish (Balaclava, 1960-1), and one of these has asked the Melbourne archdiocese' to re-imburse her for her past psychological counselling expenses.

Eames continued to target young girls in his next parishes — Parkville 1962, Manifold (in Geelong) 1963-6, Ringwood 1967, Kyneton 1968 and Broadmeadows 1969.

A senior priest was told

A Ringwood parishioner, "Jill", has Broken Rites in 1996: "In Ringwood in 1967, Eames spent much time at the parish school, with little girls hanging on to him.

"I learned that he had previously been the subject of complaints about sexual abuse. I became concerned because I had a 10-year-old daughter, and Eames used to nurse her on his knee when he visited our house. Therefore, in 1967, I consulted Father Eric D'Arcy, who later became a bishop. He was a friend of Eames. D'Arcy listened to me but made no comment.

"Later, my husband and I invited Eames to dinner and, for his sake, we informed him what people were saying about him. He was angry at us for this. Shortly afterwards, he left Ringwood. Later, I queried Ringwood's senior priest about Eames, and he confirmed that there had been complaints to the church about Eames touching young girls improperly at Ringwood."

Promoted

In 1969, despite such complaints, the archdiocese promoted Eames from Assistant Priest to Parish Priest (that is, the priest in charge) — at Yea 1969-74, Aspendale 1974-80 and Winchelsea 1980-92. This meant that, unlike in his earlier parishes, Eames was now unsupervised. Again, there were more incidents at these parishes, and he is still remembered by parishioners there as a molester.

In Eames's various transfers, the archdiocese neglected to inform each new parish that there had been previous complaints against Eames. This meant that parents and children were off-guard.

For example, "Helen" of Geelong, told Broken Rites in 1994: "When I was aged about 10 at Our Lady's primary school in Manifold Heights [Geelong] in the early 1960s, Eames used to visit my family's house for free meals. While Mum was in the kitchen, Eames would maul me sexually on the couch in the lounge room.

"It didn't occur to my parents that a Catholic priest could be a risk. And I didn't tell my parents about Eames because I knew that they would not allow me to say anything against a priest."

Helen added: "We children were certainly at risk. During my school days, there would often be a priest wandering around the school grounds and the girls would compete to hold his hand. We were allowed to be forward with a priest because our parents assumed that priests were safe.

"And, in the practice of Confession, priests had access to children's inner-most thoughts and feelings. This could enable an offender to select the most vulnerable victims."

Another caller, "Mary", told Broken Rites in 1997: "My young daughter was sexually abused by Eames in the Balaclava parish about 1961 when she was about 11. In the early 1990s, I phoned the diocese but a certain auxiliary bishop told me that, unless we were prepared to disclose our names, nothing could be done."

Eames retired to a house at Anglesea in 1992. When Broken Rites began exposing church sexual abuse in 1993, some of Eames' victims began to re-iterate their complaints more loudly. This finally led to his conviction in the Dandenong Court in 1995.

Early in 1999 there were unconfirmed reports that further criminal charges were likely to be laid soon against Eames but he died at his home on 24 June 1999, aged 75.

The diocese did not observe its usual practice of inserting a death notice immediately in both Melbourne daily papers. Instead, it buried Eames quietly on 3 July after a private requiem mass.

The diocese published a death notice in the Herald Sun on 5 July, two days after the funeral. 

Tags: