How Christian Brother Daniel McMahon became "Father" Daniel McMahon

Broken Rites has discovered that the Catholic Church has made settlements with several former pupils who encountered Brother Daniel John Virgil McMahon while he was teaching in Christian Brothers boys' schools in Western Australia (from the 1960s to the 1980s). In the 1990s, the church elevated Brother McMahon to the rank of "Father" McMahon and allowed him to minister as a priest in parishes on the other side of Australia — in Tasmania, 3500 kilometres away.

In recent years, some of Father McMahon's former pupils have queried the church's action in promoting Brother McMahon to Father McMahon.


Broken Rites understands that young Dan McMahon began his education as a pupil at the Sacred Heart school in Ulverstone, northern Tasmania, before proceeding to a Catholic secondary school. By the early 1960s, he had become a trainee Brother in the Christian Brothers religious order. By the mid-1960s, Brother McMahon was teaching in Western Australia.

He belonged to the Christian Brothers "Holy Spirit" province which covered both Western Australia and South Australia.

Broken Rites has ascertained that the West Australian schools with which McMahon was associated included (this is not a complete list):

  • Aquinas College, Perth (a boarding school);
  • St. Mark's College (Bedford) and Christian Brothers College (Highgate);
  • the junior school at Trinity College, Perth; and
  • Chisholm Catholic College, Perth.

Eventually, his role in Catholic schools in Perth became as a counsellor, advising pupils who might be recruited as priests or religious Brothers.Thus, the Christian Brothers had a sex-abuser recruiting future members for Catholic religious orders.

It is possible that Br Daniel McMahon also worked in South Australia.

Dan McMahon becomes a priest

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, some of Daniel McMahon's former pupils (after they had become adults) had contacted the Christian Brothers administration, reporting their encounters with McMahon in their school days.

About 1990, arrangements were made for Dan McMahon to enter a seminary to train for the priesthood. He was accepted by the Hobart archdiocese, which covers the whole of Tasmania.

Broken Rites has checked the annual editions of the Australian Catholic directories. We found that, after becoming ordained, Father Daniel McMahon was first listed in the annual edition of the directory of the National Council of Priests for 1995, when he was based at the Devonport parish (under the priest in charge there, Fr Peter Nichols). Next, he was listed at the Bridgewater parish (in the directories from 1996 to 2000) and the Queenstown parish (in the directories from 2001 to 2003).

Ex-pupils re-appear

Meanwhile from 1995 onwards, some of Daniel McMahon's ex-pupils in Western Australia learned that McMahon had become a priest and (acting separately) they contacted the Hobart archdiocese, reporting their experiences from their schooldays at the hands of Brother Daniel McMahon.

By 2004, one ex-pupil had asked the Catholic Church for financial aid for his medical treatment for an emotional breakdown crisis (involving hospitalization) which (the ex-pupil said) resulted from his childhood having been disrupted by his experiences at Chisholm Catholic College in Western Australia in the 1980s.

Not satisfied by the church's response, the mother of this ex-pupil travelled from Western Australia to Tasmania and distributed leaflets about damage that had allegedly been done to her son. These leaflets aroused considerable public interest in Tasmania.

The Hobart diocese and Fr Dan McMahon came to an agreement that Father McMahon would take early retirement from permanent, full-time parish work.

In the 2009-2010 edition of the Australian Catholic Directory, Reverend Daniel McMahon was still listed (on page 238) as a "supplementary priest" of the Hobart archdiocese, still living in Tasmania. "Supplementary" priests are still available to do occasional relieving or locum work in parishes.

The recruitment of the former Brother Daniel McMahon to become "Father" McMahon is an example of one way in which the Catholic Church solves its shortage of priests.

One former pupil from Western Australia told Broken Rites: "This is the same church that refuses to accept married priests or (shock, horror) women priests.

"The Christian Brothers Order and the Hobart archdiocese have some questions to answer, about how Brother Daniel McMahon became Father Daniel McMahon."

Broken Rites arranged for one of McMahon's West Australian victims to talk to detectives in the W.A. Police but, by 2012, McMahon became seriously ill and he died in Tasmania before the police could get him into court to face the criminal charges.