The Jesuits acknowledge some complaints about abuse at Melbourne's Xavier College

One of Australia's most "prestigious" Catholic schools — Melbourne's Xavier College, conducted by the Jesuit priests — has publicly acknowledged that some former students have complained about having been indecently handled during their time at the school.

In May 2016, the rector of Xavier College (Fr Chris Middleton) announced that two plaques would be erected soon at Xavier (one in the Chapel and one in the grounds) to "acknowledge the shadow of sexual and other abuse that occurred at Xavier a number of years ago."

Fr Middleton said that Xavier's sports complex, previously named the "Stephenson Centre" in honour of the late Father Patrick Stephenson (1896-1990), would be given a new name.

Fr Middleton said:

"The Jesuit Province has indicated its belief that it would be appropriate for Xavier to change the name of the Stephenson Centre. Consequently, the College will rename the Stephenson Centre as The Xavier Sports Centre. Fr Paddy Stephenson SJ served Xavier for more than sixty years, and is remembered with great affection by many thousands of old-Xaverians. There are, however, a small number of complaints on record in terms of inappropriate touching while he was interviewing students."

Fr Middleton's announcement was carried, next day, by the Melbourne Herald Sun, ABC news and the Guardian Australia online.

Private settlements

Broken Rites research has found some examples of former students who have complained about having been molested by Jesuits at Xavier College during their student days. These ex-students say they have each received a private settlement from the Jesuits to end their complaint. The Jesuits gave each settlement on the condition that each ex-stsudent signed away his right to sue the college in the civil courts.

Here are some examples, from Broken Rites, of church settlements regarding Xavier College :

  • Fr John Byrne, SJ

The Jesuits have accepted (and settled) a complaint by a former Xavier student (first name, Mark) that he was sexually abused (at the age of eleven) by Fr John Byrne, SJ, at Xavier's junior school (Burke Hall) in 1971. Mark says that the abuse (and the cover-up) badly affected his later life. Fr John Byrne also taught at the Jesuit's "prestigious" Sydney school — St Ignatius College, Riverview. See more from Broken Rites about Fr John Byrne HERE.

  • Brother Paul Schulze, SJ

Br Paul Schulze taught at Xavier College's prep school, Burke Hall, in the 1960s. A former student, who went to Burke Hall at the age of ten, tackled the Jesuit authorities many years later, complaining that he had been sexually abused by Schulze. The Jesuits have settled this complaint.

Br Paul Schulze's career was not confined to Xavier College. Schulze has also been the subject of a complaint by a different ex-student, who attended St Ignatius parish primary school in Richmond, Melbourne, in the 1970s. The complainant, born in the 1960s, was aged from 7 to 10, when he encountered Schulze at St Ignatius's school (the Jesuits operate the local parish in that suburb). In 2005, this former pupil tackled the Jesuit authorities with a formal complaint. He alleged that Schulze's actions included serious criminal offences. The Jesuit authorities informed the ex-student (correctly) that Schulze had recently died. (Therefore, the police no longer able to charge Schulze.) However, the Jesuits have made a settlement with this Richmond ex-student. (This Richmond student was never at Xavier College.)


The above two settlements, about Father Byrne and Brother Schulze, are merely examples that have been uncovered in Broken Rites research. The Catholic Church does not volunteer any information about such cases and, according to the Victoria Police, the church does not arrange an appointment for any victim to have a chat with detectives from the Sex Crime Squad.

There have been various other complaints about Jesuits by former students of Xavier College. For example, Broken Rites is researching Father Donal Lane who was a Jesuit in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney.

A sports coach at Xavier

A German-born athlete, Willi Kovac (the name has also been spelt as Vili Kovac) was an athletics coach at Melbourne's Xavier College and Marcellin College and other Catholic schools and worked as a co-ordinator at summer camps for Catholic school children. Xavier College sacked Kovac when it learned that he was a child-abuser but it then breached its duty of care by allowing him to work at other Catholic schools, putting more boys in danger.

In Melbourne County Court in December 2005, Willi Kovac (then aged 73) was jailed for a maximum of nine and half years' jail, with a non-parole period of 5½ years, after pleading guilty to indecently assaulting three boys (aged between nine and fourteen) in the 1960s and 1970s. Judge Pamela Jenkins said that, since the offences, Kovac's three victims had struggled with life, including drug and alcohol abuse and relationship breakdowns, and had under-achieved in their work-life. These three boys were not Kovac's only victims. He also had victims from other Catholic schools. Some additional victims have contacted Broken Rites.

After Kovac's jailing was reported in the media, more of his victims contacted the police. On 7 December 2017, Vili Kovac (then aged 85) appeared in court again, charged with sexual crimes committed against two more boys:

1. Kovac committed multiple indecent assaults against one of the boys while he was a teacher at Xavier College (this boy, aged eleven or twelve, was not a student at Xavier).

2. Several years later, while he was a teacher at Marcellin College, Kovac raped a Marcellin student, aged 12 or 13, while on a school camp. In court, Kovac pleaded guilty to indecent assault but did not admit a more serious charge of buggery, forcing his second victim to give evidence at a jury trial.

In sentencing Kovac regarding both boys, County Court Judge Susan Cohen detailed the terrible impact the sexual abuse had had on the boys, who are now men aged in their 60s. She said one of the men had described the offending as "turning his world upside down" while the other still suffers shame and guilt over the abuse which has affected his personal relationships, including with his grandchildren.

Judge Cohen sentenced Kovac to a maximum of four years' jail, with release on parole after serving 12 months behind bars.

After this sentencing, two more of Kovac's victims contacted the police. Therefore, Kovac faced court again in mid-2018 regarding these two victims. The court again convicted him, and his jail time was extended slightly.