The church protected Fr Len Monk while he committed sexual crimes against boys

  • By a Broken Rites researcher

Men have told Broken Rites that they are still feeling angry that the Catholic Church inflicted a paedophile priest, Father Leonard Monk, on them when they were young boys in western Victoria in the 1940s, 1950s  and 1960s. The church authorities covered up for Monk and protected him, thereby turning him loose on additional victims. The victims say that the church's "holy" image intimidated them into not reporting Monk's crimes. Thus, they had to suffer in silence - until now.

Father Monk was harboured in the Ballarat Catholic diocese (covering all of western Victoria) throughout the reign of Bishop James O' Collins.

Broken Rites has searched the annual Australian Catholic Directories and has found that Fr Len Monk was ministering at Hamilton (St Mary's parish) in the early 1940s and at Maryborough (St Augustine's) in the mid-1940s.

Throughout his career, Monk was touching boys indecently; this is a criminal offence, called indecent assault. To protect the image of the Ballarat diocese, Bishop O'Collins arranged in 1946 to transfer Monk to the Geraldton diocese. O'Collins's former connection with Geraldton — and his seniority over Geraldton's Bishop Gummer — made it easy to arrange the transfer.

About 1948, when the complaints about Monk in the Ballarat diocese had faded, Bishop O'Collins brought Monk back to the Ballarat diocese, appointing him to minister at Camperdown (St Patrick's parish). Again, Monk sexually abused boys while at Camperdown. By the early 1950s, he was removed from this parish but was not removed from the priesthood — he was merely transferred to new parishes, where he was inflicted on new victims.

Monk's later parishes included Horsham (the parish of Saints Michael and John) in the 1950s, Linton (St Peter's parish) in 1961 and Apollo Bay (Our Lady of the Sea parish) in the early 1960s. He continued to offend.

Whenever Monk was removed from a parish, parishioners were not told that their children had been at risk. And Monk's next parish would not be told that Monk had been a child-abuser.

Victims of Father Monk

After Broken Rites established its Australia-wide telephone hotline in late 1993, callers included victims of Monk. These victims of Monk did not know each other.

"Brian", who was an altar boy for Monk at Camperdown in 1948-1952, told Broken Rites in 1993: "Monk used to come to my family's house for lunch, even after he left Camperdown. He kept touching me sexually for three years. I could not tell anybody because my parents would have given me a belting for defaming the clergy.

"I also know another of Monk's Camperdown victims. This boy's parents finally told Monk's superior, and Monk was transferred to another parish."

"Basil", a former Camperdown resident, told Broken Rites in 2006: "I was a victim of Monk when I was a boy in the 1950s. I needed to get a lift in Monk's car to attend sports events, and he used to touch me in the car. Monk was very popular — that is one reason why I could not report the abuse. I thought I would not be believed."

"John", a former resident of Apollo Bay, told Broken Rites in 1994: "In the early 1960s, Monk was at the Apollo Bay parish. I was sexually abused by him there for about a year when I was about seven. He used to do it in his car while he sat me on his lap, letting me steer the car. I could not tell my parents because my mum was a staunch churchgoer and she would not have wanted to hear my story.

"Monk was also abusing other boys. He used to drive around to farms, picking up boys to drive them to church."

"Monk's offences, together with the church's complicity, had a bad impact on me and has left me with personal problems. I still am having counselling."

Fr Monk's later postings

After Apollo Bay, Monk was listed back at the Linton parish again in the mid-1960s but, by 1967, the Ballarat diocese removed him and sent him "on leave" for the next four years. It is not clear where he spent this "leave".

In 1973, after Bishop Ronald Mulkearns had taken over the Ballarat diocese from Bishop O'Collins, Monk was again given a listing in the annual Australian Catholic Directory — as a chaplain at St Vincent's hospital, Melbourne. He continued this chaplaincy for several years until his name disappeared from the annual Directory.

Other offenders

In Father Monk's various parishes, he was not the only sexual abuser. A number of sexually-abusive priests flourished during Bishop O'Collins's reign — but they were not publicly exposed until their victims began contacting the newly-established Broken Rites group in 1993 onwards.

One of Monk's successors at Camperdown was Father Gerald Ridsdale, who has pleaded guilty to committing child-sex crimes in the Camperdown parish in 1961 and later at another of Monk's parishes, Apollo Bay. Broken Rites has received complaints about Father (later Monsignor) John Day abusing boys at Horsham in 1950-1 (before Monk was there) and at Apollo Bay in 1954-6. And various paedophiles such as Father Desmond Gannon of Melbourne used to visit the Apollo Bay parish house on holidays.

Another example of a sexually-abusive priest in western Victoria during Bishop O’Collins’s administration was Father Sydney Morey. One of Sid Morey's parishes was Horsham, which had at least four sexually-abusive priests — John Day about 1950, Len Monk about 1959, Sid Morey about 1967 and Gerald Ridsdale in 1986-8.

It was Bishop O'Collins who promoted Father John Day as a monsignor in the Mildura parish in the 1950s.