Church documents show that this priest was an abuser. But the church kept giving him access to children

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 17 July 2019

Broken Rites has inspected some church documents which show that Father Kevin Wright committed sexual crimes against children during his 42 years as a Catholic priest in New South Wales parishes. The documents indicate that Wright's bishop knew about Wright being a danger to children but, despite this, Wright was allowed to continue in the ministry, giving him priestly access to more children in more parishes. His victims included girls and boys; these children were as young as nine years. His victims (now adults) indicate that, using his church status,, Fr Wright would invasively handle the genital area of a boy or a girl; and sometimes he would insert his penis into a child's mouth or anus. Victims of Fr Wright now say (as adults) that they are still feeling hurt by the church abuse which has damaged their lives.

Broken Rites research has ascertained that Kevin Patrick Wright was born at Dimboola (in Victoria) on 13 January 1921. He studied for the priesthood at Sydney's seminary and was ordained in Melbourne in 1948 as a priest for Diocese of Wagga Wagga, where he served from 1948 to 1990.

The Wagga Wagga diocese covers a large area in south-western New South Wales, including dozens of towns. The bishop's office is located in the city of Wagga Wagga.

Wright's parish appointments were in the following towns: Albury in 1949, Wagga 1949-53, Leeton 1953-56, Corowa 1956-61, Culcairn 1961-70, Jerilderie 1970-73, Junee 1973-90 and Tocumwal 1990.

Wright died on 16 September 1991. Therefore, it then became too late for any victim to report Wright's crimes to the police in order to prosecute him in court. To obtain justice now, Wright's victims need to take civil legal action against the Wagga Diocese, demanding compensation for the damage done to each victim's life (and some victims are already doing, or planning, this). During such civil action, a victim's solicitor can serve a notice of discovery on the diocese, by a legal subpoena, demanding copies of certain documents relating to Wright. Solicitors are already extracting compensation from the Wagga Diocese on behalf of Wright's victims.

The priest was "alcoholic"

One church document tells how, in July 2015, the new bishop of Wagga (Bishop Gerard Hanna) visited one of Wagga's former bishops — Most Reverend Francis Carroll, who had been in charge of the Wagga diocese from 1968 to 1983. Bishop Carroll (born in 1930) was later (in 1983-2006) the Archbishop of the Canberra-Goulburn diocese (with the title of Arch-bishop because Canberra is a capital city) but he is now retired and living in Wagga.

Bishop Hanna asked Archbishop Carroll about Father Kevin Wright. One document (a hand-written "file note", dated 13 July 2015 ) says:

"Archbishop Carroll volunteered this information: Fr K Wright had an alcoholic problem and, under the influence [of alcohol], could be quite aggressive and assertive. Archbishop Carroll recounted the case when K. Wright's housekeeper would lock herself in her room when he was drinking. Under the influence of drink, he would bang on the door, loudly demanding to be let in. She feared the consequences and never let him in. [This file note is signed by Most. Rev Gerard Hanna DD, Bishop of Wagga Wagga, after his July 2015 interview with Archbishop Carroll.]

A nine-year-old girl

Another document in the church file gives a quote (from Archbishop Carroll's July 2015 interview), this time referring to a nine-year-old girl.

"Archbishop Carroll recollects that a parent, who he knew well, attended on him [in the 1970s] and complained that [in the 1960s] their daughter, who was then [in the 1960s] aged 9 years. had been sexually assaulted by Father Wright in a car while giving the girl a lift to or from basketball. Archbishop Carroll spoke to Father Wright, who was then [in the 1970s] in charge of the parish of Junee, who vehemently denied the allegations. Archbishop Carroll knows the [complainant's] family and believes that they would be credible witnesses."

Another nine-year-old girl

Another document in the church file gives details of a female complainant (now an adult) who says (in 2015) that she was abused by Fr Wright at the age of nine when he was in her parish in the late 1960s. From the church files, it is evident that this female complainant has taken civil action against the Wagga diocese, demanding compensation for the damage done to her life.

A letter from a legal firm (in 2015) says this girl's abuse in the 1960s occurred in several locations including:

  • in the parish house (the presbytery); and
  • in the church when she had been sent there by her Catholic school to receive some "religious instruction" from Fr Wright or to do some chores for him.

The woman says that Fr Wright would force her to sit on his lap and he would digitally invade her genitals. He also penetrated the girl's mouth with his penis. [Under civil law, these are serious crimes, amounting to rape.] From another page in the church file, it appears that in 2015 this female complainant had spoken to a psychiatrist regarding the damage that was done to her life by the church abuse.

Rape of a boy in the 1950s

According to another document in the church files, the Catholic Church in New South Wales received a complaint in 2015 from a former altar boy (born in 1947), saying that he was repeatedly raped by Fr Wright at St Mary's parish in Corowa in approximately 1957-1959, beginning when he was aged about 9 or 10. This altar boy assisted Fr Wright at morning Mass on certain days of the week.

The church document summarises the altar boy's complaint:

"After Mass and whilst still in the Sacristy, Fr Wright would grab him by the shirt and push him, face first, over the vestment stool, hold him down over the stool before pulling down [the boy's] pants and forcing his penis inside [the boy's] anus. This happened after Mass for a period of approximately two years.

"[The victim] says that his experiences from his time at St Mary's Catholic Churdch has affected him. He feels that the impact of the incidents and time with Wright made him vulnerable as a child."

This former altar boy is now an aged pensioner.

The story of "Patrick"

A male complainant ("Patrick") has told Broken Rites:

"When I was in the parish primary school, aged between nine and twelve, the nuns would ask me to do some clean-up work on Fr Wright's garden. Fr Wright invited me into his house, where he offered me a cool drink and biscuits. Eventually he took advantage of his position in the church and community and committed acts of sexual abuse toward me over a two-year period. He said that, if I told anyone, God would take my mother and father away and that I would never see them again. I remember being so scared that this would happen to my parents that I never ever mentioned my ordeals to anyone and that when I left primary school to go to secondary school, I felt relief that I would never have to see him ever again.

"I found concentrating at school very difficult in my senior primary years and recollections of my abuse haunted me throughout my school life. As I matured, I realised that what had happened to me was a lurid act of indecent crime that sickens me to this day.

"Eventually, when I was married, I realised that this childhood-abuse was affecting our marriage. 

"Fr Kevin Wright used the power of the church to inflict unfair intolerant paedophilic practices, behaviour and sexual abuse toward me, a trusting loyal child who would never say negative things about a priest in the eyes of our Catholic faith. After all, he was the one person in the community that connected our families, our spirituality and our trust in ongoing religious beliefs. The Catholic Church has a lot to answer for."

The story of "Max"

A male victim ("Max"), who encountered Fr Kevin Wright at the age of ten, has told Broken Rites: "I was assaulted by Father Kevin Wright in the 1970s, but recently I found evidence that I was not Wright's first or only victim. Before my time, the church authorities knew that Wright was a danger to children but they still inflicted him on later victims, including me."

  • Broken Rites is continuing its research about Father Kevin Wright and the church's cover-up.