Archbishop Barry Hickey retained a convicted priest, Fr Michael Slattery

The West Australian newspaper reported on 20 March 2010 that Perth archbishop Barry Hickey appointed a priest (Father Michael Slattery) to a church job, despite this priest having a conviction for child-sex offences.

Archbishop Hickey gave Father Slattery a role in the Lumen Christi Centre for Evangelisation in the Perth archdiocese, the newspaper said.

Broken Rites has ascertained that the Lumen Centre deals with families. Broken Rites found a public address by Archbishop Hickey, dated 7 January 2010, stating that this Lumen Christi Centre is for "the evangelisation of Catholic families who had drifted away."

Child-sex conviction

In the early 1980s, before joining the priesthood, Mr Michael Slattery, was a lay teacher (teaching religious education) at Monte Sant' Angelo school Catholic girls school (run by the Sisters of Mercy) in North Sydney.

On 9 August 2007 Michael Slattery (born 4 December 1946) was sentenced in Sydney District Court to an 18-months jail sentence (suspended, with a good-behaviour bond). He pleaded guilty to committing three acts of indecency (masturbation) in 1981-82 in the presence of a girl, who was aged 14 to 15. The girl was a pupil at Slattery's school and he met her through the school. The offences occurred during excursions, the girl alleged.

The three incidents to which Slattery pleaded guilty were (according to police) not the only meetings that occurred between the priest and the girl. However, these three were the selected charges to which Slattery agreed to plead guilty, and the prosecution was satisfied with the guilty plea on the three selected charges.

Before the sentencing, the victim submitted an impact statement to the court, explaining how Slattery's breach of trust had hurt her and how it disrupted her life.

[Broken Rites ascertained that, according to court records, the Sydney District Court file number for the Slattery case is 07/11/0219. The New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions file number is 2612143.]

He became a priest

After finishing his teaching role at the North Sydney school, Michael Slattery studied for the priesthood at St Paul's Seminary at Kensington, New South Wales. He was then ordained in the diocese of Bunbury, situated in the south-west of Western Australia, in March 1986. There he worked in parishes — and parish work includes acting as a chaplain for local schools.

Broken Rites has checked the annual editions of the Australian Catholic Directory, ascertaining that in the Bunbury diocese in the early 1990s Father Slattery was in charge of a parish at Kojonup, followed by a parish at Narrogin (from 1995 to 2000) and (after 2001) at Collie, Waroona and finally Harvey-Brunswick. He was still at Harvey-Brunswick when New South Wales police charged him with the Sydney child-sex offences.

Father Slattery's Sydney conviction was reported in the West Australian on Saturday, August 11, 2007. The newspaper added: "Bunbury Catholic Diocese Bishop Gerard Holohan said Slattery would no longer be allowed to serve as a priest."

The 2009 edition of the Australian Catholic Directory — well after the conviction — indicated that Reverend Michael Slattery was still a priest and was a member of the Bunbury diocese's "supplementary clergy", although his 2009 address was given as care of the Catholic Church Office in Perth, not Bunbury.

And the Perth archdiocese website in 2008 listed "Reverend Father Michael Slattery" as being attached to the Lumen Christi Centre for Evangelisation, in the Perth archdiocese.

On 7 January 2010, Archbishop Hickey said (according to a church website): "I have great hopes for the embryonic Lumen Christi Centre for Evangelisation."

Newspaper report

On 20 March 2010, when the West Australian revealed Father Slattery's evangelisation role in the Perth archdiocese, the newspaper's report stated: "Archbishop Hickey said yesterday that Father Slattery now faced losing his administrative duties if his sex offences attracted publicity."

The newspaper quoted Archbishop Hickey as saying: "Now that his actions, committed well before his ordination, have become public in Perth, I doubt whether he can continue even with administrative duties."

The West Australian also quoted Archbishop Hickey as saying that he had agreed to accommodate and give Father Slattery his role with the Diocesan Centre for Evangelisation "because Bishop Holahan could no longer keep Father Slattery in the Diocese of Bunbury".

The West Australian also referred to the website of a church Perth publication, The Record, which had stated that the Archbishop assigned Father Slattery "to lead a Diocesan Centre for Evangelisation to enthuse, engage and equip parishes, schools, organisations and communities to become more involved in evangelisation."

[It is significant that the above sentence includes the words "parishes" and "schools".]