A Catholic bishop faces court on child-abuse charges from 1969

By a Broken Rites researcher (article updated 28 January 2015)

The Catholic Bishop of the Australian Defence Force is involved in court proceedings, charged by police with a child-sex offence dating back to 1969. Bishop Max Davis, now 68, is believed to be the most senior Catholic clergyman (and the first bishop) to be charged by Australian police with a child-sex offence.

In the Perth District Court on 25 July 2014, West Australian Police alleged that Max Leroy Davis indecently dealt with a 13-year-old boy while teaching at St Benedict's College in New Norcia, north of Perth, W.A., in 1969.

Davis is charged with three counts of unlawfully and indecently dealing with a child aged under 14.

At the time of the alleged abuse, in 1969, Davis was preparing for the priesthood but had not yet reached the stage of being formally ordained.

In court, Davis's lawyer indicated that his client will plead not guilty to the three charges. The lawyer indicated that the charges would ultimately need to be dealt with by a judge in a higher court, the West Australian District Court.

In court, Davis' lawyer requested that his client not be required to turn up in person for the next steps in the prosecution process if his presence was not essential because he now resides in the Australian Capital Territory. The magistrate granted the request and agreed that Davis should only need to report to a local police station in Belconnen, Canberra.

The church authorities have announced that Bishop Davis has stood aside from his duties as a bishop while the matter is being dealt with by the courts.

The case came up in court in 17 October 2014 for a brief procedural mention and again in January 2015 for the same purpose.

The case is scheduled again for another procedural mention in May 2015.  The purpose of these procedural mentions is to determine the subsequent steps in the judicial process.

Research by Broken Rites

Bishop Max Leroy Davis was born in Townsville, Queensland, in 1945 and grew up in Perth, where he attended Catholic schools, including the Christian Brothers.

From 1962 to 1964, in his late teens, he served as a sailor in the Australian Navy.

In 1964 he left the Navy to study for the Catholic priesthood (in New Norcia W.A. and then in NSW), eventually returning to New Norcia where he was ordained at the Holy Trinity Pro-Cathedral in October 1971.

His biography on a church website says he "continued his appointment on the staff of St Benedict's College at New Norcia for a time" after he was ordained.

He served with parishes in the Perth archdiocese and was a part-time chaplain for the military services..

From 1975 to 1993, he served as chaplain on various ships and bases in Australia and overseas.

In 1990 he became part of the Catholic Church's newly established Military Ordinariate (or diocese) and was appointed its vicar-general (that is, the administrator under the military bishop). He became the principal Catholic chaplain for the Navy in 1993.

He was awarded the honour of Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1998.

He then served as chaplain to St Edmund’s College (Canberra) until 2002, when he went to St Christopher’s Cathedral in Canberra as an assistant priest.

He has been Australia's military bishop since 2003.

The office of the Australia's military diocese is based in Canberra. This bishopric is not a geographical one. The military bishop is responsible for all Catholic chaplains in the Australian army, navy and air force, whether they are in Australia or overseas.The miliary bishop comes under the supervision of the Archbishop of Sydney.