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Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Royal commission to investigate priest commended by Tony Abbott | World news | theguardian.com

Royal commission to investigate priest commended by Tony Abbott | World news | theguardian.com


Royal commission to investigate priest commended by Tony Abbott



Prime minister gave court reference in 1997 to alleged child abuser John Nestor, describing him as 'upright and virtuous'



John Gerard Nestor
John Nestor was sentenced to jail in 1997 but the conviction was overturned. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

The royal commission into child abuse will examine the case of a
former Catholic priest who once received a court reference from Tony
Abbott.


John Gerard Nestor, 50, was a priest in the Wollongong
diocese in NSW when he was charged with the indecent assault of a
teenage altar boy.


In his 1997 court case the priest
admitted he had slept on mattresses on a floor with the boy and his
younger brother in July 1991, but denied assaulting the boy.


The
prime minister, then a federal parliamentary secretary to the
employment minister, told the court Nestor was an upright and virtuous
man whom he had known since 1984 while studying at Sydney's St Patrick's
Seminary to become a priest.


"He was ... a beacon of humanity at the seminary," Abbott said at the time.

The magistrate found Nestor guilty and sentenced him to jail.

But
in October 1997 the conviction was overturned on appeal, in part
because of doubts cast on the accuracy of the boy's evidence, and Nestor
never served any time behind bars.


The royal commission hearing in Sydney on June 24 will take a fresh look at the case.

It
will also examine correspondence between the Wollongong Catholic
diocese and the Vatican in relation to preventative and disciplinary
action taken against Nestor.


After the court case, the
Wollongong church never allowed Nestor to return to the ministry because
it sourced “significant additional material” relating to further
complaints made against him.


Nestor rejected this and appealed to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, which decreed he be reinstated in 2001.

But
following lengthy appeals by the Wollongong church the Vatican struck
him off the clergy list in 2008 based on what it described as “grave
reasons”.


Nestor’s alleged victim last year said he wanted the royal commission to take another look at the case.

The commission is taking written submissions and inviting leave to appear at the public hearing.

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