The outgoing Bishop of Wollongong has apologised to victims and survivors of sexual abuse carried out by a former principal of a Catholic primary school in his diocese who was convicted and sentenced to prison in December.
Bishop Peter Ingham, currently the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Wollongong, issued the statement on Monday after learning that Philip Slattery, a principal at Mary Immaculate Catholic Parish Primary School, Eagle Vale (then called St Mary’s), was convicted in the NSW District Court in December after pleading guilty to four counts of indecent assault against persons under the age of 16 years.
Mr Slattery is also a former Marist Brother.
“It is my understanding that the offences were committed between 1989 and 1992 against two students whilst Mr Slattery, then known as Brother Philip, was the principal of the school,” Bishop Ingham said in his statement.
“I offer my sincere apology to the victims and survivors of these crimes and to their family and friends. They have shown great courage and resilience in speaking the truth and seeking justice.
“Since becoming aware of the conviction, the Diocese has been in contact with them to offer our support. They endorse the Diocese’s approach in providing this information to [the public] and would like to acknowledge the support of, and recommendations made by, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
“The trauma and pain endured by victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and their families is real and is acknowledged. I further offer a heartfelt apology to all those who have suffered abuse by any person who was associated with the Diocese of Wollongong,” he said.
He offered his assurance that the Diocese and its Catholic education system is “totally committed to the protection of children and young people above all else, and in remaining transparent and open in our communications to ensure that the safety of children and young people remains paramount.
“We are resolute in ensuring that concerns or allegations brought forward are responded to with sensitivity and determination. We have well-developed child protection policies and rigorous processes in place for dealing with complaints of abuse, and we give full cooperation to all police investigations and child protection authorities.
He urged anyone with a complaint of mistreatment or abuse to come forward to the appropriate authorities and agencies, including the police and the Diocese’s director of Professional Standards and Safeguarding, Anna Tydd.
He said the Diocese was committed to supporting anyone affected by this issue.
Bishop Ingham was consecrated as the Bishop of Wollongong in 2001. His retirement in accordance with Canon Law was accepted last year by Pope Francis.
His successor, Bishop-elect Brian Mascord of the Diocese of Newcastle, will be consecrated as the fifth Bishop of Wollongong on 22 February.
The Police Assistance Line can be contacted on 131 444; Anna Tydd can be contacted on (02) 4222 2405.