Investigation into abuse allegations against Bishop Saunders continues

Bishop Christopher Saunders, the former Bishop of Broome, Australia, is accused of sexual abuse and molestation of 71 Aboriginals. An investigation by the Church in Australia has resulted in a 200-page report that has been submitted to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Church in Australia has produced a 200-page report on the investigation into abuse allegations lodged against Bishop Christopher Saunders, who was bishop of Broome from 1996 until his resignation in 2020.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, said the allegations against Bishop Saunders “are very serious and deeply distressing,” and said “it is right and proper for them to be thoroughly investigated.”

Archbishop Costelloe’s statement recalled that the internal investigation by the Church could only begin after the investigation by civil authorities had concluded. The Archbishop went on to give details of the ecclesial investigation, noting that it was overseen by Archbishop Mark Coleridge, “but entrusted to an experienced and independent specialist investigations organization.”

The report by the investigative agency has been forwarded to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Costelloe said the Dicastery will continue the investigation. He also noted that Bishop Saunder has maintained his innocence and can respond to the report “by communicating directly with the Holy See.”

Archbishop Costelloe emphasized that “after what has been a long and painful process for so many, it is important that a just and authoritative finding be made.” He expressed the hope that the determinations of the Holy See “will not be delayed.”

A further statement indicated that, in response to a request from the Western Australia Police, “the Church is taking immediate steps to provide them a copy of the Vatican-initiated report into Bishop Christopher Saunders.” Archbishop Costelloe added, “The Church and Western Australia Police remain in ongoing and collaborative contact in relation to this matter.”

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20 September 2023, 15:03