Catholic Church orders multiple inquiries into allegations that priest failed to pursue child abuse complaint against pedophile pastor Neville Creen


Despite commissioning several investigations, the Catholic Church has still not resolved allegations that a priest had knowledge of pedophile pastor Neville Joseph Creen’s abuse of a schoolgirl in the 1980s.

Two independent reviews and investigations have so far been undertaken by the Church and a third is ongoing into a complaint filed by a Townsville woman, Kathleen Walsh, who was abused by former Catholic priest Neville Creen in the 1990s. 1970 and 1980.

Ms Walsh alleged that when she was 16 in the early 1980s, she met Mount Isa priest Father Dave Lancini and told him Creen had ‘touched’ her when she was a schoolgirl .

Father David Lancini (second from left) attends a service with Father Neville Creen at far left.(Provided)

She alleged that Father Lancini disregarded her disclosure.

Ms Walsh also alleged that at another meeting in the late 2000s or early 2010s, she again brought up Creen’s abuse with Father Lancini.

Father Lancini strenuously denied the allegations and said he never remembered Ms Walsh coming to see him when he was a priest at Mount Isa in the 1980s or later when he was in Townsville in the 2000s He also said he would have reported the allegations if told.

Other Church officials said they first learned that Creen was an abuser in 1994 when a report was received of another child and Creen was removed from his position.

Creen found guilty of abuse

But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that Creen’s crimes became widely known when he was convicted and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to indecently touching 18 young people. girls.

He has since been convicted of other charges for similar offenses and in 2019 he was charged with abusing Ms Walsh when she was a schoolgirl.

He pleaded guilty to the abuse which began when Ms Walsh was in seventh grade at his school in Mount Isa.

Kathleen Walsh as a schoolgirl
A Townsville woman, Kathleen Walsh, said she was abused by Father Creen.(Provided)

During Creen’s 2020 sentencing for the abuse of Ms Walsh, District Court Judge Craig Chowdhury revealed details of her victim impact statement in which she claimed to have disclosed the abuse to Father Lancini and that there had been an alleged lack of support from the Church.

Father Lancini was not charged with wrongdoing in the case, was not represented, and did not testify.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Chowdhury criticized Father Lancini’s alleged response to Ms Walsh’s claims that she told him Creen had “touched” her.

Judge Chowdhury told Creen: “Instead of supporting her and trying to get to the bottom of what happened, he (Lancini) shamefully told her, accusing her of coming at you (Creen) while she was advanced and in a relationship”.

Father Dave Lancini blesses the crowd of fans and players as the Cowboys at Townsville Airport
Father Dave Lancini blesses the crowd of supporters and players as the Cowboys are greeted by fans at Townsville Airport in Townsville on September 27, 2017.(CPA: Michael Chambers)

In 2020, Ms Walsh demanded an apology from the Catholic Church.

“I just wanted him (Lancini) to hear about my life and what happened to me,” Ms Walsh said.

Concerns about inconsistencies

Ms Walsh also alleged that she told two nuns about the abuse, but they took no action. Both women have since died.

In response to Ms Walsh’s 2020 apology request, the Church ordered the first investigation by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL).

This investigation was completed in 2021 and assigned to the National Office of Professional Standards of the Catholic Church. The outcome of this investigation is unknown.

Ms Walsh said she had never seen the report but immediately raised concerns about the inconsistencies and that he had not investigated the allegations about the information the two nuns had about the case.

Following his complaint about the ACSL investigation, a review was commissioned by the Church.

The review, undertaken by a lawyer, concluded that the previous investigation was neither fair nor equitable and recommended another investigation, according to emails from the Catholic Church to Ms Walsh that were seen by the ABC.

A second survey was then commissioned in August 2021.

Neville Joseph Creen is seen leaving Brisbane District Court in Brisbane in March 2021
Former Catholic priest Neville Creen has pleaded guilty to five counts of trafficking indecency of a child under 15 and sexual assault of a 16-year-old.(AAP: Darren England)

This investigation by an outside firm ‘supported’ on a balance of probabilities Ms Walsh’s allegation that she disclosed Creen’s abuse to Father Lancini and that he did not pass the information on to the proper authorities. .

The inquest’s findings were largely based on Ms Walsh’s account and Judge Chowdhury’s sentencing remarks, as there were no other witnesses to the alleged disclosure.

He stated that “Lancini categorically denies having ever known the claimant”.

The report also noted that where a conclusion is made, it does not allege or imply that the investigation “attributes a presumption of guilt to any person, as this can only be established by a court”.

The report recommended Father Lancini undergo refresher training in integrity and the practice of ministry.

Ms Walsh said she was “fairly pleased” with the report but still had some concerns about whether all the necessary information had been passed on to investigators.

Portrait of Kathleen Walsh.
In 2019 Kathleen Walsh reported the abuse to the police and in 2020 she wrote to the Catholic Church asking for an apology.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

Lancini denied procedural fairness

Then Bishop Timothy Harris of the Diocese of Townsville and an attorney representing Father Lancini filed a request for review, prompting the Church to commission a second review of the latest investigation by a different group of consultants.

This subsequent review revealed that Father Lancini had been denied procedural fairness and the findings of the previous report were to be disregarded.

The report argued that the standard of proof required of the findings against Father Lancini did not exist.

The findings also lacked the “necessary probative evidence to draw an adverse conclusion” about Father Lancini, he said.

He noted that the inquest failed to question Father Lancini about Ms Walsh’s allegations, breaching rules of procedural fairness.

He also pointed to the fact that Judge Chowdhury’s comments were unconvincing in context and were merely a reflection of Ms Walsh’s victim impact statement.

The review called for a new independent investigation, prompting the Church to launch a third investigation into the allegations.

Contacted about the allegations, Father Lancini referred the ABC to his solicitor Ben Cohen in Brisbane.

Asked about the veracity of Ms Walsh’s allegations and the findings of the critical second inquest, Fr Lancini said they were “dismissed” during a review by the Church and speaking to his lawyer.

Mr Cohen told the ABC that Father Lancini did not wish to comment on the ongoing investigation into the Church.

The Diocese of Townsville has confirmed that a new investigation is underway.

Townsville Diocese spokesman Neil Helmore said it was important to note that the ACSL-commissioned second survey was reviewed with the church’s national response protocol.

Mr Helmore said the review had been approved by the national review board and that he disputed the findings of the investigation.

He said he recommends a new investigation.

Bishop Harris initiated this further investigation and it is currently ongoing, he said.

“It would be inaccurate for the ABC to suggest that any of the findings of the disputed investigation remain standing,” he said.

“Bishop Tim Harris looks forward to the completion of the ongoing investigation so that the matter can be properly resolved.”

Ms Walsh, who did not seek compensation, said she was angry and frustrated by the situation.

She said the failure to resolve her complaint led her to believe the victims were not the church’s primary concern.

“I don’t think there was any impartiality. I want the truth out, the fact that the church didn’t do anything about Creen all along. In the end, nobody did anything.

There were no laws in force in Queensland in the 1980s requiring priests to report child abuse.

Father Lancini retired in 2020.


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