Mary MacKillop Clergy Abuse
In 1871, after only four years as a nun, she was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and turned out onto the street with no money and nowhere to go.
MacKillop’s cause for sainthood began in 1925 and has had the tireless backing of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the order she founded.
On October 17, MacKillop’s canonisation by Pope Benedict XVI will be a momentous occasion for Australia’s 5 million Roman Catholics.
But these new revelations show there were some in the church who set out to destroy the order that put her on the path to sainthood.
While serving with the Sisters of St Joseph, MacKillop and her fellow nuns heard disturbing stories about a priest, Father Keating from the Kapunda parish north of Adelaide, who was allegedly abusing children.
They told their director, a priest called Father Woods, who then went to the Vicar General.
The Vicar General subsequently sent Father Keating back to his home country of Ireland, where he continued to serve as a priest.
Father Paul Gardiner, who has pushed for MacKillop’s canonisation for 25 years, says Father Keating’s fellow Kapunda priest Father Horan swore revenge on the nun for uncovering the abuse.
“The story of the excommunication amounts to this: that some priests had been uncovered for being involved in the sexual abuse of children,” he said.
“The nuns told him and he told the Vicar General who was in charge at the time and he took severe action.
“And Father Horan, one of these priests, was so angry with this that he swore vengeance – and there’s evidence for this – against Woods by getting at the Josephites and destroying them.”
Father Horan was by now working for Adelaide’s Bishop Shiel and urged him to break the sisters up by changing their rules.
When MacKillop refused to comply, she was banished from the church at the age of 29.
“Mary was not excommunicated, in fact or in law. She submitted to a farcical ceremony where the Bishop had … lost it,” Father Gardiner said.
“He was a puppet being manipulated by malicious priests. This sounds terrible but it’s true.”