Former principal who warned of dangerous priest to sue Catholic church

Sleeman Catholic Evil Searson

Title: Former principal who warned of dangerous priest to sue Catholic church

Author: Adam Cooper

Publisher: The Sydney Morning Herald

Date: 29MAY2020

If not for a principal’s principles, Graeme Sleeman could have avoided 25 years of emotional and financial hardship.

“That’s the thing that sticks in my neck the most,” the 70-year-old told The Age. “I did the right thing but have lost absolutely everything.”

In the 1980s, the Holy Family School in Doveton was prospering despite its disadvantaged setting, and Mr Sleeman – adored by pupils, admired by staff and parents – had the world “at my feet”.

But the arrival of paedophile Peter Searson as parish priest in 1984 meant Mr Sleeman’s primary focus was to shield his flock from danger.

After more than two years, Mr Sleeman resigned in frustration at having his repeated warnings dismissed. He never found another education job because, he believes, the Catholic church blacklisted him.

Over the following years, a brilliant career was ruined and his mental health plummeted to the point he considered suicide.

Mr Sleeman now plans to sue the Catholic church over the archdiocese of Melbourne’s catastrophic inaction in the 1980s on his complaints about Searson. He estimates his lost education career cost him $3 million.

Searson’s infamy was known at the top: the then archbishop of Melbourne, Frank Little, knew of an allegation Searson raped a young woman in 1974, and his conduct around parishioners and children was discussed at archdiocese meetings in the early 1980s.

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