A Vatican investigation discovered that a long-serving Catholic bishop of Broome reportedly sexually abused four Aboriginal adolescents and young men and groomed hundreds more.
According to Seven Network and The Australian newspaper, Christopher Saunders allegedly organized ‘bunga bunga’ parties at church properties and spent thousands of dollars in church funds on cash payments, mobile phones, wine, and cigarettes.
The bishop has rejected the charges and has not been prosecuted by Western Australia Police, but he resigned in 2020 after allegations of sexual misconduct and bullying surfaced.
The 200-page Vos Estis Lux Mundi probe, Australia’s first, uncovered 67 Aboriginal boys and young men who may have been sexually abused or groomed by the bishop.
“It has been established through the interview of witnesses and the examination of documentary and other evidence that Bishop Christopher Saunders developed a modus operandi of grooming young Aboriginal men for sex during his time within the Kimberley Region, both as a Priest and as Bishop,” the report states.
Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, head of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, stated in a statement that the claims against Bishop Saunders were “very serious and deeply distressing” and that they should be properly examined.
He stated that Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge was in charge of the church’s inquiry, which was assigned to an experienced and impartial expert investigative organization.
The report was delivered to the Holy See, and the inquiry is being carried out by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, according to Archbishop Costelloe.
“We will respect the enduring confidential nature of this process by not commenting on specific allegations that have been raised,” he stated.
“In due time, the Holy See will make its determinations. It is hoped that this will not be unduly delayed.”
Archbishop Costelloe stated that only when “a just and authoritative finding” was made could the process of rebuilding the Broome church community, led by Bishop Michael Morrissey, continue to make progress and provide reconciliation.