Tony Abbott linked to Catholic priest Paedophile

Tony Abbott linked to Catholic priest dumped after child abuse case


Tony Abbott

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott giving a reading at the annual parliamentary church service in Canberra this week. Picture: Kym Smith Source: News Limited

TONY Abbott first met John Nestor at the St Patrick’s seminary in Manly in 1984, when they were training for the Catholic priesthood.

They became friends and kept in touch several times a year even after their life journeys went in different directions.

Abbott went into politics. Nestor completed his training and became a priest in the Wollongong diocese of NSW.

When Nestor found himself before a Wollongong magistrate in 1997 charged over the alleged indecent assault of a teenage altar boy, Abbott came to his defence with a character reference.

Asked to describe his friend, the then Parliamentary secretary to the Employment Minister said: ”An extremely upright and virtuous man. I guess one of the things that I like very much about John when I first met him was his maturity – intellectual, social, emotional. And he was, to that extent I guess, a beacon of humanity at the seminary.”

Abbott added that Nestor was a man with ”high expectations of himself and others”.

”I can recall … being more than a little annoyed with him because he would want to bring me up to the mark, bring me back to the path of virtue from time to time and that didn’t always go over too well with me.”

The priest admitted in court that he had slept, wearing boxer shorts and a singlet, on mattresses on a floor in his presbytery with the boy and his younger brother some time between June and September 1991.

However he rejected the accusation he assaulted the boy.

Nestor was convicted in the Wollongong Local Court on February 18, 1997, and sentenced to 16 months in jail, with the magistrate describing it as a ”gross breach of trust”.

But the priest was bailed pending an appeal of the conviction and never served any time behind bars.

In October 1997, Nestor won his appeal to quash the conviction in the Wollongong District Court.

District Court Judge Joe Phelan questioned the validity of the boy’s evidence, but said that Nestor should have been ”more prudent”.

”Inappropriate conduct does not prove that a criminal offence took place,” the judge said.

Judge Phelan said Nestor was of good character and had maintained his innocence.

Nestor celebrated with a drink with his supporters.

The boy’s father angrily denounced the church, telling the Illawarra Mercury at the time: ”I don’t want to be associated with such hypocrites who one minute kneel down and pray and then blindly support the harassment of my family.”

However, the suspended Nestor was never allowed back into church ministry.

He was referred to the church’s NSW Professional Standards Resource Group, which kicked off a lengthy saga ending in him finally being struck off as a priest by the Vatican about five years ago.


Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott as a student priest at St Patrick’s Semmary in Manly, Sydney, in 1984. Picture: Colin Murty Source: Supplied

The then Wollongong Bishop, Philip Wilson, now Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, advised Nestor in writing regarding the internal inquiry that ”significant additional material that I have received … has been a cause of worry concerning your suitability for a further pastoral appointment in this diocese or any other”.

The independent inquiry found that Nestor should not be reappointed to the ministry and be referred to rehabilitation and psychological appraisal.

Nestor disagreed with this directive and took his case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, which ruled he be reinstated.

The Vatican said Nestor had been ”exonerated by the civil judicial system” and no evidence ”verifiable by recognisable legal means” had been produced against him.

However in 2001 the Wollongong diocese successfully appealed against the Vatican decree.

The reasons for such Vatican decisions are not made public.

But a number of church figures spoken to by AAP confirmed Nestor’s ”laicisation”.

West Wollongong parish priest Fr David O’Brien, who was one of several clergy given the job of providing pastoral care to Nestor, recalled the note he received about the Vatican decision.

He told AAP that the priest had been ”forcefully laicised by the Vatican”.

”The Vatican changed their mind when they heard more about him,” Fr O’Brien said.

”The appeals process was started through the Vatican courts. Then the Vatican agreed with the bishop (that Nestor should be laicised).”

While AAP has had no success getting Nestor’s side of the story, he is understood to be unemployed and living in the NSW Southern Highlands, having previously worked for the NSW railways and spent some time in North America.

On January 7 last year, Nestor posted a message on an internet group devoted to ”inactive or former catholic priests” – revealing something of his personal struggle.

”I was layicized (sic) on spurious grounds several years ago. I have to work to support myself, but celebrate Mass privately and pray the liturgy of the hours etc each day. Difficult, but the life of a priest is not meant to be easy.”

Whether cases such as Nestor’s will be examined, for lessons learned and errors made, by the Royal Commission into child abuse set up by the federal government remains open.

Prominent lawyer Chris Murphy such cases were an ideal subject for the Royal Commission.

”It’s absolutely what the Royal Commission was meant for,” he said.

Murphy said the commission should look at cases of powerful people overwhelming abused children who dare to speak up.

Archbishop Wilson told AAP that he remained adamant that there had been ”sufficient information” to remove Nestor from ministry.

While the senior cleric says it was a ”very important case”, he insists it’s a matter for the Royal Commission to decide whether it’s looked at.

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