Catholic bishop on sex charge

A senior Catholic bishop has been charged with sexually abusing a child in New Norcia 45 years ago.

Max Davis, 68, is believed to be Australia's first bishop and the most senior Church official to be charged with a child sex offence.

He is currently the Bishop of the Australian Defence Force.

Bishop Davis has been charged by WA Police with sexually abusing a student while teaching at St Benedict's College in New Norcia in 1969 - two years before he was ordained.

"It is alleged in 1969, the man who was a teacher at St Benedict’s College in New Norcia, indecently assaulted a boy who was 13 years old at the time," a police spokeswoman said.

"The 68 year old man from the Australian Capital Territory has been charged with three counts of Indecent Treatment of Children Under 14.

He is due to appear in the Perth Magistrates Court on Friday, 25 July 2014.

Bishop Davis has denied the charge and will defend it.

The Catholic Church Military Ordinariate of Australia last night said that Bishop Davis would stand down while the matter was before the court.

Bishop Davis was not an ordained priest when the incident is alleged to have occurred, and he "emphatically denies" the charge.

"An allegation has been made to the police that in 1969 Bishop Max Davis abused a student at St. Benedict's College in New Norcia," the Catholic Military Ordinariate of Australia said in a statement on Sunday night.

"At that time - 45 years ago - the bishop was not ordained. The bishop emphatically denies the allegation and the charge will be defended."

Bishop Davis will stand aside while the matter is dealt with by the court.

Bishop Davis, who grew up in WA and now lives in Canberra, had been the head of the CMOA for 11 years.

Bishop Davis was also a member of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services and held a military rank equivalent to a two-star officer.

He advised Defence Minister David Johnston and Defence Force chief David Hurley on matters of religion, worship and chaplaincy.

Bishop Davis was born in Townsville in Queensland in August 1945 but his family returned to their home State of WA immediately after World War II.

He went to primary school at Our Lady of Victories Parish School in Floreat and Boys Preparatory College, Mary's Mount in Kalamunda and split his secondary schooling between Christian Brothers College in Leederville and Christian Brothers High School in Highgate.

After graduating, he joined the Royal Australian Navy as an electrical mechanic and served on HMAS Quiberon in South-East Asia until he was discharged in 1964 to join the priesthood.

He studied in New Norcia and then NSW, eventually returning to New Norcia where he was ordained at the Holy Trinity Pro-Cathedral in October 1971.

His biography on the CMOA website says he "continued his appointment on the staff of St Benedict's College at New Norcia for a time" after he was ordained.

He became a chaplain in the Army Reserves in 1971 and the RAN in 1975, rising through the ranks to be ordained Bishop in August 2003.

In 1998, he was appointed an officer of the Order of Australia for "exceptional service to the RAN, particularly as the director general of chaplaincy".

The ADF issued a statement last night confirming it was aware "civilian police" had laid charges against Bishop Davis.

It is understood he is the first Australian Catholic bishop to serve in the defence forces.

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