Answers expected as Bishop Morris goes before commission

WHAT will Bill reveal?

That is the question on everyone's lips.

The answer will come today when former Toowoomba Bishop William Morris gives his highly-anticipated evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Brisbane.

Bishop Morris oversaw the Toowoomba Catholic Dioceses at the height of the child sexual abuse scandal at a primary school in the city.

The arrest of paedophile teacher Gerard Vincent Byrnes sent shockwaves across the nation.

Byrnes was convicted of 44 child sexual abuse charges, including rape, over his actions towards 13 young girls in his class between 2007 and 2008.

Bishop Morris sacked the school's principal Terence Michael Hayes and two Catholic Eduction Office student protection officers Christopher Fry and Ian Hunter in December, 2008, in the fallout from the scandal.

All three men gave evidence to the commission last week.

Bishop Morris then set a precedent for the Catholic Church in Australia in May, 2010, by making a sweeping admission of the church's liability for the abuse which paved the way for more than $3 million in compensation payments to Byrnes' victims.

The following year then Pope Benedict XVI sensationally sacked Bishop Morris too.

The church claims the move was about comments Bishop Morris made in 2006 about whether the ordination of women and ministers from other churches could supplement declining Catholic Church priests.

Toowoomba Catholic Eduction Office assistant director Margaret Hendriks told the commission late last week she was the one who re-hired Byrnes as a relief teacher at the school after his shock resignation in June 2008.

Byrnes molested grade five student KF the following month on his first day back at work.

He went on to molest and rape a further two students until his arrest four months later.

Ms Hendriks told the commission she knew parents had complained about Byrnes, but assumed their concerns were with his teaching.

"I did not explore to any great extent what the complaints were," she said.

Counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness argued that Ms Hendriks was responsible for making those checks.

"Somebody listening to this, Mrs Hendriks, would be entitled to be alarmed at the sloppiness," she said.

Ms Hendriks will finish giving evidence today (Feb 24) before the commission hears again from her boss John Borserio.

Bishop Morris is scheduled as the last witness to give evidence.

Topics:  bishop william morris, child abuse, royal commission



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