A retired Victorian country priest, Fr Alderick D'Cruz, was yesterday convicted in Shepparton County Court of a 1977 indecent assault on a then 17 year old girl.
Leaning heavily on a walking stick and grasping the hand of a supporter, Fr D'Cruz, 78, of the Melbourne suburb of Clayton South, cut a frail figure as he shuffled slowly into Shepparton County Court to plead guilty to the charge, The Age reports.
Judge Frank Shelton placed him on a two year adjournment of good behaviour, tarnishing his previously unblemished reputation, and ordered him to pay $500 to the St Vincent de Paul society.
"Your offence was a gross breach of trust and a complete negation of your position as an ordained Catholic priest, especially after you had just celebrated Mass," Judge Shelton said.
"This girl had come to you to seek assistance. Instead she received your unsought advances."
Following Mass in his Benalla church, Fr D'Cruz invited the girl to his presbytery where he showed her a photo album from the time he was her religious instructor.
"He invited her to sit on his knee to show her the photographs. (The victim) felt uncomfortable but went along with it," Prosecutor Tom Lynch told the court.
"He had his arms around her waist and shoulder."
As they got up to leave, "he turned her around and kissed her on the lips, squeezing her waist," Mr Lynch said.
"She was shocked and began to shake.
"He drove her to Benalla railway station, where he kissed her again in the car."
In sentencing, Judge Shelton said a psychologist's report found Fr D'Cruz did not regard the act as inappropriate.
"He is very sexually naive and immature and has adhered to his oath of celibacy," he said.
The victim reported the incident to her mother the night it happened but did not report it to police until other charges of rape and indecent assault brought against Fr D'Cruz came to light a year ago, the paper says.
The other charges were later dropped.
Priest convicted of indecent assault (The Age, 22/5/08)