Church tries to stop priest suing over child sexual abuse

THE Catholic Church is trying to stop a serving priest from suing it over allegations he was sexually abused as a child by another priest while at a Lismore boarding school.

A Catholic priest is suing the Catholic Diocese of Lismore and Mercy Support Limited for damages, a breach of duty and personal injury after he was allegedly sexually abused during 1963 as a 12-year-old boarder and student at St Joseph's Convent School.

It is understood this is the first time a serving priest has filed a complaint of this type against the church.

Court documents allege the accused victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sexually abused by Father Clarence "David" Anderson, who is now deceased.

Fr Anderson allegedly directed the plaintiff to kneel in front of him as he exposed and placed his erect penis into the boy's mouth while repeatedly thrusting until he ejaculated.

The sexual abuse allegedly occurred on one occasion in the sacristy at St Patrick's Church, which lay on the grounds of the boarding school.

The alleged victim had just completed his duty as altar boy for school morning mass alongside Fr Anderson.

However, the diocese is seeking a permanent stay through the NSW Supreme Court to prevent the priest from suing.

The diocese was approached for comment.

A spokesman for its legal team said the diocese will not be making any comments until the court case is finalised.

However, the plaintiff's lawyer, Mark Barrow of Ken Kush and Associates, received a letter from the diocese's legal team warning the priest to drop the case.

In a letter sighted by The Northern Star, the diocese's legal team state the 57-year delay in the plaintiff's claim would not allow for a fair trial in the courts.

The letter claims the delay would hinder and prejudice any investigation carried out by the diocese because of the unavailability of witnesses, the deterioration and reliability of memory of available witnesses, and the possible loss of documentary evidence.

The letter gives the plaintiff a deadline of February 6 for proceedings to be halted otherwise the diocese' would be seeking legal costs against him.

This would be the second time the diocese has worked towards stopping any legal proceedings involving sexual abuse claims.

Last December, the diocese successfully won a stay in similar circumstances that put a stop to a sperate claim by a woman who alleged she was abused by the late Fr John Curran during the 1940s.

The matter is due to return to the NSW Supreme Court for a directions hearing on February 20.

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