FORMER Maitland-Newcastle diocese Vicar General Barry Tunks has been charged with child sex offences after a man alleged he was sexually abused by two Catholic priests and another man in the Taree area in the late 1970s.
Father Tunks, 76, was charged at Waratah police station on Thursday by detectives from Manning/Great Lakes Local Area Command. He will appear in Forster Local Court in April charged with three counts of indecent assault.
A man, 46, told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2014 that he was between 9 and 12 years old when he was allegedly sexually abused by two priests and another man in locations including Catholic Church facilities. The man also named a fourth alleged sexual abuser – a Catholic employee, now deceased.
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The man later made a statement to police.
In a statement on Thursday Maitland Newcastle Bishop Bill Wright confirmed that a priest of the diocese had been charged with historic child sex offences relating to matters alleged to have occurred in the 1970s.
The priest “agreed that he stand aside from ministry”, Bishop Wright said.
“We are unable to comment further on this matter at this time, other than to say again that we have and will continue to cooperate with NSW Police in their investigations and that we have confidence in our criminal justice system to deal properly with this matter in due course,” Bishop Wright said.
Father Tunks has held senior positions in the diocese but has been on administrative leave for an extended period. He was named Vicar General after former Vicar General Tom Brennan was diagnosed with cancer and convicted of making a false statement to police investigating child sex offender priest John Denham.
Father Tunks was most recently one of three priests in the Blackbutt pastoral region covering Adamstown, Cardiff, Lambton and Waratah.