Fighting Priest Loses Last Round

Fr. Morrie Crocker,
Australian Whistle-Blower
Apparently Commits Suicide


"If the young, vulnerable and innocent are not protected by the law then all of us become potential victims and we are all vulnerable. There is one universal trait associated with sex abusers and that is their arrogance. They act as if they are immune to retribution and, tragically, too often they are.
That these men are still in positions of trust and responsibility is of real concern." Fr. Morrie Crocker

WOLLONGONG, New South Wales, Australia Fr. Morrie Crocker, 60, a former rugby player, boxer, soldier, and teacher, was finally buried with full honors at the church where he served in this industrial city south of Sydney. About 700 mourners attended the funeral of the man who blew the whistle on his fellow clergymen who molested children. Crocker was still at it, pushing for an investigation into three other priests at the time of his death.

The colorful cleric, quite popular despite his hard swearing, battered looks, tattoos, and missing teeth, inspired the young men he took off the streets into the boxing gym he ran in the church hall. He was found in that gym hanging from the chain from which normally swung a punching bag on March 26, 1998.

It all began in 1989 when three men told Crocker about their abuse at the hands of Fr. Peter Comensoli and Br. Michael Evans. Crocker went to Bp. William Murray and the police. The police told him that there was not enough evidence to launch a criminal inquiry due to the time that had elapsed, and Crocker became disillusioned when Murray failed to act. For three years he battled for justice and in 1993 went to the press, which splashed the allegations across the front pages, backed by sworn statements from 6 young men.

Ultimately Comensoli was charged, convicted and sentenced to 18 months in jail. Evans fled Wollongong and committed suicide before he could be arrested and charged. Crocker's crusade became an international story when the events at Wollongong prompted the Australian government to establish the Woods Royal Commission inquiry into pedophiles. But the church ostracized the priest when he went public, and Crocker's friends say that the abuse and inaction broke his heart and destroyed his faith. Newspaper editor Peter Cullen wrote "[The church] treated him like a leper, preferring to sing the praises of the accused and the jailed rather than applaud the courage of the priest who cut the pedophile clergy off at the knees."

Crocker's depression, also worsened by the death of a close friend from cancer and Evan's suicide, led into a downward spiral that ended with his body hanging from the rafters in the church hall. Bitterness at the church and conspiracy theories still surround his death, perpetuated by the mysterious disappearance of his scrapbook, which contained details of further allegations against three other members of the church.
6/7, New Zealand Herald

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