“Sacred Heart Mission founder Father Ernie Smith will “no longer be considered a priest in good standing” after historical sexual abuse allegations against him were revealed.
According to a statement posted to the charity’s website today, the complaints relate to inappropriate sexual behaviour with two adults and one person under 18.
“Fr Smith has accepted responsibility for the complaints,” the statement reads.
“No client, employee or volunteer at Sacred Heart Mission was involved.”
Two complaints were made to the Archdiocese of Melbourne in 2005 and 2006, but the priest was not stood down until another allegation was proved in November last year.
Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart said he revoked Fr Smith’s right to exercise public ministry because of the seriousness of the complaint, its effect on the victim and the pattern of behaviour.
“In each of the matters Father Smith acknowledged that he was responsible for the action as
reported,” Archbishop Hart said.
“He accepted the findings that he had acted in a manner inconsistent with the promise of celibacy and the expectations imposed by the Church on clergy.
“I acknowledge the disappointment this will cause for many who have admired Father Smith’s historic ministry to the marginalised, the vulnerable and the homeless poor.
“Many will be confused by the paradox of this ministry and his misconduct.”
Fr Smith, who retired in 2007, founded Sacred Heart Mission 35 years ago while serving as a Priest at the St Kilda West Parish.
Sacred Heart Mission’s board chair Mark Dohrmann and CEO Cathy Humphrey said they were “shocked and deeply saddened” about the complaints.
“He has been held in high esteem by many, and this news will understandably have an impact on the Mission’s clients, staff, volunteers and parishioners,” they said in a statement.
Anyone who has experienced abuse should report their complaint to Victoria Police.
Fr Smith could not be contacted as he is unwell.”