Man of God and his legacy of abusive destruction
CREEPY Creen, Father Feeler - the girls of the northwest mining town Neville Joseph Creen preyed upon knew who this man of God really was.
The whispers around St Joseph's Primary School grew, but the adults in town either turned a blind eye or chose not to believe a man who portrayed himself as the mouthpiece of God was really the monster of Mount Isa.
To date, Creen has been found guilty of abusing 22 children in Mount Isa from 1973 to 1981, including Kathleen Walsh.
Creen was a scripture co-ordinator to six state schools in Mount Isa, he had been on a fact-finding mission and had also spent two years studying the prophets of the Old Testament. He was a well-known and, at the time, well-respected man of the Catholic Church.
Before his stint in Mount Isa, Creen had been in Charters Towers.
At this time, there have been no convictions against Creen relating to his time in Charters Towers.
By 1973, Creen was in Mount Isa and he was using his position in the church, in the school and in the community to infect families across the city. There, like a tumour he grew, destroying life after life after life after life.
Creen was an opportunistic predator and he had plenty of opportunity, abusing some children for years and getting away with it for decades.
The 22 children were aged from five to 13 when their abuse started at the hands of Creen. Isolating the child was his modus operandi. Getting them out of sight, his abuse knew no bounds.
Over the eight years he spent in Mount Isa he continued to abuse children.
Then in 1981, Creen was moved to Townsville, where he carried on as a priest.
His last conviction of abuse was against Ms Walsh, on top of Castle Hill in 1981, not long after he had transferred to the garrison city.
In Townsville, Creen was the Parish Priest at Sacred Heart Cathedral in 1981 and Holy Spirit Parish Priest in 1982.
He became the full-time base chaplain at Lavarack Army Barracks in 1984, before moving to the School of Artillery in Sydney in 1985 and on to the Royal Military College Duntroon in September 1985. He would move back to the School of Artillery in January 1986. He left the army in 1992 and returned to Townsville, where he was the Parish Priest at Holy Family Parish in Currajong, moving on to Holy Spirit Parish in January 1993.
In 1994, those whispers from children in Mount Isa began to grow into a roar.
On March 25, Bishop Raymond Benjamin referred information he had received to the Diocesan Special Issues Delegate regarding allegations of sexual abuse against Creen.
The information had come from a Christian Brother who had been contacted by the father of a victim.
The following day Creen was interviewed by the Diocesan Special Issues Delegate and file notes held by the church indicate Creen made admissions to molesting a couple of girls 15 years earlier. The victim the Bishop had become aware of was not one of the girls he mentioned during that interview.
The Brisbane Special Issues Group was made aware of the complaint and made contact with the family of the victim.
The Bishop immediately stood Creen down and removed his faculties, which meant he was not permitted to provide any type of ministry anywhere.
Creen was packed up and sent away to what the man himself described as a "retreat house" in Sydney. He would spend the next four years there, before asking to return to the Townsville Diocese - a request that was refused by Bishop Benjamin.
Creen applied for laicisation (to be removed from the church) in 1997. By 1998, this was granted by Rome and he was no longer a priest. Creen left the church in disgrace and lived his life as a private citizen, until his past came knocking.
The first police investigation wouldn't launch until October 2000, six years after notes indicate the church became aware of his disposition to abusing children.
Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Townsville Tim Harris said: "I cannot change the past, but I take ownership of my responsibility to ensure that across all our agencies and services children, vulnerable people, families and members of the Catholic community are empowered to protect and to speak up and report if concerns are identified."
Read the full interview with Bishop Harris in the next part of this series, to be printed on Monday.
In his first trial in 2003, Creen was found guilty of abusing 18 children between 1973 and 1981. He would spend a measly 14 months of a three-and-a-half-year sentence in prison
In his second trial, Creen was found guilty of abusing a further two girls during the same time period, with no more time to be served.
Then, last November, Creen pleaded guilty to the offences against Ms Walsh and another woman.
He's now 80 and out of jail for what he did to Ms Walsh, three months for destroying her childhood and sentencing her to a lifetime of pain and suffering.*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.
>>If you know more about Neville Creen or the church's inability to act on his abhorrent abuse of children before 1994, contact Chris McMahon at email@example.com
Originally published as A monster's undoing: 'Man of God' and his legacy of destruction