Pope Laicizes Australian Father John Denham

Priest Was Convicted of Sexually Abusing 39 Boys

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NEWCASTLE WEST, Australia, JULY 25, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI has laicized Australian priest John Denham, who was convicted last year of sexually abusing 39 boys aged five to 16 between 1968 and 1986.

Bishop William Wright of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle issued a statement Sunday that reported the decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to dismiss Denham from the clerical state.

Denham was a priest of the diocese from 1972-1986.

According to Bishop Wright, the doctrinal congregation informed him on May 20 of its decision, which was recommended to the dicastery by the former bishop of the diocese, Bishop Michael Malone.

"I welcome the Holy Father's decree," said Bishop Wright. "My thoughts are with all those affected by these crimes, especially those who have been harmed, their families and loved ones."

The bishop reported that Denham "has not been allowed to practice as a priest for many years," and added that he hopes the present action, "which may raise the specter of past pain, also brings some peace."

"As a diocese," he continued, "we acknowledge the distress and harm that John Denham’s actions have caused. I wish to assure the community of the Diocese’s continued commitment to redress past wrongs."

Denham is currently serving a 19-year, 10-month jail sentence. He could be released after 13 years and 10 months.