A SENIOR Catholic bishop has been charged with sexually abusing a child in West Australia 45 years ago.
Max Davis, 68, is believed to be Australia’s first bishop and the most senior Church official to be charged with a child sex offence.
He is currently the Bishop of the Australian Defence Force.
Bishop Davis has been charged by WA Police with sexually abusing a student while teaching at St Benedict’s College in New Norcia in 1969 – two years before he was ordained.
He has denied the charge and will defend it.
The Catholic Church Military Ordinariate of Australia last night said that Bishop Davis would stand down while the matter was before the court.
Bishop Davis was not an ordained priest when the incident is alleged to have occurred, and he “emphatically denies” the charge.
Bishop Davis, who grew up in WA and now lives in Canberra, had been the head of the CMOA for 11 years.
Bishop Davis was also a member of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services and held a military rank equivalent to a two-star officer.
He advised Defence Minister David Johnston and Defence Force chief David Hurley on matters of religion, worship and chaplaincy.
It is understood he is the first Australian Catholic bishop to serve in the defence forces.