A prominent lawyer says the case of a former Wollongong Catholic priest cleared of a child abuse charge but later defrocked by the Vatican should be referred to the upcoming royal commission into institutional child sexual abuse.
Prominent Sydney lawyer Chris Murphy said the case of Father John Gerard Nestor, who attended Sydney's St Patrick's Seminary with now Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in the 1980s, was an ideal subject for the royal commission which is yet to start taking its first evidence.
"It's absolutely what the Royal Commission was meant for," Mr Murphy said yesterday.
Mr Nestor was a priest in the Wollongong diocese in 1991 when he was charged with the indecent assault of a 15-year-old altar boy.
Mr Abbott, who in 1997 was a parliamentary secretary in the Howard government, later gave a character reference in court for Mr Nestor, calling him "a beacon of humanity".
While a Wollongong magistrate found then-Father Nestor guilty and sentenced him to jail, he won an appeal against the conviction in October 1997.
But the Catholic church never allowed him to return to ministry and about five years ago he was struck off the clergy list, or "laicised", by the Vatican after lengthy inquiries.
Mr Nestor, who has so far been unavailable for comment, posted a message on a website last year saying he had been laicised on "spurious grounds".
Former Wollongong bishop and now Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, said he was adamant there had been sufficient information for Mr Nestor to be removed from the ministry.
He declined to say if the royal commission into child sexual abuse should look at the case.
"This was a very important case, but whether it is considered by the royal commission is a matter for the commission," the archbishop said.
Mr Murphy said the Royal Commission needed to look at cases of powerful people overwhelming abused children.