Investigating Child Sexual Abuse, Dark Networks, and the Roman Catholic Church at St Joseph’s Orphanage Neerkol

Miss Maddison Marriott1

1Queensland University Of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

My thesis investigated Clergy Perpetrated Child Sexual Abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. My project focussed on St Joseph’s Orphanage Neerkol whereby priests, Sister of Mercy nuns, employees, volunteers, and ground workers engaged in sexual abuse. As female perpetration was a key distinguishing feature of Neerkol, this thesis addressed a gap within the literature surrounding nuns engaging in sexual abuse and harassment. These were three key findings in relation to this area of research:

  • Nuns at Neerkol engaged in caretaking roles to cover up perpetration of child sexual abuse.
  • Nuns used physical abuse to instil fear, which deterred children from reporting sexual abuse. However, if they were to disclose sexual abuse, nuns would also use physical abuse as a punishment.
  • Nuns would send children to priests, with knowledge that they were abusing them.

Child sexual abuse was mapped to demonstrate that offending was organised. This thesis used the theoretical underpinnings of Dark Network theory to investigate the interplay between the dark, grey and light aspects of abuse at Neerkol. This research highlighted the lifelong impact Clergy Perpetrated Child Sexual Abuse has had on victim/ survivors, whilst challenging mainstream assumptions by highlighting the role nuns play in perpetrating, enabling, and covering up abuse.


Maddi is interested broadly in child protection and has recently completed her honours thesis on Clergy Perpetrated Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church. She has a psychology and justice background and is going on to pursue her PhD at Queensland University of Technology in 2022.


Aug 26 2021


8:00 am - 6:00 pm