Author(s): Suzanne Smith
Boys with everything to live for ... A community betrayed ... The whistle-blower priest who paid the ultimate price
Glen Walsh and Steven Alward were childhood friends in their tight-knit working-class community in Shortland, on the outskirts of Newcastle, New South Wales. Both proud altar boys at the local Catholic church, they went on to attend the city's Catholic boys' highs schools: Glen to Marist Brothers and Steven to St Pius X.
Both did well: Steven became a journalist; Glen a priest. But when Glen discovered another priest was sexually abusing boys, he reported the offending to police, breaking Canon Law and his vows to the Catholic 'brotherhood' in the process.
Just weeks before he was due to give evidence at a key trial against the highest cleric to ever be charged with covering up child abuse, Father Glen Walsh was dead. Two months later, his friend Steven also died, only weeks before he was to marry the love of his life. Ensuing investigations revealed that at least 60 men in the region had taken their own lives. Why? What had happened, and why were so many from the three Catholic high schools in the area?
By six-time Walkley Award-winning investigative reporter Suzanne Smith, The Altar Boys is the powerful expose of widespread and organised clerical abuse of children in an Australian city, and how the cover-up in the Catholic Church in Australia extended from parish priests to every echelon of the organisation.
Focusing on two childhood friends, their families and community, this gripping and explosive story is backed by secret documents, diary notes and witness accounts, and details a deliberate church strategy of using psychological warfare against witnesses in key trials involving paedophile priests.