SADISTIC paedophile priest John Denham's reign of horror at Adamstown's St Pius X school was laid bare in a Sydney courtroom yesterday, where grown men wept and a judge passed scathing comment on the church that protected him.
Denham's pursuit of young boys was so brazen it included calling a victim's name over the school's intercom system with the chilling demand that the boy "come to the priest's private quarters".
"For reasons known only to them, other teachers and priests did not intervene to stop the abuse of which most of the students were aware," Sydney District Court Judge Helen Syme said before sending Denham to jail until at least June 2022.
The court erupted in cheers when the judge sentenced the former Maitland-Newcastle diocese Catholic priest, who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing 39 victims aged from 5 to 16 between 1968 and 1986.
But then there were tears.
"Hopefully he won't see the light of day again," said Matt Oakley, who wept with father Allan outside the court and spoke to the media after asking the judge to lift a suppression order on his name because offences against him were "the church's shame".
Patricia Day, whose son Paul was sexually abused by Denham at St Pius in the late 1970s, said the "Catholic Church hierarchy is absolutely disgusting" for not only failing to stop the priest, but moving him to new areas when allegations were raised so that more children were abused.
"All those bishops got dressed up in their big hats and robes for World Youth Day, but what about all the children whose lives were destroyed by the church?" Mrs Day said.
For more than two hours, Judge Syme recounted Denham's ugly abuse of children in Sydney, at St Pius, at Charlestown and Taree.
The first offences were against a 5-year-old in 1968 at Granville, where Denham befriended a family while still a seminarian, or trainee priest, and secretly fondled the child's penis while watching television with the family.
Nearly all his victims were from devout Catholic families, and some were "particularly targeted as especially vulnerable children" because of family circumstances and personal fragility, Judge Syme said.
When boys complained to St Pius X principal Father Tom Brennan he "at best took no action and at worst, caned the boys", Judge Syme said.
Denham's blatant singling out of boys "contributed to a culture of fear and depravity at the school", which Judge Syme described as a brutal and frightening place during Denham's time from 1975 to 1980.
Denham bit one particularly vulnerable child on the buttocks in a school corridor, the court heard.
He performed oral sex on many victims, forced at least one victim to perform oral sex on him, caned others until they sobbed and then sexually abused them, and talked to two 7-year-old victims about Jesus as they sat on his lap in the school office while he fondled their genitals.
"The offender gave both boys a chocolate before they left," Judge Syme said.
He sexually abused one drunk child as the child drove a car, assaulted others on trips to a Taree presbytery as another priest watched, abused others in their homes and committed buggery on an 11-year-old in the priest's quarters at St Pius X.
A Newcastle man called Tom who watched as Denham was given a two-year suspended sentence in 2000 for sexually abusing him at St Pius X in the late 1970s sat in court yesterday and said there had finally been justice.
"The victims of this parasite have been fighting for this day for more than 30 years," he said.