A Catholic priest has apologised to the family of Jill Meagher after he told a service of primary school children the Irish woman would have been at home in bed the night she was raped and murdered if she’d been “more faith-filled”.
Twenty-nine-year-old Jill Meagher was raped and murdered by Adrian Ernest Bayley in Melbourne in 2012.
Bayley is now serving a life sentence for the crime but recently hit headlines again when he was convicted of three more rapes in the months before Jill’s murder.
The Catholic priest showed a group of primary school children at an end-of-term mass the newspaper headlines and made the comment that if Ms Meagher had been "more faith-filled", she "would have been home in bed and not walking down Sydney Road at 3am".
Father Joseph apologised for his comments this morning on RTE Radio One and agreed with Ms Meagher’s family that the comment was “idiotic”.
“I am very remorseful it came out like that, I am very apologetic and I ask for pardon, I apologise sincerely, especially to all the Irish people and especially to all those for whom Jill Meagher has been and is so dear,” Fr Joseph told RTE Radio One’s John Murray show.
“I have several dreams for young people to live safely, I have only dreams of a better world, a safer place for people, nothing of condemnation for Jill.
“I take [the ‘idiotic’ comment] no problem, I am humble.
“When I came to know she was a nice Irish Catholic I felt very sad about the comment,” he added.
In attempting to explain his comments, the priest said he was trying to make the point of how to create a better world.
“My point was let’s all create a better world to live, a safe world,” he said.
“I made a mention of Bayley and I condemned the acts and then I said that particular comment, I’m sure it was very poor or my part to mention it, it was a passing comment, it was this way… just like that man who did that heinous crime, if we all had Jesus as part of our life, we would need to be back home by 11pm and have a good sleep,” he continued.
“Then I referred this would not happen like it happened to Jill, that was the sense of my message but perhaps when I coined the words I made the mistake, to be frank I don’t remember the words I used.
“There was no anti-feminist element, no condemnation, it was a subtle passing comment.
“I wasn’t blaming the victim, I had condemned the act of Bayley several times in the past.”
The priest said he is “very remorseful” about the comments.
In response to the comments, Joan Meagher, Jill's mother-in-law, had said she was "shocked" by his "ridiculous" comments.
"He's offended a lot of people. This murder has nothing to do with anything - except the guy who killed Jill.
"Adrian Bayley was out there that night looking for a victim and found her."