A BELMONT Catholic priest is on restricted duties after a Lower Hunter state school class of seven-year-olds was shown an explicit image during a religious education lesson.
Father Gerard Mackie was interviewed by police and computer equipment he had taken to the school was confiscated after the incident on September 4.
The Department of Education confirmed an "inappropriate image" was shown on a screen during a year 2 special religious class at the public school. The image, understood to be an erect penis, was immediately removed by a female classroom teacher who was in the room at the time.
A department spokesman said the school contacted police and all parents of children in the class were advised of the incident by phone.
Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Michael Malone confirmed the priest had been placed "on restricted ministry until this matter has been clarified through investigation".
But East Lake Macquarie parishioners who spoke to The Herald want assurances the priest will not be at an assembly on Sunday, where Father Mackie, Bishop Malone and parish members had planned to map out directions for the parish over the next three years.
"He needs to not be there until this is sorted out," one parishioner said.
"I know of one couple who've already said they won't be going because they don't believe he should be there.
"I think there'll be people stand up and demand he leave if he does go."
A diocese spokeswoman said people with concerns about clergy members should contact police or the diocese's Zimmerman House.
The Herald was unable to speak to Father Mackie, so it is not known if he was aware of the image being stored on his computer equipment.
Father Mackie has been in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese since the 1980s. He was at Lambton in the 1990s, and from 2001 has been parish priest at Belmont, Swansea and Windale.
During World Youth Day the priest led more than 60 pilgrims on a re-enactment of the 14 stations of the cross along Fernleigh Track.
A female parishioner said she was "shocked" by the alleged incident but was pleased the school and the diocese responded promptly.
A Department of Education spokesman said a counsellor was available to students and staff.
All special religious education tutors and priests who work at state public schools must comply with child protection vetting, he said.
The action against Father Mackie came in the same week the diocese's Vicar-General Tom Brennan appeared in court charged with perverting the course of justice.
Father Brennan was arrested on August 15 as part of police investigations into sexual abuse allegations in the Hunter. It came a day after Father John Sidney Denham was charged with 30 child sex offences.