A FORMER Marist Brother who became a Catholic priest has entered guilty pleas to sexually abusing four children, one while working as a Gosford priest.
Carl Edward Stafford, 80, will be sentenced in December, nearly a decade after a Catholic Church investigation found allegations against him following a complaint were "likely to have happened".
On Friday he entered guilty pleas in Sydney District Court to sexually abusing children at Campbelltown between 1984 and 1987 while working as a lay teacher, and at Gosford between 1996 and 1997 while he was a parish priest.
Stafford was a Marist Brother for an unknown period before working as a lay teacher at a Campbelltown agricultural boarding school in the 1980s.
He entered a Catholic seminary in 1989 and worked in Sydney's northern suburbs and on the Central Coast before he was ordained in 1994, going on to work at Gosford, Toukley, Lake Munmorah and Kincumber parishes.
He stood down from parish work in 2010 after allegations he sexually abused a child while working in the Diocese of Broken Bay on the Central Coast in 1996.
In 2011 the then Broken Bay Bishop David Walker announced a church investigation found the allegations were "likely to have happened". Stafford's rights to say a public Mass, present himself as a priest or celebrate the sacraments were removed, although he was not defrocked.
In a statement on Friday the diocese said it referred the matter to police in 2010. Stafford was not charged until October, 2017 after other complainants came forward from the Campbelltown area.
The statement said Stafford had not lived on the Central Coast since the 2010 investigation.
"The diocese expresses its great sadness at the trauma and suffering the victims and their families have experienced," the statement said.
"We are aware of the courage it has taken for them to come forward and we are ready to assist them on their journey of healing. The diocese expresses its shame that such incidents of clerical sexual abuse have occurred. The diocese conveys its clear commitment to keeping all people safe in our communities, particularly those who are vulnerable. The safety and wellbeing of our young people is our highest priority."
Stafford was released on strict bail until the December sentencing.