Bishop Max Davis has been charged by WA police over an historic sex offence dating back to 1969.

The head of the Catholic Church’s military diocese, Bishop Max Davis, has been charged by West Australian police with a child sex offence dating back to 1969.

The alleged incident is believed to have taken place when Bishop Davis was teaching at St Benedict’s College in New Norcia, northeast of Perth.

It is understood he is the first Australian bishop and the most senior Australian Church official to be charged with a child sex offence.

Bishop Davis was not an ordained priest when the incident is alleged to have occurred, and he “emphatically denies” the charge.

“An allegation has been made to the police that in 1969 Bishop Max Davis abused a student at St. Benedict’s College in New Norcia,” the Catholic Military Ordinariate of Australia said in a statement on Sunday night.

“At that time – 45 years ago – the bishop was not ordained. The bishop emphatically denies the allegation and the charge will be defended.”

Bishop Davis will stand aside while the matter is dealt with by the court.