'I would go surfing before hearing confessions.'

AS A newly ordained Catholic priest in the 1960s, Christopher Geraghty was relieved that he had been sent to Cronulla as his first parish.

This meant he escaped the experience of a friend who found himself living in another Sydney suburb with an older, gun-toting priest who shot at rats in the playground.

These are some of the experiences Mr Geraghty, 73, has recounted in his latest book, Dancing With the Devil: A Journey from the Pulpit to the Bench.

The author who went on to marry, have a family and become a judge, recalled his months in the southern suburb and the eccentricities of the old parish priest there.

"I saw him sitting in a completely dark room in the middle of the day once in his clerical clobber but with the television set switched off," he recalled.

"He said he must not watch television during the day because he should be out pounding the pavements."

The former priest remembered Cronulla as a fishing village where people came off the train with their surfboards.

"I would go surfing before hearing confessions," he said.

The "devil" in the book title is a metaphor for the institution of the Catholic church, within which Mr Geraghty said he had "danced" awkwardly.

Dancing With the Devil: A Journey from the Pulpit to the Bench by Christopher Geraghty, published by Spectrum Publishers, RRP $32.95.

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