ABC News Australia
Updated July 31, 2012 18:10:00 [Clik here to access audio online]
The New South Wales Police will turn over a brief of evidence to prosecutors on an alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Documents show that the Church was aware of allegations against paedophile priest Denis McAlinden as far back as the early 1990s, but didn’t report it until much later.
TIM PALMER: The New South Wales Police will turn over a brief of evidence to prosecutors on an alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Documents show that the Church was aware of allegations against paedophile priest Denis McAlinden as far back as the early 1990s.
The Church failed to report the matter to authorities until 2003, after victims notified the police and had been paid compensation.
McAlinden died two years later without facing charges, and in 2007 the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle was forced to confirm he was a serial offender who may have targeted hundreds of girls over four decades.
Timothy McDonald reports.
TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Police investigating whether senior Catholic clergy tried to cover-up the crimes of Hunter Valley paedophile priest Denis McAlinden, say they’re in the process of wrapping up their investigation.
Detective Graeme Parker headed up Strike Force Lantle.
GRAEME PARKER: There have been a lot of people spoken to by Strike Force Lantle, and everyone within that investigation who has been spoken to has been dealt with from, as a person who is assisting us with our enquiries. This has been an investigation to see whether anyone, anywhere has deliberately covered up any sort of serious offences against victims.
TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The strike force has been at it for two years.
Graeme Parker says the brief of evidence will be sent to the prosecutor soon.
GRAEME PARKER: We’ve spoken to just about everyone that we want to speak to. I mean, unless something sort of appears that we haven’t seen yet, we’ve canvassed most of the people that we’re aware are involved in it and yeah, we’re drawing it to a conclusion. We’re putting a brief together which should be completed within the next few weeks and we’ll be submitting that to the public prosecutor to see whether anyone contained within our investigation has committed any offences.
TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Documents show that the Church knew about the allegations against Denis McAlinden from the mid-1990s.
Then Bishop of Maitland, Leo Clarke, wrote to Father McAlinden in 1995, telling him that in light of his admissions to another priest, Father Brian Lucas, he should cooperate with a de-frocking process.
EXCERPT FROM LEO CLARKE’S LETTER (voiceover): Your good name will be protected by the confidential nature of this process.
TIMOTHY MCDONALD: He also suggested that the police action was imminent.
EXCERPT FROM LEO CLARKE’S LETTER (voiceover): Finally, I beg you for the sake of souls and the good of the Church to cooperate in this matter so that it may be speedily resolved. A speedy resolution of this whole matter will be in your own good interests, as I have it on very good authority that some people are threatening seriously to take this whole matter to the police.
TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Father Brian Lucas is now the general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Just a few months after the Bishop’s letter to McAlindon, he told the Wood Royal Commission that the Catholic Church had a new approach to dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse.
EXCERPT FROM BRIAN LUCAS’ STATEMENT (voiceover): That tendency to keep the matter within the family, if I might put it in those terms, is certainly very real. What we have tried to do in implementing a protocol is to break that culture so that people understand that the very worst thing that can be done is to try, to use the word that’s very popular in the media, to engage in a “cover-up”. That is the very worst way of approaching it.
TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Nevertheless, another document suggests that it wasn’t until three years later, in 1999, that the Vicar General of the Diocese, Reverend William Burston referred the matter to the Church’s Professional Standards Resource Group
And it took until 2003 for that body to refer the matter on to police.
EXCERPT FROM DOCUMENT (voiceover): Dear Bishop, I have today notified the New South Wales Police of the complaints received against this man.
TIMOTHY MCDONALD: McAlinden died in a church-run aged-care facility in Western Australia in 2005. He never faced charges. The Church has declined to comment on the investigation.
TIM PALMER: Timothy McDonald.