“Priest pedophilia complaint ‘bishop’s responsibility, inquiry told’ ” & related articles

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A SENIOR Catholic cleric has said a victim of a pedophile priest asked him to stop the man reoffending, but he could not as this responsibility lay only with his bishop and his committee, an inquiry has heard.

This committee included one of the most senior officials in the church today, Brian Lucas, as well as another cleric who cannot be named.

Giving evidence today to the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into church child abuse, Monsignor Allan Hart said he was first approached by the victim in 1993.

The woman told him she had been abused by a priest, Denis McAlinden, as a young girl, and “I want to get him off the street and stop him reoffending”, he told the inquiry.

“She asked me to take it to the bishop,” Monsignor Hart said. It was not his role to respond personally to the woman’s request, he said, “as (the bishop) had his committee”.

Monsignor Hart told the inquiry he did pass on the report to the then-bishop, Leo Clarke, who told him McAlinden had also been tried, but not convicted, for child abuse in Western Australia.

A third Catholic cleric also told Monsignor Hart there had been previous allegations that McAlinden had abused children, the inquiry heard.

Despite this, these reports were not passed on to NSW Police, the inquiry has heard.

Monsignor Hart said the late Bishop Clarke was a private man who dealt with the allegations against McAlinden in consultation with his committee.

This committee included Reverend Lucas, who is now the general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the inquiry heard.

The third member of the committee cannot be named.

“The bishop had created that team,” Monsignor Hart said.

McAlinden died in 2005, before he could be charged by NSW Police.

Revered Lucas is expected to give evidence to the inquiry next week.


Pedophile priest retired over ‘health’

The Sydney Morning Herald


A pedophile NSW Hunter Valley Catholic priest was retired for “health” reasons, given a one-way plane ticket to England and paid an on-going “food allowance”.

The secret deal involving Father Denis McAlinden was done in February and March 1993.

But the priest second-in-charge of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese at the time, Monsignor Allan Hart, said he knew nothing about it, a special commission of inquiry in Newcastle heard on Friday.

Msgr Hart said the now dead bishop of the time, Leo Clarke, must have decided without consultation to remove Fr McAlinden’s right to operate as a priest.

Barrister assisting the commission, Julia Lonergan, SC, showed Msgr Hart a decree and letter, signed by Bishop Clarke and dated February 27, 1993.

Ms Lonergan said the letter began with the words “In light of your health I hereby confirm your retirement from priestly ministry”.

“Are you aware of any health problems Fr McAlinden may have had?” she asked Msgr Hart.

“I don’t know any,” he answered.

“And this reference to health in the first sentence of the letter, could it be a coy way to refer to his propensity to the sexual abuse of children?” she asked.

Msgr Hart answered “Yes”.

But he said he had no knowledge of a one-way ticket to the United Kingdom Fr McAlinden used around March 25, 1993.

He found out afterwards that the diocese’s central clergy fund had paid for the ticket, he said.

He did not know of the diocese paying any other airfare for priests.

But if it had happened it would have been “most exceptional”, he said.

Ms Lonergan showed Msgr Hart other documents and asked whether he was part of an administrative team at the time running the diocese’s sick and retired priest’s fund.

Msgr Hart said sick and retired priests were entitled to a “food allowance” through the fund but said this was organised by two other priests.

Earlier in the day, Msgr Hart said he was unaware of any confidential files held by the diocese leaders involving allegations of sexual abuse by the region’s priests.

He only learned of their existence when he went to Sydney this year to discuss his evidence to the commission with a legal representative, he said.

The inquiry, being heard by commissioner Margaret Cunneen in Newcastle Supreme Court, is looking at how church leaders and police handled allegations of sexual abuse by two priests, McAlinden and James Fletcher.

The inquiry continues next week.


Bishop’s advisor wanted paedophile priest to ‘stop offending’: inquiry

ABC News (Australia)

19 July 2013

The priest who was second in charge of the Catholic Church in the New South Wales Hunter Valley says he told a clergy abuse victim to go to police because he wanted to stop a paedophile priest from re-offending.

The New South Wales special commission is investigating claims the church covered-up abuse by priests Denis McAlinden and James Fletcher.

Former Maitland-Newcastle vicar general monsignor Allan Hart has told the inquiry he met with a victim of McAlinden in 1993 and took her complaints to the then bishop, Leo Clarke.

Monsignor Hart said he asked the victim to tell police because he wanted to get McAlinden “off the street and stop him re-offending”.

He said it was not his role to get authorities involved because the bishop had an advisory committee, which included father Brian Lucas.

Counsel assisting the commission this afternoon tendered a document showing the ‘Maitland Clergy Central Fund’ paid for a one-way ticket to Papua New Guinea for McAlinden in 1976.

Counsel assisting asked monsignor Hart if he was “surprised” and if the purchase was “out of the ordinary”, and he replied, “my word”.

Earlier today the commissioner Margaret Cunneen excused father William Burston from giving evidence until next Friday because he had been “harassed” outside the inquiry.

She described it as “rude and regrettable”.

In giving evidence this morning, father Burston said that while there was extreme frustration regarding father Denis McAlinden’s evasiveness and failure to engage in the laicisation process the moves were not futile.

Under questioning by the church’s barrister Lachlan Gyles, father Burston agreed that if McAlinden’s laicisation was successful it would have lead to the required outcome.

Mr Gyles told the public hearings McAlinden was in the United Kingdom celebrating his “golden jubilee of being a priest” despite having his faculties withdrawn.

Father Burston agreed that was a matter of concern.

He also said going to the police with abuse complaints about a priest was “a matter for the bishop”.

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