9 News National (news.ninemsn.com.au)
Will Callinan – the principal of Saint Brigids Primary, Branxton, and Saint Mary’s, at Greta – made the claim before a special NSW commission of inquiry on Tuesday.
He said police told Maitland/Newcastle diocese Bishop Michael Malone in June 2002 that Father James Fletcher was the subject of child sex abuse investigations, but the bishop did not tell him about the allegations until March 2003, just before charges were laid.
He said he had heard a rumour from someone he could not remember in early June 2002 that Fletcher was being investigated.
However, he did not make any formal inquiries and allowed Fletcher to continue primary school reading classes and to visit both schools.
“I accept responsibility about that,” Mr Callinan said.
“His role continued as normal.
“He was never alone with any children in reading groups.”
Mr Callinan could not remember when exactly Fletcher told him that a police inquiry was underway but when he did Mr Callinan said he “initially thought he was innocent”.
Under robust cross examination by barrister Simon Harben, for Bishop Malone, Mr Callinan was asked why he did not make more inquiries about the allegations or restrict Fletcher’s school access.
Mr Callinan answered: “The church knew more than I did and they had the authority to stand him down”.
Mr Callinan denied assertions made by Bishop Malone in evidence before the commission earlier this month that he warned Mr Callinan on June 20, 2002, that a child sex abuse investigation involving Fletcher was underway, charges were imminent and that his access to schools and students had to be restricted.
Mr Callinan said Bishop Malone first told him of the allegations and the investigation during a telephone call on March 19, 2003.
“He never had a conversation with me (on June 20, 2002) or sought advice (from me) whether Father Fletcher should stay in the parish,” he said.
Mr Callinan said: “I was in disbelief” when Bishop Malone referred to an earlier conversation they were alleged to have had about Fletcher in June the previous year.
Although he also took exception to a pastoral message Bishop Malone made public in March 2003 which referred to not standing Fletcher down in 2002 after advice from Mr Callinan and others, Mr Callinan said he did not challenge the bishop about “the untruth” as he feared it could cost him his job.
Asked whether he had every questioned a bishop, Mr Callinan said: “No”.
Fletcher was eventually tried for child sexual assault in the NSW district court in 2004 and convicted of nine counts and died in jail in 2006.
The special inquiry, being heard by Commissioner Margaret Cunneen in Newcastle Supreme Court, is examining how church leaders and police handled child sexual abuse allegations involving two Hunter Valley priests, Fletcher and Denis McAlinden, who died in 2005.
Priest denies withholding abuse claims from police at NSW Hunter Valley abuse inquiry
7 News Adelaide
ABC Updated July 29, 2013, 4:57 pm
By Dan Cox
A New South Wales Hunter Valley Catholic priest has rejected claims at a public inquiry that he held back information from police because child sexual abuse allegations are “damaging and distasteful”.
Father Bob Searle was the parish priest at Nelson Bay, north of Newcastle, in the late 1990s.
In giving evidence to a Newcastle inquiry today, he said he remembered a person known as AH, a victim of paedophile priest James Fletcher, coming to the presbytery one night drunk and angry and yelling out “nobody loves me”.
Police whistleblower Peter Fox has said that, at the time, Father Searle told him AH was also yelling about priests “doing filthy things to little boys”, but it was not included in his statement to police.
Father Searle said that was because he never heard the comments.
He rejected claims he held back information from police despite the allegations being “damaging and distasteful”.
The special commission into clergy abuse is holding its eighth and final week of public hearings in Newcastle.
It is investigating claims by Detective Chief Inspector Fox that the Catholic church covered-up abuse by Fletcher and another priest Denis McAlinden.
Former Maitland-Newcastle vicar general Father William Burston was back in the witness box today after a week’s reprieve because he was “harassed” by members of the public outside the inquiry.
He was accused by counsel assisting of having “selective recall” during the first part of his evidence, but father Burston’s barrister today tendered a letter from his GP stating a noticeable change in his memory over the last two decades.
Counsel assisting told the commission “no formal diagnosis had been made and it was simply a letter saying he had a mild impediment that affects his memory”.
Counsel assisting said father Burston “had trouble recalling names and doing crosswords but that’s a far cry from what the commission’s looking at”.
The commission’s heard father Burston blames 10 general anaesthetics over the last eight years for his poor memory.
Elizabeth Doyle has been the executive assistant to three Maitland-Newcastle bishops since 1993 and has also given evidence today.
When asked by counsel assisting the commission about the Church’s “special issues” file, Ms Doyle said she refers to the confidential documents as “good and bad files”.
She said some priests had “bad files directly behind their good” personnel files which were contained in one filing cabinet.
She also told the commission the former bishop Michael Malone gave her the instruction to “give police whatever they wanted”.
She said when the new bishop Bill Wright took over, she asked him, “I’m assuming I still do that?” and he replied, “yeah, absolutely.”
The inquiry continues tomorrow with more evidence from John Davoren, the former director of the church’s Professional Standards Office.
Former head of Catholic Church’s Professional Standards Office continues evidence
The former head of the Catholic Church’s Professional Standards Office has told an inquiry into Hunter Valley sexual abuse people are encouraged to take allegations against clergy to police.
John Davoren is a former priest and social worker.
In the 1990s he was in charge of the church’s Professional Standards Office in NSW, which in 1996 developed the policy document ‘Towards Healing’ in response to its poor handling of sexual abuse complaints.
Mr Davoren will this morning continue giving evidence at the inquiry which is investigating claims the church covered up abuse by two priests.
Late yesterday he told the commission people who came forward with sexual abuse allegations against a priest were “encouraged to go to police”.
When counsel assisting asked him whether it was appropriate for a religious nun to provide counselling to a victim, he conceded it was “a mistake in hindsight”.
Catholic school principal William Callinan will also give evidence today.
The commission’s already heard Mr Callinan dispute claims he was warned by the former bishop Michael Malone to keep paedophile priest James Fletcher away from parish schools.
‘Bad’ files kept on pedophile priests
9 News (news.ninemsn.com.au)
7:20pm July 29, 2013
“Good” and “bad” personnel files were kept on Hunter Valley Catholic priests, a special NSW commission of inquiry into pedophile activity has heard.
This has been disclosed by Elizabeth Doyle, appointed as secretary to Bishop Leo Clarke in 1993. She retained the position for two subsequent bishops, Michael Malone and the current Bill Wright.
Addressing the inquiry on Monday, Ms Doyle said the term “bad” files referred to confidential or “special issues” files that contained documents relating to all kinds of misconduct matters, including child sexual abuse.
She said she was unaware of “bad” files during her first two years in the job, but if they existed they would probably have been kept in Bishop Clarke’s upstairs office at the Maitland/Newcastle diocese headquarters.
He never discussed such matters with her, typed some of his own letters, did his own filing and she never opened any letters addressed to him.
Ms Doyle became aware of “bad” files after Bishop Malone began his 16-year tenure in 1995 when they were located in filing cabinets behind individual priests’ “good” files.
The commission, which began its eighth week of public hearings in Newcastle Supreme Court on Monday, is examining how church leaders and police handled child sexual abuse allegations involving now deceased Hunter Valley priests, Denis McAlinden and James Fletcher.
The inquiry was triggered by whistleblower policeman, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, who asserted that church officials covered up criminal offences and were aided by a “Catholic mafia” within the police force.
Ms Doyle said that although she typed some letters related to pedophile matters for Bishops Clarke and Malone in her first couple of years as secretary, she did not know what they were about as they did not mention anything about child sexual abuse.
“I didn’t even know the issue with Fr McAlinden (in 1995),” she said.
“During Bishop Michael’s time more things came to the surface and sexual abuse was mentioned.
“But most of what I learned about Fr McAlinden I learned from The Newcastle Herald.”
As child sexual abuse allegations involving several Hunter Valley Catholic priests became more public, Ms Doyle said Bishop Malone directed her to provide police with all the information they requested, so she did.
Earlier, Father Bob Searle denied hearing a former altar boy yelling outside his presbytery in the late 1990s about the “filthy things that priests do to boys”.
Fr Searle told the inquiry the only thing he could recall the boy saying was “nobody loves me, nobody loves me”.
In evidence earlier this month, Det Insp Fox – who arranged for the boy to make a police statement for a prosecution case against pedophile priest James Fletcher – gave a conflicting account.
The commission continues on Tuesday.