Senior Catholics implicated in child sex cover-up

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ABC news Australia

Posted  July 31, 2012 23:17:00

Three of the Catholic Church’s most senior priests in New South Wales are being investigated by the Department of Public Prosecutions over an alleged cover-up of child sexual abuse.
Suzanne Smith


STEVE CANNANE, PRESENTER: A member of the NSW Government wants Cardinal George Pell and other senior Catholic leaders to fully cooperate with the police and make available all internal documentary evidence on child sexual abuse in the state’s Hunter Valley.

The call comes as evidence about three of the Catholic Church’s most senior priests is being referred to the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions for possible charges.

Strikeforce Lantle is wrapping up an investigation into serious allegations of cover-up and possible criminal behaviour involving the sexual assault of many young girls in the Newcastle Maitland diocese.

The priest at the centre of the allegations, Father McAlinden, died in 2005. The three senior leaders facing possible legal action are Father Brian Lucas, retired Bishop Michael Malone, and the Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson.

As Suzanne Smith reports, Archbishop Wilson has declined to be interviewed by police.

SUZANNE SMITH, REPORTER: Strikeforce Lantle has been investigating how the senior leaders in the Church dealt with this priest, Father Dennis McAlinden.

He arrived in Australia in 1949, and for 40 years was transferred from parish to parish as complaints emerged about his behaviour. In 1985, the then-Father Philip Wilson was sent to investigate a complaint at the Merriwa Local School in the Hunter.

10 years later Father Wilson was sent to investigate another incident involving Father McAlinden. Father Bryan Lucas and now-retired Bishop Michael Malone were involved in investigating facility McAlinden.

DAVID SHOEBRIDGE, GREENS MLC: The documents I’ve seen show a very thorough investigation – an internal investigation in 1995 by the Church – but the first reporting by the Church to the police is eight years later in 2003.

SUZANNE SMITH: Father McAlinden died in a nursing home in WA in 2005 after allegedly assaulting many young girls over four decades. But one of the three priests involved in the McAlinden investigations, the now-Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, has refused police strike force Lantle’s request for an interview. Greens MP David Shoebridge wants a Royal Commission in NSW.

DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: Well, we’ve seen today that there are senior members of the Church who are not talking to police. We now also know this is a systemic failing. It’s not just one priest, it’s not just one diocese – but there is a systemic failing by the church, and until we have a Royal Commission that uncovers the real truth, then those victims and their families will never have a sense of completion, will never have justice.

SUZANNE SMITH: Today the National Party member for the seat of Dubbo, Troy Grant, has called on the leaders of the Church, including Cardinal George Pell, to cooperate fully with police.

TROY GRANT, MEMBER FOR DUBBO, NATIONAL PARTY MP: What we need to do as a society is if the church continue to fail to take the appropriate responses, we have to look at all options, I guess, and we’re going to learn some lessons out of what’s happening in Victoria.

But really, the Government shouldn’t need to have an inquiry about this. The church and those leaders should fall on their sword on this issue. I don’t know how much evidence they need before them that they have a serious problem in relation to their response to this horrific allegation of subject matter.

SUZANNE SMITH: Troy Grant is not just another politician. He was the police officer who investigated another paedophile priest in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, Father Vincent Ryan. Father Ryan had 35 victims and went to jail. Troy Grant also investigated another church leader, Monsignor Cotter, and gathered many internal church documents.

He says said the church acted decisively in the Ryan case and other cases, many victims could have been saved.

TROY GRANT: If they had have intervened at any of those points in time – and you refer to an opportunity in ’95 when they were well and truly aware of the incidents because of my investigation, and all those that followed – the potential for many, many, kids not to have been victims of sexual assault by these perpetrators could have been avoided, and that in short is a tragedy, it’s nothing short of a tragedy.

What is concerning now – and as I reflect on that investigation – is that in 2012 I see little evidence of the church acting differently. They really have failed to see the damage that their failure to grasp this issue and tackle it properly, and really look within themselves as to what is the appropriate response for the victims and the community – not what the appropriate response for the church should be.

Until they do that, the fallout and the compounding impact of them not being held to account or addressing this issue will forever go on, and will continue to be a tragedy that they’re contributing to.

SUZANNE SMITH: The former policeman, now National Party MP, says there is a moral duty for all Church leaders to cooperate.

TROY GRANT: They fail and they contradict their own teachings when it comes to their own actions in response to offences against their own flock. This is something as an investigator I’ve always found hard to understand and to rationalise, and I’m sure it’s an issue that the current investigators are challenged with and struggle with, as to why the level of cooperation isn’t there when ultimately it’s to … we’re looking after victims of sexual assault that come from the church themselves.

My children attend Catholic schools, and one of the things that has always been asked of me is knowing what I know about the Catholic Church’s response to these issues, how could I send my children to a school? I think it’s vital to understand that it’s not the church, it’s individuals within the church.

SUZANNE SMITH: Lateline requested interviews with Cardinal George Pell and Archbishop Wilson. Cardinal Pell was not available and declined our request. Archbishop Wilson gave Lateline this statement.

PHILIP WILSON, ARCHBISHOP OF ADELAIDE (voiceover): It would be irresponsible to comment while the matter is in the hands of the police and/or the DPP.

SUZANNE SMITH: Troy Grant says NSW needs to watch the Victorian inquiry very closely and consider one if necessary.

3 Responses to Senior Catholics implicated in child sex cover-up

  1. Sylvia says:

    It looks as though several Church leaders, in particularity the Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, have cause for concern.

    As an aside, I agree wholeheartedly with former police officer Troy Grant when he says: “I think it’s vital to understand that it’s not the church, it’s individuals within the church.” I realize many of you will not agree, but I agree 100%. 

  2. PJ says:

    I agree provided the “individuals” include popesy.

  3. Leona says:

    *I’d love to say it’s not the church, but individuals within the church, but WE are church, and there are not enough individuals willing to take their heads out of the sand and to fight this corrupt system. The church was founded on righteous anger of corrupt systems. When will everyone stand together and say enough is enough! How many weeks of empty churches, of people willing to miss their ‘Sunday obligations’ would it take to show the hierarchy that WE THE CHURCH will no longer allow them to stonewall victims, persecute whistleblowers, and minimize the crimes of those who harm children? What if families withdrew their children enmasse from Catholic schools? We all know the hierarchy would be forced to act. There are many things ‘the church’ could do, to show they will not tolerate the corruption of the system anymore. 

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