NSW Enquiry – Week’s Wrap-Up (Or: Master of Law and Letters)


The first week of the second session of the NSW government enquiry into clerical child sexual abuse in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese heard further evidence from Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, more local police officials and the current Bishop of Newcastle-Maitland, Bill Wright. Bishop Bill Wright tried to right the wrongs with, what the media described as an “emotional” apology to victims.

It saw an example or two of apparently-skewed reporting in that minor errors by Mr. Fox were prominently reported by some corporate media outlets, while other, more serious, errors were not well-covered. The chief example was that Inspector Fay Dunn contradicted testimony by Chief Inspector Wayne Humphrey that she had authorized a search of Detective Chief Inspector Fox’s office while he was on leave.

Further, Mr. Humphrey withdrew part of his sworn affidavit in which he had accused Mr. Fox of refusing repeated requests to hand over evidence. He said the statements were “unfair to Mr Fox,” and apologized for making “an error on my part.” The original allegation received wide coverage, while the retraction did not.

In 2009, Bishop Malone released some documents to a victim, which were passed on to local journalist, Joanne McCarthy, and then on to police. The documents have been released to the public by the enquiry. They clearly demonstrate cover-ups for two serial offenders, Fr. Fletcher and Fr. McAlinden (see previous postings).

In one 1993 letter, sent to the church’s Sick Clergy Fund, the late bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, Leo Clarke, stated that “Fr McAlinden has retired from active priestly duty and is living in Skegness, U.K. He should receive $12,158 per year,” Clarke wrote, more than the minimum stipend paid to a parish priest. He had not retired.

In a May 1995 letter, Bishop Clarke said Fr. McAlinden had admitted to child sexual abuse and “an agreement was reached by which he was to return to England and . . . not to act as a priest.” The letter shows that Clarke later found he had instead traveled to the Philippines where he continued working as a priest.

There was no reason to stop him working as a priest, McAlinden claimed, as long as his victims and their families were not aware he was doing so. One of McAlinden’s victims had contacted the bishop as a result. “She and her family are angry . . . that Fr McAlinden is again active in ministry,” Bishop Clarke writes.

Years later, McAlinden wrote to former Bishop Malone (see previous posting) saying that the moves to remove him from the priesthood were due to a colleague’s “animosity towards him.” He also dismissed one of his victims by saying the woman “has since divorced her husband . . . having failed to bring up her children in the Catholic faith.”

Church officials were clearly aware of the criminal nature of McAlinden’s activities. In 1995, Bishop Clarke wrote: “I have it on good authority that some people are threatening to take this whole matter to the police,” while another official wrote that “those who have lodged complaints intend to consider instituting criminal charges and compensation charges against the Church.”

Again in the same year, the newly-elected Maitland-Newcastle Bishop, Michael Malone, wrote: “May I emphasise the seriousness of the allegations and the real possibility of police intervention.” No official passed any concerns on to police.

One revealing letter from a psychiatrist concerning McAlinden, noted that he was in the habit of giving children “sweets.”

One name keeps surfacing. That is former Bishop Malone of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese. He has yet to give evidence, but his lawyer, Simon Harben, was active in cross-examining Detective Chief Inspector Fox during the week (Bishop Malone may yet face consequences for his role in defending McAlinden).

The Newcastle lawyer, Harben, practices in criminal and personal injury law. He has already established his worth to Bishop Malone and the Newcastle-Maitland diocese. In 2011, he successfully defended a local priest, Fr. Dennis John Corrigan, who had been charged with child sexual abuse. Fr. Corrigan had moved there from the Philippines.

During the trial process, there were some complications, such as a victim dying, and this resulted in eight charges being dropped. One remaining victim was very young at the time, so his evidence was fairly easily questioned. At one stage, Mr. Harben claimed that there were contradictions between the victim’s evidence and what he had previously told a private investigator for the Church. [The use of these private investigators is becoming the norm for the church.]

At another point, the trial was delayed because the crown prosecutor failed to turn up, which led the judge to declare that this was “discourteous in the extreme to this court.” Later, it was again delayed because the investigating police officer was out of the country.

Given that Detective Chief Inspector Fox has told the enquiry that he went to Bishop Malone and told him that he had “overstepped the mark and had committed a criminal offence,” Bishop Malone may yet have further need for the services of Mr. Harben, SC.

[Postscript: The enquiry continues next week, with more church officials appearing, including Bishop Malone and Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, whose evidence will be heard behind closed doors. Cardinal Pell remains in Rome on holidays.]

Read more here:

TOMORROW: Onus on the military

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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