NSW Enquiry: Session 2 Week 2 Day 3 (Or: The Graveyard’s Full)


Bishop Michael Malone, speaking to the NSW government inquiry into clerical child sexual abuse in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese, said he asked his predecessor, Leo Clarke, what the skeletons in the closet were. Bishop Clarke pushed a wooden box across the table and told him to also look in a briefcase in the corner of the room. “I asked what’s in the briefcase and he said ‘oh well, you’ll find out’,” Bishop Malone said.

The skeletons were paedophile priests, notably Fletcher and McAlinden (see previous postings). The elephant in the room, which went un-noticed, was that they were being protected. Malone may have continued his predecessors practice. Only the fly on the wall could be sure. Perhaps, Malone was just reluctant to open the can of worms. In the end, he let sleeping dogs lie.

The public interest in Malone’s evidence was reflected in the public gallery, which was full to over-flowing.

Bishop Malone admitted that the diocese had stored confidential documents dating back to the 1970s confirming McAlinden was a known pedophile, with allegations reaching as far back as the 1950s. Although Bishop Clarke, had formally removed McAlinden’s right to practice as a priest in 1993, in mid-1995 he was still being paid by the diocese, had been traveling the world for some time and was in the Philippines masquerading as a priest and carrying out the work of a priest.

In response to questioning by Counsel Assisting the enquiry, Malone said he knew nothing about any sexual abuse by clergy in the diocese when he arrived, but before the year was out he knew of allegations involving at least three priests, and a fourth not long after. He said he had not seen the documents that have been tendered to the commission, because he was too busy running a large diocese and so “did not have the luxury of accessing church archives.”

Presumably, there were too many skeletons in the cupboard to deal with, and the graveyard was already full. When asked if he felt a responsibility to report child sexual abuse allegations to police, Malone said: “It wasn’t my call, it was their call. They were adults.”

In a letter to the Pope’s representative in Australia, Malone requested McAlinden be laicized (de-frocked) but he held little hope this would occur, and indeed it never did occur.  It was well known that it was almost impossible to laicize a priest during the reign of the then Pope. It is not known if this policy has continued under the new Pope.

Earlier in the day, a detective involved in the arrest of Fr. Fletcher told the inquiry he had no evidence of collusion within the Catholic Church. Don Brown said he could “not form that view” as his “role was limited” and he did not have any information to suggest collusion.

[Correction: Yesterday’s post referred to him as Dan Brown, as this was how he was reported in the media. Apologies to Detective Brown.]

Read more here:

TOMORROW: More Malone skeletons

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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