Yesterday, former Newcastle-Maitland Catholic Bishop, Michael Malone, revealed that he had been given a briefcase containing secret files on abusive clergy in his diocese, when he took over from his predecessor.
Today, he admitted that, in sixteen years in the job, he never looked through the files, despite adding information to them himself. He was a very busy man, you see. Consequently, he was totally unaware of the problem.
Today, he gave some further reasons for not looking at the files. For example: “The whole area of sexual abuse is so distasteful and I wouldn’t have found it palatable,” he said. The former Bishop admits his response to McAlinden’s abuse was not adequate because he “did not dig and explore” the priest’s files. He said he was “fairly bumbly” when dealing with allegations and “the lights went on” when the 2004 Ombudsman inquiry found he wasn’t adequately handling the matters.
Further down the track, Malone may face charges for “misprision of a felony” (i.e., covering up a crime), so he has to be very careful about admissions to the enquiry. In this context, Malone says he knew about the abuse but did not tell police because the victims did not want to press charges.
Asked why statements of victims AK and AL about a paedophile priest under his authority were not provided to police, Bishop Malone said there was ‘‘no need’’ for this, because they could have subpoenaed documents or looked through the files at the diocese office, had they wanted to. Counsel Assisting, Ms Lonergan, asked: “The file [i.e. the briefcase] in your office? The one you hadn’t looked through?’’ Bishop Malone: “Yes.”
When asked about a file note that showed he had been told about abuse of a boy by paedophile priest Denis McAlinden, he agreed it was in his handwriting, and that he had written that he advised the person to go to the police, although the note showed he told the person that other victims had not.
Bishop Malone said he did not know if the complainant went to the police. He said he did not invite the person to come to the diocese, saying: “Once I’d referred her to the police I thought that would be the end of the matter from my point of view.” A very busy man, indeed.
A letter tendered to today’s Special Commission of Inquiry hearings shows Malone should have known police in two states were considering “misprision of felony” charges over the concealment of child sex offences by priests. The letter dated from January 1996. Malone agreed with Ms. Lonergan, that such a letter should have been drawn to his attention, but he “didn’t remember” seeing it before the current investigations.
Bishop Malone believed he had also made efforts to contact the police about McAlinden in 1999 by going through the Catholic Church’s professional standards committee which had offered to act as a conduit in such matters. A lawyer for the police, Pat Saidi, objected to this evidence, arguing that Bishop Malone could not know that the police had actually been informed. Commissioner Margaret Cunneen allowed it to stand.
Bishop Malone gave evidence yesterday that he had not been aware of these documents until they were shown to him in the past few weeks by his legal team for the purposes of the inquiry.
Yesterday, Bishop Malone said he had not looked at any of his priests’ files despite repeated questions from counsel assisting, Julia Lonergan. Today, Bishop Malone acknowledged looking at McAlinden’s file but he said more than once that he could not recall what he saw, or that he was a little vague about what it was that he saw at the time.
When he had looked in the briefcase (see yesterday’s posting) containing files on the diocese’s paedophile priests, he, today, said that “there was not much in it anyway,” although he had “trouble actually remembering.” Previously he had described the briefcase as bulging, and the file so big “you couldn’t jump over it,” but now claimed he had been engaging in “hyperbole.”
Oddly enough, the reporter for “The Australian” who has run with headlines along the lines of “Fox lies to Enquiry” did not run with “Malone lies to Enquiry.”
[Postscript: Malone continues tomorrow, but some of his evidence will be in private.]
Read more here:
TOMORROW: The Malone saga continues
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)