The NSW government enquiry into child sexual abuse by priests in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese had a non-hearing day today. The rest of the week is largely taken up by clergy, Hart, Searle, Lucas and Harrigan. Friday should see priest, Burston (he of the poor memory), finally front the enquiry after having been excused, last Friday, by Commissioner Cunneen, because he was stressed by victim protests.
During the week, evidence will be heard from Elizabeth Doyle and Patricia Feenan. Ms. Feenan, whose son Daniel was abused, has written a book, “Holy Hell” (available at http://www.holyhell.com.au/).
Hart has already given some evidence. He was asked by the Commissioner about a letter stating an abusive priest was “ill”. She said, “And this reference to health in the first sentence of the letter, could it be a coy way to refer to his propensity to the sexual abuse of children?” Hart simply answered “Yes”. Earlier in the day, he had said that he was unaware of any confidential files held by the diocese leaders involving allegations of sexual abuse by the region’s priests. He only learned of their existence when he went to Sydney this year to discuss his evidence to the commission with a legal representative.
Harrigan was an old friend of serial abuser, Fr.Fletcher. He conducted the funeral service for Fletcher, who had died in prison. Father Harrigan, who was reported as being visibly upset at the end of proceedings, asked the congregation to pray for Fletcher and his family. He prayed for Fletcher to be forgiven his sins.
Lucas could be the interesting one this week. He is now secretary of the Australian Bishop’s Conference, which is the Catholic Church’s ruling body here. What he knew, or did not know, will be under the microscope.
[Postscript: Commenting, in the Sydney Morning Herald readers’ comments section, on the attacks at the NSW enquiry ,on Detective Chief Inspector Fox by lawyers for the Catholic Church, Ron Kerr of Ballina last week noted that “Always remember the old legal adage: if you can’t attack the facts, attack the witness”.]
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TOMORROW: NSW enquiry, session 2, week 4, day 2
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)