Fr. Brian Lucas has admitted to the NSW inquiry into Catholic Church cover-ups of child sexual abuse within the Newcastle-Maitland diocese that he did not take notes during meetings to ensure they could not be used later in court.
The meetings were of a committee established by the Bishop to review allegations against local priests. Lucas is a frequent media spokesman for the Sydney Archdiocese, headed by Cardinal George Pell. The name of the third member of the committee is the subject of a suppression order.
Lucas, who is also a lawyer, said it was a “serious and well understood dilemma” within church legal circles that clergy risked being charged with the crime of misprision of a felony (covering up a crime) if they did not go to police with victims’ complaints. He said he was prepared to take this risk when priests admitted their crimes to him.
One of the Australian Catholic Church’s most prominent and senior figures, Lucas admitted he also advised other clergy it was a good idea not to take notes of interviews with priests accused of sexual abuse so they “couldn’t be successfully used in legal action.”
Clearly, Lucas is defying the law. His close association with Cardinal Pell demands a reply from Pell, who remains on holiday in his palatial, $30 million apartments in Rome. Pell should be called before the enquiry to clarify this matter, but of course that is unlikely since the enquiry officials would probably think he was far too important to be called before them to answer the obvious questions.
The absence of records was claimed by Lucas to have nothing to do with protecting the priests and the church’s reputation. The pathetic excuse he gave for his actions was that the victims did not want police involved. He is on the record, further, as saying admissions in the confessional should not be reported to police. Cardinal Pell is of the same opinion.
More than 10 priests had admitted their crimes to Lucas, he informed the enquiry. None were reported to police. This was not just cover-up, it was serial cover-up.
In a curious aside, Lucas said that he would be more concerned with a paedophile priest who abused one victim yesterday, than he would be with an elderly one who had abused 40 victims many years ago.
Memory loss appears to be an occupational hazard of the priesthood. Burston, Hart and others have suffered from it. Lucas also suffers memory loss. He cannot remember anything about his dealings with serial offender, Denis McAlinden. Indeed, when shown a photograph of McAlinden at the enquiry, Lucas could still not recognize him. However, he acknowledged that evidence at the enquiry “points to” his having had dealings with McAlinden.
Lucas is due to be probed further tomorrow.
[Postscript: Fine weather continues to prevail in Rome with a temperature range of 20 to 29 degrees Celsius]
Read more here:
TOMORROW: More from Lucas
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)