More from Lucas (Or: What? Me Remember?)

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Image source: ABC Online

Senior Catholic priest, Brian Lucas continues to have a poor memory, just like his colleagues. Ms Maria Gerace, a victims’ lawyer, challenged Lucas’ assertion that he could not remember anything about the McAlinden case. As she wryly noted, the single thing Lucas could recall was the one fact that meant he was not guilty of any offence in relation to misprision of felony or similar laws relating to the concealment of evidence or failure to report crime.

Mr. Lucas is a lawyer as well as a priest. In a 1996 speech, entitled “Are our Archives Safe? – An ecclesial view of search warrants”, distributed to church lawyers, Lucas gives a sub-heading reading :” To shred or not to shred – Is that the question?”. Perhaps, he could have added another sub-section headed: “To remember or not to remember – What was the question again?”

This is not the first time Lucas has had memory problems. In 1992, he was part of a committee investigating a “Father F” in the Armidale diocese.  In his court hearing in 2004, “Father F” admitted in a meeting with Lucas he molested boys between 1982 and 1984. A letter written by Father Peters (a committee co-member with Lucas) to Bishop Kevin Manning of Armidale just eight days after the 1992 meeting with the priest describes in detail “Father F’s” admissions.

Despite the existence of this letter, Peters denied, in writing, to the ABC “Four Corners” program, that “Father F” had made the admissions. Peters has consistently refused to explain the discrepancy. Maybe, it was just a memory thing.

A report by former federal court judge Antony Whitlam QC, commissioned by the Catholic Church, into the “Father F” matter described the church’s failure to act on repeated allegations against the priest, as “utterly inexplicable”. When NSW Police received the Whitlam report, they indicated that they would not be taking any criminal action based on it.

The “Father F” scandal eventually ensnared Cardinal Pell, who defended Lucas and his fellow committee members, apparently unaware there was extensive documentation backing the assertion the alleged paedophile priest outlined his conduct to them. When confronted with the discrepancies, Pell told “Four Corners” that ”I would take the word of the three priests against that allegation.” Lucas at the time was working under Pell’s authority.

[Pell has not been called before the NSW enquiry.]

The novel, “Catch 22” must be in Lucas’ library. He has told the enquiry he did not contact police because the victims did not want him to. He then stated that he would have answered police questions, but they had not contacted him – since they did not know of the victims… and so the merry-go-round turns endlessly.

With regard to the earlier “Father F” situation, Lucas said he did not contact police because the priests did not tell him the names of victims. This denies the possibility that police could have found the victims if they knew crimes had been committed by the priests who had confessed to Lucas. Another good “Catch 22”.

Putting this in perspective, it would be a pretty poor copper who, when told someone had confessed to murder, did not investigate on the grounds of not knowing just who the victim was. Lucas appears to have a very low opinion of the NSW police when conducting investigations.

Again, back in 1992, the Catholic Welfare agency, Centacare, claimed that priests accused of child sexual abuse would be stood down automatically from their duties and the allegations taken to police. As Counsel Assisting pointed out, Lucas was in breach of his own guidelines. Must be the memory thing striking again.

Perhaps the most disturbing revelation was that Lucas may have been aware of evidence suggesting two priests acquitted of child sexual abuse were, in fact, guilty of the crimes. Lucas told the enquiry that “I can think of one particular priest I interviewed who absolutely denied anything. He subsequently was charged, he was convicted by the jury, his conviction was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal and no retrial. I did understand that there had been other families who had made representations to the bishop, with which I was not involved at all, suggesting he would have been guilty.”

This was an example of another temporary cure of his memory problem. Maybe, cognitive researchers could build on this in their quest for a permanent cure for this tragic condition afflicting so many of the Catholic clergy in Australia.

Meanwhile, after he appears at the enquiry again tomorrow, it is to be hoped someone can help him find his way home.

[Postscript: No sign of Cardinal Pell in Australia yet – Must be nice in Rome.]

Read more here:

Mr Skinner, who prosecuted the rugby league star Brett Stewart’s sex assault case, worked in royal commission-type inquiries and acted for high-profile ALP members, said he was rejected for the sixth time.

Read more:

But Father Brian Lucas agreed his system of managing accused priests was a failure of risk management and did not comply with the church’s protocols at the time.

Read more:

TOMORROW: NSW enquiry, session 2, week 4, day 5

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)

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