NSW Enquiry – The Employees’ Testimonials (Or: Better Retired Than Fired)

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Mr. Will Callinan, a school principal in the Newcastle-Maitland Catholic diocese, has told the NSW enquiry that he did not challenge an “untruth” by Bishop Malone, because he feared he would lose his job. The threat of unemployment appears to come up now and again in the context of the enquiry, especially from the father of a victim.

Malone, the enquiry has earlier heard, claimed to have notified Cullinan about a local abusive priest, which Cullinan disputes.  Cullinan said that Bishop Michael Malone had known, in June 2002 that Father James Fletcher was the subject of child sex abuse investigations, but that the bishop did not tell him about the allegations until March 2003, just before charges were laid. He said he had heard a rumour from someone he could not remember in early June 2002 that Fletcher was being investigated.

The Cullinan and Malone accounts vary greatly. So greatly, that it was reported that cross-examination of Cullinan by Malone’s lawyer, Simon Harben, was described as “robust”.

For example, Cullinan said he was “in disbelief” when Bishop Malone referred to a conversation Malone claimed to have had with him concerning Fletcher, in June 2002. Cullinan said that Malone did not inform him of anything about Fletcher until almost a year later, in a telephone conversation. Cullinan told the enquiry that “He never had a conversation with me (on June 20, 2002) or sought advice (from me) whether Father Fletcher should stay in the parish.”

The discrepancy, which caused Cullinan to fear for his job, was contained in a pastoral message made public in March 2003. Malone claimed he had not stood Fletcher down, in 2002 when police enquiries began, because of advice from Cullinan. This was the “untruth” Callinan feared to challenge.

It was a day of conflicting evidence. Even the church and police were in conflict. John Davoren, head of the Catholic Church’s Professional Standards Office, said he had informed police of Fr. McAlinden’s abuses. However, a lawyer for the NSW police, Wayne Roser (see previous posting), claimed that an abuse form filled out in Davoren’s name, had not been sent to police.

Mr Davoren, a former priest, appears to have become a victim of the memory loss epidemic affecting priests appearing at the enquiry. Despite being officially responsible for investigating clerical abuse claims, he said he “had no independent recall” of dealing with the “matter” of Mc.Alinden, and another paedophile priest, Fr. Fletcher.

He did say, though, that it would have been his normal practice to pass on material to the police once he had discussed it with the relevant bishop. So, there!

Mr. Roser did manage to catch Davoren out on one matter, however. The commission had heard that two victims of Fr. McAlinden went to the Professional Standards Office with their allegations. Mr Davoren had said that he took their complaints to police. A document, written by Mr Davoren, was tendered to the enquiry, which states that “neither complainant wanted to go to police”.

Under questioning by Mr. Roser, Davoren conceded that was not true.  When Mr Roser asked him, “Why did you get that so wrong?” Davoren replied, “I don’t know.” Further, Davoren said that, while his name was on the document, it was not necessarily what he had written. So there!

When explaining why there was a tendency to believe priests over victims, Mr. Davoren made a revealing observation to the enquiry. He said that “The paedophile had a public image that  was most attractive and people would say he couldn’t have done anything of the kind, whereas the victim was seen as very confused so they were unfairly unaware of what paedophilia was, saw the poor victim as being a troublemaker attacking this beautifully innocent priest.’’  Beautifully innocent?

Yet another witness also had memory problems. Michael Bowman was the director of schools for the diocese from 1996 until 2004. He said that he “cannot remember” meeting with Bishop Malone to discuss standing down paedophile priest Fr. Fletcher. Mr Bowman conceded he could have asked Bishop Malone about the allegations against Fletcher but said he was about to “retire and couldn’t see any point in pushing the matter”.

The NSW enquiry will end with the main mind behind the “Ellis Defence”, used by the Catholic Church to avoid compensation cases, Roger Austin.

[Postscript: Cardinal Pell remains on holidays in Rome, while the Newcastle-Maitland bishops burn.]

Read more here:

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)

 

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