ONE of Australia's worst pedophile priests was brought from Ireland at the request of his former Catholic order, which warned he was difficult, bad-tempered and should be kept away from other people.
Documents tendered to the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into
church child abuse, which begins hearing closing submissions today, also
reveal Denis McAlinden went on to commit dozens of sexual crimes
against adults and children over several decades.
In 1949, the
then Redemptorist provincial in Limerick, John Treacy, wrote to the
Bishop of Maitland in the NSW Hunter Valley asking if "there be any
possibility of taking one of our students".
"You will very justly
say then: 'What is wrong with him, so why do you not wish to retain him?
Well, his difficulty is community life . . . he is a bit hard to get on
with in ordinary life. His temper is difficult," the letter states.
While he did not specifically mention sexual crimes, the late Father
Treacy recommended McAlinden "for the secular priesthood, in which he
will have to live in that close association (as) we have to live with
A subsequent letter, thanking the Australian bishop
for taking on McAlinden, describes the priest: "Poor fellow, he has
wonderful qualities in many ways, but living in close community is not
one of them."
McAlinden was appointed assistant priest at a parish in the NSW Hunter Valley in 1953, the documents show.
Later that year, he repeatedly raped an 11-year-old girl who was a member of the local church.
commission has heard that successive bishops of Maitland, as well as
other senior Catholic officials, knew McAlinden was abusing children,
but this information was not passed to police at the time.
another previously unseen letter, from 1958, the Bishop of Maitland
wrote to the papal representative in Australia saying that he could not
recommend McAlinden for missionary work in Africa "for reasons which I
prefer not to state".
Instead, the priest was able to move between
different parishes, states and countries, abusing children in NSW,
Western Australia and New Zealand, the commission heard, as well as
spending several years in The Philippines and Papua New Guinea.
2009, the then bishop Michael Malone wrote to the Archbishop of Mount
Hagen in PNG about McAlinden, saying: "I have discovered he was a sexual
predator preying on young girls mainly.
"There are numerous
people coming forward here claiming to have been abused by him . . .
There is every chance that he may have offended in your diocese also."
current employee of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Maureen O'Hearn,
told the commission she had spoken to 28 of McAlinden's victims, abused
between 1949 and 1987.
The Australian understands the true number may
be far higher.
McAlinden died in 2005 without being charged by NSW
Commissioner Margaret Cunneen SC is expected to report by
February next year.