Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mistakes of the past won't be repeated: Catholic Church Hunter Valley's Catholic Church has moved to reassure a New South Wales inquiry into child sexual abuse the mistakes of the past will not be repeated.

The special commission is investigating claims the church covered up abuse by two paedophile priests, Denis McAlinden and James Fletcher.

Documents tendered to the inquiry show the church knew about McAlinden's abuse which spanned 50 years.

Representing the Maitland-Newcastle diocese Lachlan Giles has summed up his case, saying church officials should not be "unfairly criticised" for their handling of the allegations.

He said they were adhering to the victims' wishes not to involve police.

But, he assured the Commissioner that in 2013, and irrespective of what victims want, allegations would be reported to police.

He also told the commission whistleblower policeman Peter Fox's claims the church "silenced victims and destroyed evidence" have "simply been debunked".

Mr Giles there was not a "cultural disinclination to provide information" to police, but a "coming to terms" with the fact that the priests were capable of the abuse.

He said the Commissioner cannot underestimate both priests' "ability to ingratiate" themselves, and "hide what they were doing".

Mr Giles said "discouraging witnesses (to go to police) must be a positive act and there is no evidence of that".

He told the commission the church is "repulsed by child sexual abuse and the conduct" of both men, but said the Commissioner "must not find scapegoats" when dealing with the cover up allegations.

Denis McAlinden, moved around 30 parishes times over several decades.

Mr Giles told the commission McAlinden was a difficult man, with old fashioned doctrines and a temper.

He said the paedophile priest was "a restless man who wanted to move around".

The Commissioner Margaret Cunneen interrupted Mr Giles' summing up to say, perhaps it was "fear on his part that his indiscretions with children were about to be exposed".

Mr Giles said that might be the case, but there is no evidence of that.

He said there are "other valid and viable possibilities" including the fact that people did not like him and were asking him to leave.

The Commissioner is expected to hand down her findings in February next year.

Her report will be referred to the national Royal Commission into child sexual abuse within institutions.