Three Aust. bishops knew about paedophile priest

Three successive bishops in an Australian diocese knew a paedophile priest was abusing children and one of them warned bishops in England, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea about him, an inquiry has been told.

The priest, Father Denis McAlinden, also moved from Maitland-Newcastle diocese to New Zealand for several months in 1984, relieving in country parishes in Hamilton diocese.

A woman from Hamilton diocese who said she was sexually abused as a child by McAlinden was paid compensation by Maitland-Newcastle diocese after she travelled to Australia with the support of Bishop Denis Browne of Hamilton.

The New South Wales commission of inquiry heard that Church authorities first received a report that McAlinden was abusing children in 1954.

He continued to abuse children aged as young as four or five over four decades.

The inquiry was told that one boy who was abused by McAlinden was required to do penance after he told his parish priest, “apparently for his sin in being abused”.

In 1959, McAlinden wrote to his then bishop, asking to be sent on missionary work, despite the bishop having received at least one report of such abuse.

“It seems a shame that hundreds of thousands of people are just clamouring for the Faith in Africa and are deprived through a shortage of priests. In this way, I feel I could still serve the diocese,” McAlinden wrote.

During the 1990s, the late Bishop Leo Clarke of Maitland-Newcastle asked McAlinden to petition the Holy See in Rome to request his laicisation.

“Your good name will be protected by the confidential nature of this process,” Bishop Clarke wrote. “A speedy resolution of this matter would be in your interest as I have it on good authority that some people are threatening to take it to the police.”

Bishop Clarke also wrote to the apostolic pro-nuncio in Canberra, asking him to “use his network communications to help expedite … a very delicate matter”.

Eventually the diocese paid McAlinden a pension after he agreed to retire to England and “retire from priestly ministry”. In fact he travelled to the Philippines and resumed ministry.

McAlinden died in Western Australia in 2005 while NSW police were seeking to extradite him.


The Australian

The Australian

Sydney Morning Herald

Newcastle Herald

Broken Rites

Image: Newcastle Herald

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