Bishop ignored ‘distasteful’ sexual abuse files

An Australian bishop has said he turned a blind eye to decades of complaints against a predatory paedophile priest because “the whole area of sexual abuse is so distasteful that I would have found it unpalatable”.

Retired Bishop Michael Malone of Maitland-Newcastle diocese told the New South Wales commission of inquiry he was out of his depth in matters of child protection.

Although he knew of confidential files on abuse by diocesan clergy, some of which were in his own office, Bishop Malone said he never thoroughly examined any of the files. One file was so big he couldn’t jump over it, he said.

Bishop Malone also admitted he tried to “play it down a bit” to defend the Church’s image, because “I was conscious of the fact that those issues of sexual abuse were in fact impinging on the stability of the Church”.

“I think the early years of my being bishop were fairly bumbling when it came to dealing with sexual abuse . . . I was not adequately handling these matters,” the retired bishop said.

Bishop Malone led Maitland-Newcastle diocese from 1995 till 2011.

He said all his predecessor Bishop Leo Clarke did when he handed over the diocese was slide an ancient ornamental cross across the desk and point to a ”rather large briefcase that sat in the corner of his office”.

When Bishop Malone asked, ”Are you going to show me where the skeletons are, where the secret things are?” Bishop Clarke merely responded, ”Ah, you will find out”.

Bishop Malone said he had “an epiphany” about child abuse in 2004 when the NSW Ombudsman criticised his decision not to stand down a priest accused of abusing a child.

But he agreed that a “closeted” attitude remained “alive and well” in many areas of the Church, and the resistance he met from priests did not improve with time.

“I think there were a number of people hoping I’d just go away,” he said.


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Image: Daily Life

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