Senior priest willing to break law by not reporting abuse

A senior Catholic priest has told the New South Wales inquiry on sex abuse that he was willing to break the law by not reporting allegations against paedophile priests.

Father Brian Lucas, the general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops conference, said he would never betray the trust of a victim if they didn’t want to go to police about abuse allegations.

The inquiry is investigating claims the Catholic Church covered up abuse by two Maitland-Newcastle priests, Father James Fletcher and Father Denis McAlinden.

Father Lucas, a former lawyer, told the inquiry he had a special role in the 1990s around New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory to persuade paedophile priests to resign.

Father Lucas said he dealt with about 35 priests, ”seducing” more than 10 of them with ”strong armed” tactics into agreeing to resign the priesthood.

He said the best way of keeping children safe from priestly abuse was to take the offending priest out of the ministry, and that was his priority.

He said ”it staggers me and shocks me” that McAlinden practised as a priest and worked at a school of 7000 children in the Philippines after his priestly faculties were removed in Australia in 1993.

Father Lucas said he took no notes during his interviews with the priests. Questioned by counsel, he agreed that this was because he did not want notes disclosed in any subsequent legal process, but also said if he took notes the priests would not have said anything.

He said it was a “serious and well understood dilemma” within church legal circles that clergy risked being charged with the crime of misprision of a felony, or concealing a serious offence, if they did not go to police with victims’ complaints when victims did not want them to.

He said the Church’s reputation or the risk of scandal was “irrelevant” to him in a situation where he had to choose between risking criminal liability for misprision of a felony and betraying a victim’s wishes. He would choose to respect the victim’s wishes, he said.


7 News


South Coast Register

Image: Sydney Morning Herald

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