By: DAN BOX
THE Catholic church received repeated reports that a pedophile priest was abusing children, some as young as four, but failed to pass these on to police for decades, an inquiry has heard.
Church authorities instead actively concealed his abuse and encouraged the priest, Father Denis McAlinden, to move to other dioceses in Australia and overseas, where he was able to continue abusing children.
Even after NSW Police issued a warrant for the priest’s arrest in 1999, the inquiry heard, church authorities did not initially provide his address, and the priest ultimately died six years later without being charged.
The NSW Special Commission of Inquiry has heard that the first recorded report of McAlinden’s abuse was in 1953, when the parents of one his victims reported it to the then-Bishop of Maitland.
Another child victim who described his own abuse to a priest during confession was given penance as a result, counsel assisting the inquiry Julia Lonergan, SC, told the inquiry.
The diocese also paid for a one-way ticket for the priest to travel to Papua New Guinea, where he continued to work as a priest, without warning church officials there about the details of the allegations against him.
“These problems are over now. I would really think he is worth a try,” the then-Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, Leo Clarke wrote to his counterpart in PNG, the inquiry heard.
In 2002, another victim who reported her abuse to the subsequent bishop, Michael Malone, was told “McAlinden had a known history of child abuse and a file you couldn’t jump over,” Ms Lonergan said.
This victim told the church she would be happy for her account to be passed to police in order to corroborate any allegations made by other victims, but this was not done.
The current bishop of Newcastle, Bill Wright, apologised publicly to the inquiry for this history of abuse, and inaction by church authorities.
“I acknowledge that these sexual predators used their position in the diocese to gain access to these children and to conceal their acts,” he said.