Police response needed for abuse claims: Torbay

Northern Tablelands MP Richard TorbayNORTHERN Tablelands MP Richard Torbay has urged Premier Barry O’Farrell to intervene and announce a police investigation into the sex abuse scandal plaguing Armidale’s Catholic diocese.

The Catholic Church’s handling of admissions of sexual abuse by a former priest has come under scrutiny after a recent Four Corners story.

The man, known as Father F, allegedly told church officials in 1992 he had sexually abused young boys in the 1980s, but his admission was not passed on to police.

In a letter obtained by The Express, Mr Torbay asks Mr O’Farrell to “ensure an appropriate police response to this most concerning issue”.

“One of our most important roles as adults is to protect children from harm,” he said.

Yesterday, Bishop of Armidale Michael Kennedy released the name of the person appointed to conduct an independent inquiry into the church’s handling of the allegations against Father F.

It is former Federal Court judge Antony Whitlam QC, son of Gough and Margaret Whitlam.

But Mr Torbay (pictured) said people were concerned that the church’s investigation would not be enough to ensure justice.

“I have been contacted by constituents expressing grave concerns about the ability of the church to undertake this inquiry in an open manner,” he wrote. “These tragic and abhorrent circumstances deserve no less than a comprehensive and independent police investigation.”

A Catholic himself, Mr Torbay said he was not prejudging anybody as innocent or guilty, but the matter needed to be thoroughly investigated.

During weekend services, Bishop Kennedy distributed a pastoral letter acknowledging the pain and anger of parishioners and passed on his “deepest sympathies” to abuse victims and their families.

“I share the community abhorrence of all child abuse and desire to see justice achieved,” he said.

“May they receive justice, healing and peace, and may this terrible scourge be forever removed from our midst.”

Bishop Kennedy said the Catholic community must acknowledge the historical reality of child abuse in the Catholic Church, support direct and indirect victims of abuse, co-operate with authorities, maintain child protection programs, and pursue truth and justice.

He also called on the community to support local parish priests “who feel deep shame for the sins and crimes of their brothers”.

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