Fresh calls for Church Royal Commission

A SENIOR cleric at the centre of the ‘Father F’ sex abuse scandal has become embroiled in new allegations of concealing evidence of sex offences following a police investigation in the Hunter region.
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Australian Bishops Conference general secretary Father Brian Lucas (pictured) is one of three persons of interest to Strike Force Lantle, which has investigated how the Catholic Church handled paedophile priest Denis McAlinden.

McAlinden, who died in 2005 without facing charges, is believed to have sexually assaulted possibly hundreds of girls over four decades in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese.

Although the Church reported McAlinden’s offences to authorities in 2003, it is alleged Father Lucas knew of his actions as early as 1993.

There were internal attempts to defrock the priest between 1993 and 1995, with then Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle Leo Clarke allegedly telling McAlinden that his name would be protected by the confidential nature of the process.

A strike force was established last month to investigate claims of sexual abuse by a former priest and current resident of Armidale known as ‘Father F’, who was the subject of a Four Corners investigation.

Police were unable to confirm whether officers attached to Strike Force Lantle were also involved with the newly-established Strike Force Glenroe.

Father Lucas was also at a 1992 meeting between Father F and two other senior clerics, during which it is alleged that Father F admitted to the sexual abuse of five boys in Moree during the 1980s. The allegations were not passed on to police and Father F was not laicised until 2005.

The allegations have sparked fresh calls for a Royal Commission into the Church’s handling of sexual abuse

allegations against priests.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge has called on the State Government to conduct an inquiry similar to one under way in Victoria.

“A Royal Commission must now be urgently established to uncover the full extent of the Church’s systemic failure to deal with decades of child sexual abuse committed by priests in dioceses in NSW,” he said.

“There are many good people in the Church now joining the call for a full, public and independent inquiry into the question of sexual abuse.”

A local lobby group known as ‘Save Our Kids’ has also been established, calling on Bishop of Armidale Michael Kennedy to support a Royal Commission.

According to a Save Our Kids spokesperson, the group is an alliance of New England parents, relatives and friends of paedophile victims, as well as other activists.

“For 50 years clerics have offered lame excuses when Armidale, Tamworth, Moree and other centres have endured terrible destruction to children and families,” the spokesperson said.

“Churches certainly are not above the law and their medieval thinking and behaviour is a vicious burden for children and their families.”

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Father F was previously employed as an interviewer for the Living in Australia study, conducted by Roy Morgan.

A spokesperson for Roy Morgan said Father F’s employment with the company had ended before the Four Corners program aired, but was unable to provide

further details.

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