SENIOR Catholic clergy have known about, and covered up, the actions of a paedophile priest in the Hunter for at least 16 years, an internal Church report allegedly reveals.
In a jaw-dropping day of evidence before the Special Commission of Inquiry in Newcastle yesterday, it was also revealed that Newcastle police allegedly knew about and held on to the report for almost 12 months before their inaction was raised with the Police Integrity Commission by Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy.
The report, compiled by the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese in 1995, included a confession from disgraced priest Denis McAlinden that he had abused young victims in the preceding years. It also included a letter from Bishop Leo Clarke urging McAlinden to accept his defrocking, move overseas "for the good of the Church" while his "good name" was protected.
The police also had a 26-page statement from a McAlinden victim who referred to Father Brian Lucas's alleged knowledge of the criminal nature of McAlinden's offending in 1993.
The victim alleged that Father Lucas knew then that McAlinden had sexual intercourse with a girl under 10 and had used the information to strip the priest of his faculties.
The report was given to police by Ms McCarthy in 2010, but it received little or no attention from a police force hampered by a lack of resources and struggling with investigations of a less historic nature, the inquiry heard.
Counsel for Ms McCarthy, Winston Terracini SC, said the report also showed that clergy had warned McAlinden his activities could attract police attention.
"If that isn't trying to protect a paedophile, I don't know what is," he said.
"Yes, I agree," Ms McCarthy replied.