COUNSEL for a victim of paedophile priest Denis McAlinden has asked why the only thing a senior Catholic cleric says he can remember about the matter is the one thing that would mean he did not have to go to police at the time.
Maria Gerace, counsel for various church victims including one known as ‘‘AJ’’, was cross-examining Father Brian Lucas, the general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and a major figure in forming the church’s response to priestly child sexual abuse from the late 1980s.
After almost two days of giving his evidence in chief before senior counsel assisting, Julia Lonergan, Father Lucas was asked by Ms Gerace about a number of matters from those days, including a media release issued by the Catholic welfare agency, Centacare, in March 1992.
Allowed to continue despite objections from Father Lucas’s counsel, Peter Skinner, Ms Gerace said the media release stated that priests accused of child sexual abuse would be stood down automatically from their duties and the allegations taken to civil authorities.
Ms Gerace said it was not the case that police were always called, and Father Lucas acknowledged that at that time the police would only be contacted if the victims wanted it.
On McAlinden, Ms Gerace took Father Lucas through various answers he had given to Ms Lonergan, which indicated that he could recall very few if any facts about the case, and that he could not remember talking to McAlinden or meeting him.
Despite this, Ms Gerace said, Father Lucas had ‘‘a crystal clear’’ memory of a victim, AL, not wanting to go to the police.
Ms Gerace put it to him that the single thing he could recall was the one fact that meant he was not guilty of any offence in relation to misprision of felony or similar laws relating to the concealment of evidence or failure to report crime.
Father Lucas said he would ‘‘take [his] chances’’ with Section 316 of the NSW Crimes Act – concealing a reportable offence – but he would ‘‘not betray what the victim wanted’’.
Ms Gerace said she was suggesting to Father Lucas that his evidence was ‘‘not true’’ when he said all he could remember about the McAlinden matter was that AL did not want to go to the police.
Father Lucas said: ‘‘I reject that completely.’’
The hearing adjourned at 4.15 on Thursday and is scheduled to resume at 9.30am on Friday