THE mother of AH – whose complaints led to the jailing of paedophile priest Jim Fletcher – has told the special commission of inquiry of being pushed into a wall in a court room toilet during the Fletcher trial.
In another incident, she said a man ‘‘rammed his supermarket trolley’’ into her legs at a supermarket checkout.
She said the man’s wife came back to them and apologised saying she had to understand because the man was ‘‘upset’’ about what had happened to ‘‘Father Jim’’.
‘‘I said, ‘He’s upset?,’ ’’ the mother, known by the pseudonym BJ, told the special commission of inquiry sitting in Newcastle.
BJ took the commission through what she described as a campaign of ‘‘escalating’’ isolation and ‘‘ostracisation’’ from the Catholic establishment once news that AH had gone to the police became known.
Asked about the sequence of events by counsel assisting, Patrick Hunt, BJ said she had held a wide range of volunteer roles with the church, and that these began to dry up as she and her family were ‘‘dropped’’ by former friends, some of them of some decades standing.
BJ said the early actions against her family were ‘‘subtle’’ but had become obvious by the time of Fletcher’s trial in 2004.
She said there was no support or prayer from any clergy during the trial athough it was obvious they were praying for and supporting Fletcher.
Asked about an incident that took place during the trial, BJ told how she went into the toilet at East Maitland courthouse and a woman she knew as a supporter of Fletcher’s was washing her hands at the basin.
The woman then pushed her into the wall, knocking her into a water pipe.
She said she told her son about the assault and that he asked her if she wanted to make a complaint.
‘‘He was doing this much,’’ BJ said, holding her hands apart to show the magnitude of his task.
‘‘How could I complain about this much,’’ she continued, indicating a small space between her thumb and forefinger.
BJ was also asked about an incident at Nelson Bay in 1998 – covered in early evidence – when AH was yelling drunken abuse outside the presbytery and BJ was rung by a resident priest, Father Robert Searle.
She told the commission that Father Searle had told her AH was saying ‘‘really weird stuff about priests and sex’’.
She said that as her son, AH, was still there, Father Searle should ring the police and let them deal with it.
Friday’s hearings began with Father Brian Lucas resuming in the witness box, and being cross-examined by various counsel, and re-examined by the senior counsel assisting, Julia Lonergan.
Ms Lonergan told Father Lucas that his evidence of not being able to recall anything of serial paedophile Denis McAlinden ‘‘defied belief’’.
Reponding, Father Lucas said: ‘‘That is a very hurtful proposition.’’
Father Lucas was excused after the examination but Ms Lonergan said it was possible he would be recalled to give further evidence.
Outside the commission, Father Lucas said he was unable to say anything more and his lawyers provided the media with a four-paragraph statement in which he accepted that ‘‘mistakes were made’’ by the church during the early 1990s in dealing with ‘‘historical complaints’’ against clergy.
Earlier Father Lucas moderated his criticism of a Filipino bishop after a letter was tendered to the inquiry showing the church in the Philippines may have been told about Denis McAlinden’s problems before he did any work there.
Father Lucas is now the general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference but in the first half of the 1990s played a leading role in formulating the Catholic Church’s protocols for dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy.
Father Lucas had previously expressed shock and dismay that a Filipino bishop would allow the disgraced paedophile McAlinden to work in the Philippines without checking his references.
But on Friday morning, counsel for the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, Lachlan Gyles, said a letter of September 1994 showed that the Filipinos may have been aware of the reasons why McAlinden was stripped of his faculties here.
‘‘In context of that letter I would take a different view,’’ Father Lucas said.
Subsequent correspondence from then Bishop Leo Clarke to the Philippines referred to complaints from people in Australia that McAlinden was practising as a priest in the Philippines and he urged the Bishop to withdraw his faculties to stop this happening.
The commission has heard earlier evidence that McAlinden was moved a number of times during the decades of his offending, including stints overseas where his travel was paid by the Maitland-Newcastle diocese.
Father Lucas said there was no suggestion that McAlinden was moved to make the process of apprehending more difficult.
Asked by victims’ counsel Maria Gerace if in fact it did make finding McAlinden more difficult, Father Lucas said: ‘‘It may have been, yes.’’