PRIESTS’ files were divided into ‘‘good’’ and ‘‘bad’’ sections according to a longstanding secretary to the past three Bishops of the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese of the Catholic Church.
Elizabeth Doyle told the Special Commission of Inquiry in Newcastle that she joined the office of the late Bishop Leo Clarke on January 4, 1993.
Since then she had served as secretary or executive assistant to Bishop Clarke, Bishop Michael Malone and the current Bishop, William Wright.
Asked by counsel assisting Warwick Hunt about the diocese’s filing systems, Ms Doyle said that in her early years she had no recourse to the files but believed they were all stored in the one cabinet ‘‘upstairs’’ in Bishop Clarke’s office.
But under Bishop Malone she began to have more to do with the files, to the point where she could say those priests with problems had their ‘‘bad files’’ inserted behind their ‘‘good files’’.
Mr Hunt had asked Ms Doyle if she knew who coined the term ‘‘special issues’’ to deal with matters relating to child sexual abuse by clergy.
She said she did not know, and that she did not use the term herself.
‘‘I never referred to what I would call those confidential files as special issues,’’ Ms Doyle said.
Asked if she called them confidential files, Ms Doyle said: ‘‘No, I would have used the terms bad and good.’’
Asked where the ‘‘bad files’’ were kept in the 1990s, Ms Doyle said she didn’t know if there any but if there were, they were all kept in the one cabinet with the ‘‘good files’’.
‘‘As the confidential or bad files were established at one point they were put into a separate file so if you had a priest who had a good and a bad file they would be one behind the other,’’ Ms Doyle said.
‘‘The good file in the front with the confidential file behind.’’
After asking Ms Doyle about the typing abilities of various senior clergy, Mr Hunt asked Ms Doyle whether it was her position now that while she may have read correspondence relating to child sexual abuse by clergy in the 1990s she no longer recalled doing so.
‘‘Not for that particular issue,’’ Ms Doyle said.
Earlier on Monday, a former Vicar General of the diocese, Father Bill Burston, returned to the stand after being excused because of stress on July 19.
Father Burston had been accosted by several people outside the commission and counsel for the diocese, Lachlan Gyles, had asked he be allowed to return at a later date.
Father Burston was asked a few questions by a counsel assisting, David Kell, and Mr Gyles tendered a letter from Father Burston’s long-time GP, Adam Frost, attesting to a decline in his memory.
The inquiry continues.