In the light of news reports this week by Herald reporter Joanne McCarthy I examine in my column today some of Bishop Michael Malone's statements about the Newcastle-Maitland Catholic diocese response to priestly pedophilia. Joanne's reports are based on documents that lift a heavy veil on dealings by Bishop Malone and his predecessor, Bishop Leo Clarke, with a priest who was then the subject of serious allegations of sexual assault of children. The priest was Denis McAlinden, who died in 2005 and who was, the church has admitted, a serial sexual predator of children over many years.
The documents referred to by Joanne show that Bishop Clarke then Bishop Malone tried to have McAlinden defrocked after two allegations were made at the same time in 1995 that Vince Ryan, another of the diocese's serial pedophiles, was charged by police. Bishop Clarke had assured McAlinden that the confidentiality of the defrocking process would protect "your good name". Until then Bishop Clarke had been urging McAlinden, who was known to be a pedophile and who had moved to The Philippines, to live as a retired priest in "a climate that would be acceptable".
When he succeeded Bishop Clarke days after the charging of Ryan, Bishop Malone continued Clarke's attempt to have McAlinden defrocked and, as Bishop Clarke had done, in urging McAlinden's co-operation warned of the possibility of police intervention. That was in 1995. It was another 10 years before the diocese contacted police about McAlinden, who was still a priest and who died a month later.
In 2001 I challenged Bishop Malone to tell the people of the Hunter Region what he had done about the freedom of Vince Ryan to prey on boys, 26 of them, in the diocese, and Bishop Malone had this, among other things, to say in response: "For Mr Corbett to accuse Church authorities of covering up this case is both incorrect and a slur on the integrity of those authorities."
Is there hope for the Catholic and other churches? What is it?