ONE of the Australian Catholic Church's most recognised spokesmen, Father Brian Lucas, allegedly knew of allegations against pedophile priest Denis McAlinden prior to McAlinden's attempted secret defrocking in 1995.
Victims who contacted The Herald after investigations about the church's handling of the problem priest have claimed that Father Lucas, the current Australian Bishops Conference general secretary, met with a victim of McAlinden's at Bishop's House, Maitland, in the months before the attempted defrocking in October 1995.
The claims have not yet been tested by police.
The victim was allegedly accompanied to the meeting by a Catholic nun.
The victim also claims Father Lucas was told of allegations involving four child victims of McAlinden, all younger than 12, at the meeting which included other priests.
At the request of police The Herald has forwarded a report of claims made by McAlinden victims about the alleged involvement of Father Lucas, and former Maitland-Newcastle priest and current Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, in the period before October 1995.
Church documents obtained by The Herald relating to the attempted defrocking were handed to police early this month.
In a letter from the then Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Leo Clarke to McAlinden on October 19, 1995, the bishop assured the priest his "good name" would be protected by the secret defrocking and urged him to comply for "the good of the church".
Bishop Clarke said the attempted defrocking was due to evidence collected and "in the light of your admission to Father Brian Lucas".
The letter does not say whether the "admission" was related to the latest allegations.
In a return letter dated October 26, 1995, McAlinden complained that "confidential has a very hollow ring as far as Maitland is concerned: Brian Lucas convinced me, against my better judgment, to accept that the information I gave him would be held in strict confidence by the bishop".
The Maitland-Newcastle diocese did not contact police about the McAlinden allegations until 2005, shortly before the priest's death.
Police are currently considering investigations to determine what action, if any, should be taken in respect of the church's failure to act in alerting authorities about the allegations.
Father Lucas declined to answer emailed questions about his role in the attempted defrocking.
"As I said before I do not have a sufficiently reliable recollection from 15 years ago to be able to make any public comments on the questions you ask," he said.
Father Lucas was media spokesman for the Sydney Archdiocese for 17 years until moving to the Canberra-based Bishops Conference general secretary's position in 2002.
Documents dated October 12 and 13, 1995, show the then Father Wilson was authorised as notary in the church "impediment to exercise orders" process against McAlinden, and took a statement alleging child sex abuse from a McAlinden victim.
Archbishop Wilson has repeatedly declined to respond to questions about the matter.