Tim Fischer speaks out

THE former deputy prime minister and Australian ambassador to the Vatican, Tim Fischer, has described the response of the Catholic Church to allegations of child abuse as ‘‘unacceptable’’ and ‘‘disgraceful’’ during a visit to Newcastle yesterday.

But Mr Fischer said he was encouraged by recent steps taken by the Church to address the issue and believed it was heading in the right direction.

Speaking before the Newcastle launch of Holy See, Unholy Me, a memoir about his stint as Australia’s first ambassador to the Vatican from 2009 to 2012, Mr Fischer said the Church had moved ‘‘far too slowly’’ in addressing abuse.

‘‘The Church is not a perfect beast and it has one or two people who are by no means perfect and where that involves children, it must be dealt with, no compromises whatsoever,’’ he said.

In an apparent reference to Hunter paedophile priest Denis McAlinden, he said the Church had allowed the practice of ‘‘parish shuffle’’, where priests accused of abuses were moved to different areas rather than face punishment.

He also said positive steps were being taken.

‘‘I think the Towards Healing template and other steps are getting it sorted ... it’s the right direction but it should be kept under constant review,’’ he said.

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