FORMER Maitland-Newcastle bishop Michael Malone says the inquiry into the Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse cases had misinterpreted some of his evidence.
Bishop Malone, who served as the Hunter’s most senior Catholic figure from 1995 to 2011, was one of those criticised by Commissioner Margaret Cunneen, who handed down her findings on Friday.
In his evidence to the inquiry, Bishop Malone said that in 2002 the diocese had a file on paedophile priest Denis McAlinden ‘‘so big you couldn’t jump over it’’.
Ms Cunneen ruled that Bishop Malone failed to report McAlinden to police at any stage between 1995 and August 1999. When he handed information to police about allegations made by two victims that year, he withheld similar allegations from another two victims. He was also found to have altered a diary entry ‘‘with the intention of creating a false record to support his version of events’’.
In a statement yesterday, Bishop Malone said he was standing by his evidence and was ‘‘disappointed that the commission has chosen to interpret some matters differently from myself’’.
He said he learned of the diocese’s ‘‘troubled state’’ on his appointment as bishop.
‘‘Immediately on my appointment a priest was arrested, charged with child sexual abuse and jailed.
‘‘This was followed by a number of offenders, at least two of whom were sentenced to jail.
‘‘At the outset I was an inexperienced bishop who revealed his lack of experience in sometimes hesitant and indecisive ways. I felt torn between wanting to support the unfortunate victims of abuse and protecting the reputation of the Catholic Church.’’
He agreed, however, that the commission had rightly shone a light on the diocese’s ‘‘toxic’’ history.
‘‘I renew my deep regret and sorrow that too many innocent people were hurt in that time when we failed to effectively intervene and consequently allowed abuse to continue,’’ he said.
‘‘It takes a big effort to turn a culture around, but I am confident that change had begun in my time, is continuing under Bishop Wright and this report will continue that process.’’