Commission calls on senior clergy

Herald complaint sparks inquiry 

THREE of Australia’s most senior Catholic clergy will give evidence at a NSW commission of inquiry into the alleged cover-up of Hunter paedophile priest Denis McAlinden.

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, former Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Michael Malone and general secretary of the Australian Bishops Conference Father Brian Lucas will testify at hearings in Newcastle from May 6.

All hearings in Australia’s first commission of inquiry into child sex abuse in the Catholic church will be held in Newcastle, Commissioner Margaret Cunneen, SC, said in Sydney on Wednesday at the formal opening day.

The inquiry is investigating matters raised by Hunter Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox first in the Newcastle Herald, then on the ABC’s Lateline program in November last year, after he was asked to cease investigating the McAlinden cover-up in December 2010.

The inquiry, ordered by Premier Barry O’Farrell, is also investigating the Catholic church’s handling of allegations involving McAlinden and Hunter paedophile priest Jim Fletcher.

This includes whether the church co-operated with police, failed to report alleged criminal offences or alerted alleged offenders to possible police actions.

The inquiry heard Archbishop Wilson, who took statements in 1995 from two women about alleged child sex offences, was granted leave to be legally represented, but had already been summoned to appear.

Chief Inspector Fox was granted leave to be legally represented at the inquiry, saying said he was pleased the hearings would be at Newcastle.

Ms Cunneen encouraged people with information to make contact with the inquiry which was an ‘‘important opportunity’’ to investigate ‘‘relevant matters that occurred in the past’’.