THE second highest-ranking Catholic priest in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, Vicar-General Tom Brennan, has been charged with perverting the course of justice by detectives investigating alleged child sex offences.
Bishop Michael Malone described Brennan, 70, yesterday as "my right-hand man" and expressed his regret that another priest from the diocese had been charged by police.
"It just seems to roll on," Bishop Malone said.
Brennan, who was arrested yesterday, is the second Catholic priest in two days to be charged by Lake Macquarie detectives from Strike Force Georgiana, which is investigating new complaints made against clergy.
Detectives charged John Sidney Denham on Thursday with 30 child sex offences, relating to 18 boys he taught during the 1970s and 1980s.
Brennan was the principal at St Pius X school at Adamstown when Denham worked there, and The Herald understands yesterday's charges relate to a statement provided to a police investigation in 1998.
Bishop Malone accompanied Brennan to Toronto Police Station yesterday following his arrest, and the pair later spoke privately at Brennan's Toronto parish residence.
He said Brennan would be stood aside from the ministry.
"Father Brennan is naturally upset with the charges but I think under the circumstances [is] travelling fairly well," he said.
"As Vicar-General, he's my right-hand man and is very close to me. He's the bishop when I'm away.
"It's a great sadness for me as well."
Bishop Malone said the Maitland-Newcastle diocese would continue to co-operate fully with police investigations.
Brennan was bailed to appear at Newcastle Local Court in September.