Solidarity Justice

NSW Cunneen Inquiry

    NSW Inquiry into Sexual Abuse Concludes Public Hearings in Sydney
    10 September 2013

    Msgr John Usher

    The NSW government special inquiry into sexual abuse in the Newcastle Hunter region concluded its public hearings in Sydney yesterday with two senior Catholic priests giving testimony.

    The Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Msgr John Usher clarified a number of points in a statutory declaration provided earlier to the inquiry.

    This included details of the church's and other institutions historic attitude to paedophilia how he treated priests alleged to have sexually abused children.

    Msgr Usher said in the 1980's there was still an attitude in the church and other institutions that paedophiles could be cured with "therapy". He said the church could not believe clergy could be guilty of such behaviour however he said he spoke to many people to educate himself on the subject-"a steep learning curve"-and soon realised paedophiles could not be cured and that they had committed terrible crimes.

    Also attending the inquiry was the general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Fr Brian Lucas, who unlike Msgr Usher, was recalled to provide earlier evidence following his appearance in Newcastle in July.

    The inquiry before Margaret Cunneen SC is looking into how church leaders and police handled child sexual abuse allegations against two Hunter Valley priests, Denis McAlinden and James Fletcher.

    Fr Brian Lucas

    Msgr Usher told the inquiry whenever he met with priests alleged to have abused children he would soon after write a file note of the conversation and when he spoke with victims he would try to convince them to report their complaint to the police.

    He said he recalled only meeting one priest with Fr Lucas and that he recalled he had only ever dealt directly with two paedophile priests or brothers who admitted their crimes but had not been reported to the police.He subsequently reported the men to police himself.

    The inquiry's findings are expected to be delivered in February next year.