Doyle Fears Plot on Job

By Ellen Whinnett
The Mercury [Australia]
November 5, 2003

ARCHBISHOP Adrian Doyle believes there is a campaign in the Tasmanian Catholic community to have him removed.

The Archbishop spoke out yesterday as more problems emerged with the way the church has handled complaints of sexual misconduct against its clergy.

In the latest developments:

Archbishop Doyle confirmed for the first time that a high-ranking priest had admitted having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a female parishioner.

Despite the confession, the priest was allowed to spend another five years on the committee that advised the church on how to handle complaints made against priests.

Police confirmed they were investigating an allegation that a priest had sexually abused a young male student at Marist Regional College in Burnie more than 30 years ago.

The Marist Fathers, a separately administered branch of the Catholic Church, was aware of complaints made to them about inappropriate behaviour at Marist College in the 1970s when it was a boys-only boarding school.

The latest revelations come after a torrid week for Archbishop Doyle, in which he has admitted mishandling complaints made against another senior priest, Philip Green.

Archbishop Doyle said he would not resign and that he had been inundated with letters of support from the community.

He had replied to more than 100 letters so far and still had a folder of correspondence from members of the community supporting him.

The second most senior Catholic in Tasmania, Vicar-General Father Peter Nicholls, issued a letter yesterday advising that the church's Council of Priests had met on Tuesday, October 28, and unanimously expressed its confidence in the archbishop.

Despite this support, Archbishop Doyle said there was a campaign for him to resign.

He said the people urging him to go were not taking into account the fact that he and the priests at the centre of the complaints were human and made mistakes.

"There is a bit of a view around, I think, that priests are not allowed to make mistakes or be human," Archbishop Doyle said.

"There are people out there promoting my departure. But if I go, the issues would still have to be worked through. I am in as good a position as anyone to see these issues through."

Archbishop Doyle spoke publicly for the first time about a priest who admitted having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a female parishioner and was allowed to remain on the professional standards committee, which advises on how to deal with complaints against clergy.

He said he became aware of the situation when the woman phoned a church abuse hotline in 1998.

He then held the position of Coadjutor Archbishop and approached the priest about the complaints.

"He agreed it had happened but he was also at pains to say he believed it was a consensual adult relationship," Archbishop Doyle said.

"But it was not the kind of behaviour we want going on."

The priest had told him the actions weighed heavily on his mind and he had felt guilty about it, seeking spiritual advice and guidance.

Archbishop Doyle confirmed he allowed the priest to retain his position on the committee until January this year, when he decided to remove him -- a move he should have taken five years earlier.

"It should have happened then [in 1998]," the Archbishop said. "It's clear that I shouldn't have let it go on as it did."

He said he had not removed the priest from the committee because it would have seemed a particularly harsh punishment for something the priest had already admitted to, and sought guidance for.

But he now realised it was "inappropriate for people on the committee to give advice when something had happened in their own lives".

The Archbishop has already admitted he failed to act quickly enough when complaints were made against Monsignor Green and allowed him to continue in active ministry for five months after he admitted abusing a boy.

He has also acknowledged making a public statement that no other complaints had been made against Monsignor Green when he already knew he had admitted sexually abusing another boy.

Burnie CIB detectives confirmed they were investigating allegations that a Marist father had sexually abused a young male student at Marist College in Burnie in the early 1970s.

Sergeant Kim Steven said police would meet the Director of Public Prosecutions this week to see what direction the inquiry should take.


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