Former Catholic Church Insider Calls for Police and Royal Commission to Subpoena Secret "Red Files"
By Steve Cannane and Brigid Andersen
March 17, 2016
A former Catholic Church insider has called on police and the royal commission to subpoena all of the church's secret clergy abuse documents — known as the "red files".
Helen Last, a former coordinator of the Melbourne Archdiocese's Pastoral Response Office, said the full extent of church abuse would not be known until all the documents were made available.
"These files should be handed over, they are of important public interest, they have forensic material in them, they cover criminal activity by clergy, they cover the anguish and information of parents and parishioners speaking to the Vicar General at the time," she said.
"They are of great importance to the truth of what has happened here and the victims and the public want the truth but they are only getting part of the truth at the present time."
Ms Last first learnt of the red files from the late Monsignor Gerry Cudmore, who set up the Pastoral Response Office in the 1990s.
Ms Last said Monsignor Cudmore ended up resigning as Vicar General because he did not like Cardinal George Pell's handling of abuse claims, which he thought was too legalistic.
"[Monsignor Cudmore] was talking to me directly about his files which contained highly important materials, and he pointed to the filing cabinet and said that will be marked 'never to be opened'," Ms Last told Lateline.
"He meant that those files would be put into the Archdiocese archives and they were so serious that they were to be pretty much locked down and not used in any way."
Secret files sent to the Vatican: insider
Lateline has been told that police were unaware of the existence of the red files until 2013.
A former insider from the Melbourne Archdiocese said under the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, a directive was sent out requiring that all abuse-related files be sent immediately to Australia's Papal ambassador, known as the Nuncio.
The Nuncio at the time was Giuseppe Lazzarotto — a man with a history of failing to hand over church documents.
The Murphy Report into clergy abuse in Dublin noted that when Mr Lazzarotto was Nuncio in Ireland he refused to respond to requests for church documents.
The Melbourne Archdiocese insisted they still had their red files and that all files requested by the royal commission and the police have been handed over.
Abuse survivor Stephen Woods is concerned that some secret files are now in the Vatican.
"We know that files were taken out of Ballarat and taken to the Vatican. We want those files returned," he told the media in Rome earlier this month.
But Francis Sullivan, the chief of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, said there should be copies in Australia of any files that were sent to the Vatican.
Documents should be accessed by royal commission: survivor
In response to Ms Last's call for all the secret files to be subpoenaed, Mr Sullivan said: "There's no point us turning up and swamping them with documents when they already have so many documents they are working through in a forensic fashion."
"If they want more, if they want them in a specific area, if they want them in a gradual serial approach that's what we do."
Mr Woods said it was important to victims that all the files are accessed by the royal commission and the police.
"The victims really want justice and we really want to see all aspects covered, not just having a bishop go into the dock and say I don't remember," he said.
"Let's have the files, let's see what they knew, let's see more aspects of justice be done."