Maitland-newcastle Catholic Diocese Loses Argument in Legal Case over Paedophile Priest
By Joanne Mccarthy
March 25, 2016
A NSW Supreme Court judge has rejected a Catholic Church application to suppress the names of senior church officials with knowledge of a notorious Hunter paedophile priest, in a woman’s case that the church should have stopped him from raping her from the age of five.
Justice Desmond Fagan criticised Maitland-Newcastle diocese for providing the woman with church documents about paedophile priest Denis McAlinden with the names of church officials blacked out, including a 1976 letter from the late Monsignor Patrick Cotter in which the monsignor acknowledged McAlinden’s “inclination… towards the little ones”.
In the letter Cotter told incoming Bishop Leo Clarke that McAlinden had “an inclination to interfere with young girls”. Cotter told the bishop he put the allegation to McAlinden who “agreed it is a condition that had been with him for many years”.
Cotter's letter included that McAlinden held a strong wish to depart for Geraldton "because it would afford a good cover-up for his resigning the parish”.
The woman suing the estate of the late Leo Clarke and the trustees of Maitland-Newcastle diocese alleges she was sexually abused by McAlinden between 1974 and 1984, from the age of five.
“This letter, given its date towards the beginning of the period in which the (woman) complains she was sexually abused, is very close to the heart of the (woman’s) case,” Justice Fagan said.
He rejected the diocese’s argument Cotter’s name and those of others in the 1976 letter should have been blacked out before they were produced to the woman.
Justice Fagan said he had not gained any understanding how the diocese “could have thought it would be a sufficient compliance with the subpoena to have produced this letter with the name of its author obscured”.
“It is important to the plaintiff's case to try to show that the late Bishop Leo Clarke and the diocese breached alleged duties of care to protect infant parishioners against a man whom the plaintiffs allege was a rampant paedophile.”
He ordered the diocese to supply more than 90 documents to the woman with all names shown, including complaints from victims and others, and communications between church officials about McAlinden over decades.
“I will not make any order to suppress or restrict the publication of the names of these signatories, all of them church officials,” he said.
In a response to the woman’s statement of claim the diocese denied that McAlinden had “a high degree of power” over the child at the time she was allegedly raped.