Bishop Malone: Herald "the Enemy"

Newcastle Herald
September 27, 2013

[Read the Bishop's letter here]

[Read the Herald stories that started it all here]

MAITLAND-Newcastle Bishop Michael Malone described the Newcastle Herald as ‘‘the enemy’’ in a bitter but ultimately unpublished message to Catholics in 2007 after the newspaper first exposed Church knowledge of notorious Hunter paedophile priests.

The message, titled ‘‘Trial by Media’’, has not seen the light of day until now after the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry released hundreds of documents to the public last week, including previously secret Church documents dating back to the late 1940s.

The documents form part of the commission’s investigation of Church and police handling of allegations involving paedophile priests Denis McAlinden and Jim Fletcher.

The then Bishop Malone’s ‘‘Trial by Media’’ message was written for the diocese’s Aurora magazine after Herald articles in September and October 2007 quoted documents proving Catholic Church officials knew about McAlinden and another notorious paedophile priest, Vince Ryan, for decades.

In it Bishop Malone:

? accused the newspaper of a ‘‘concerted attack’’ on the diocese;

? accused journalists of ‘‘personal attacks’’ on clergy;

? accused the newspaper of raising allegations against clergy only after they were dead;

? accused police of providing intelligence to the Herald which resulted in ‘‘attention [being] diverted from their own inability to process these matters adequately’’;

? accused the Herald of being ‘‘irresponsible’’ and ‘‘dishonest’’ in the reporting of child sex abuse cases within the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, of ‘‘play[ing] on the susceptibilities of vulnerable victims’’ and being ‘‘judge and jury to deceased prelates’’;

? praised radio and TV media in the Hunter for choosing ‘‘not to be involved’’ in coverage of matters involving church knowledge of child sex offenders.

‘‘Even for the Herald (Newcastle), described recently by one of our priests as ‘that grubby little rag’, the concerted attack on the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle commencing late September 2007 has been quite extreme,’’ Bishop Malone wrote.

‘‘I resent having to pay $1.20 for the paper, but I do so to learn what ‘the enemy’ is saying!’’

Bishop Malone attacked the Herald for articles critical of Bishop Leo Clarke, Monsignor Patrick Cotter and Father Denis McAlinden, and accused the Herald of condemning them ‘‘now that they cannot defend themselves’’.

‘‘Watch the paper when I am dead!’’ he said.

He ended the message by saying: ‘‘We must always remember that a newspaper exists to sell copy. I buy it, but reluctantly!’’

Although ‘‘Trial by Media’’ included the line: ‘‘Readers of Aurora will know that I am usually happy to co-operate with the media’’, a statement from Maitland-Newcastle diocese said it was ‘‘written for no intended audience and, as such, was not sent to Aurora for consideration to be published and has not been published before”.

Previously secret Church documents released by the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry last week include a 1949 request from an Irish order to the then Hunter Catholic Bishop Toohey to accept Father Denis McAlinden.

The priest was described as ‘‘difficult’’.

The Church acknowledged McAlinden had hundreds of victims, possibly in as many as four countries, following the Herald’s first reports in 2007, which ultimately led to the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry.

The released documents include Herald and NSW Police reports and emails from 2007.

Comment by Joanne McCarthy

BISHOP Michael Malone was right in 2007 when he wrote that the Newcastle Herald exposed Church knowledge of notorious Hunter paedophile priests only after some key players were dead.

But to claim, as he did in his extraordinary unpublished ‘‘Trial by Media’’ message to Catholics, that I wrote the articles only when Father Denis McAlinden, Monsignor Patrick Cotter, Bishop Leo Clarke and others could not defend themselves, was wrong.

It also completely ignored the real reason why those first 2007 articles finally snowballed into the Herald’s Shine the Light campaign for a royal commission last year.

Bishop Malone accused me of ‘‘personal attacks’’ against clergymen, but too many of those men died with their ‘‘good names’’ protected by the Church, while the truth was known by their silenced victims.

It was Cotter’s funeral on August 7, 2007, where he was lauded by Bishop Malone as a ‘‘dearly loved uncle, grand uncle and fellow priest’’, but where there was no mention that police wanted to charge Cotter in 1996 for failing to stop paedophile priest Vince Ryan, that led victims and others to break that silence.

And it’s not as if the Herald kept that a secret from the Catholic Church. It’s all there, on the record on September 22, 2007, in one of the articles that prompted Bishop Malone’s ‘‘Trial by Media’’.

Also, for the record, I deny being dishonest, irresponsible, rude or arrogant in my reporting of the Church’s abysmal history on child sex abuse in the Hunter Region and beyond it.

I reject, completely, Bishop Malone’s allegation that police provided me with ‘‘intelligence’’. It was a retired police officer, among others, who provided information about Cotter that the media – and the public – was entitled to have. By the way, he was named.

Who knows why Bishop Malone’s ‘‘Trial by Media’’ was not published in the diocese’s Aurora magazine. Possibly cooler heads, or legal advice, prevailed.








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