Church figure warns of 'bitter truths': inquiry

ARCHIVE of Herald reports

A KEY senior figure within the Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has warned  ‘‘bitter truths are coming’’ for the Church which must continue to work towards healing victims of abuse.

Father Brian Mascord, the diocese’s vicar-general, has distributed a statement to churches and their congregations regarding the Special Commission of Inquiry into the handling of child sex abuse allegations by Newcastle police and the Catholic Church.

‘‘It is possible that allegations of cover-ups and conspiracy may be made against priests and members of the laity [during the inquiry],’’ Father Mascord said.

‘‘Please do not rush to judgment.

‘‘We believe there will be some bitter truths coming. Many of these truths are already known, others may come as fresh revelations, and again be of great concern for all of us.

‘‘As a diocese we will continue to work to ensure the ongoing and future safety of children from all forms of abuse and seek ways to make amends to those who were harmed.’’

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox spent his fourth day in the stand before Commissioner Margaret Cunneen SC yesterday. The entire day’s proceedings consisted of Mr Fox being cross-examined by Wayne Roser SC, who is appearing for several senior police officers.

Mr Roser spent much of the day questioning Mr Fox about changing police records to show  he had been investigating disgraced former priest Denis McAlinden for longer than he had, and accusing Mr Fox of leaking sensitive police reports to Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy and ABC television journalist Suzie Smith.

Mr Fox rejected those accusations, as well as a persistent line of questioning from Mr Roser that he was running a campaign to undermine the police strikeforce established to investigate abuse cover-up claims.

Mr Fox insisted  ‘‘the police had to be dragged kicking and screaming’’ to this investigation, and his continued contact with Ms McCarthy was a result of police failing to act on the vast amounts of information and witnesses she had.

Earlier in the day, Mr Fox came under fire for a message he sent via Twitter after proceedings closed on Wednesday. The tweet contained information which had been suppressed by Commissioner Cunneen.

Mr Roser said the tweet was ‘‘not only inappropriate, it was against the ruling of this commission’’.

Mr Fox rejected the claim, saying his tweet did not identify any individual.

He deleted the tweet several minutes after it was posted on the advice of his own legal representative.

It was also announced yesterday  a key witness, Superintendent Charles Haggett, would be excused from taking the stand at the inquiry on medical grounds.

 UNDER FIRE: Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox leaves the inquiry with wife Penny yesterday.  Picture: Simone De Peak

UNDER FIRE: Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox leaves the inquiry with wife Penny yesterday. Picture: Simone De Peak

The inquiry is investigating the way in which police and the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic diocese handled allegations of child sexual abuse by former priests James Fletcher and Denis McAlinden.

The inquiry will today enter its fifth day of hearings at Newcastle. The hearing will continue until next Friday before breaking, then resuming for a three-week hearing from June 24.

This story Church figure warns of 'bitter truths': inquiry first appeared on Newcastle Herald.