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'Alarm bells ringing' over paedophile priests cover up

The Catholic Church has once again been marred by paedophilia claims, this time concerning the New South Wales Hunter region

by Natalie Glanvill on 12 November 2012 11:15

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A senior detective with more than 30 years’ experience as a police investigator has made alarming accusations that suggest the Catholic Church covers up “crimes of paedophile priests, silences investigations and destroys crucial evidence to avoid prosecutions”, ABC Newcastle reported.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox of New South Wales (NSW) police force has written a letter to NSW Premier, Barry O’ Farrell, demanding a Royal Commission into child sex abuse within the Catholic Church in the NSW Hunter region.

The concerning letter which was published on Thursday in the Newcastle Herald, states several damning allegations, particularly in relation to the “evil of paedophilia” within the Catholic Church.

“I can testify from my own experience that the church covers up, silences victims, hinders police investigations, alerts offenders, destroys evidence and moves priests to protect the good name of the church”, Fox said in the letter.  

Inspector Fox has been involved in investigating systematic cases of paedophilia in the NSW Hunter region for more than a decade. Throughout his career, he has had “first-hand experience with the victims and their abusers” and has even listened to families tell of suicides.

“The whole system needs to be exposed; the clergy covering up these crimes must be brought to justice and the network protecting paedophile priests dismantled. There should be no place for evil or its guardians to hide”, Fox told O’Farrell.

The NSW Hunter Valley has a growing history of paedophilia with a 'ring' believed to be operating in the area. Just last month, the police received a complaint of a child being sexually abused by 70-year old former Hunter Valley priest John Sidney Denham. The defrocked priest is accused of abusing 14 boys in the 1970s’ and is facing 51 charges including indecent assault and buggery.

The region itself is rife with complaints of child abuse and paedophilia by clergy members, and according to news reports, there are 400 known cases of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy, 11 clergy and six Catholic teachers have been charged and convicted since 1995, and three current priests are presently on trial.

Speaking to ABC TV’s Lateline on Thursday night, Fox told the news and current affairs program, “There is something very wrong when you have so many paedophile priests operating in such a small area for such an extended period of time with immunity”. During his appearance, he also said, “Alarm bells were ringing for me many, many years ago. I submitted report after report suggesting that we needed to do a lot more about investigating this – why didn’t that happen. I’ve never received a response”.

It appears that since Thursday, when the senior detective first publicly accused the Church of the large cover up, a former priest in the Hunter Valley region has come forward with further evidence supporting Inspector Fox’s claims’.

Ordained as a priest 20 years ago, Kevin Lee worked for some of that time as a police chaplain until recently, when he was relieved of his parish responsibilities in Western Sydney. The former NSW priest told ABC’s Lateline on Friday that he first became aware of a wider cover up in the Church when he joined the seminary, and was aware that some of those around him were paedophiles.  

“I became aware that some of the other priests were actually paedophiles and were not necessarily becoming priests because they wanted to help people, but because they were paedophiles who wanted the opportunity… I saw a system of cover-ups, a system of blind-eye turning and just ignorance of the fact that it was happening”, Lee said.

Chief Inspector Fox had been investigating reports of sexual abuse and paedophilia dating back as far as 1999 and was in the middle of investigating matters concerning priest Father Denis McAlinden in 2010, when Fox was told by senior officers to hand over all of his evidence, including a statement from a critical witness. The hand over was part of the launch of a formal investigation. An on-going Victorian parliamentary inquiry on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church opened last month. 

Natalie Glanvill is an Editorial Assistant at The Commentator and tweets at @NatalieGlanvil1

Read more on: Barry O' Farrell, ABC Lateline, Chief Inspector Peter Fox, NSW police, New South Wales Hunter Valley, clergy, paedophilia, child abuse and the catholic church, Australia, religion, and catholicism
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