Apology appears after two decades

IT has taken more than 20 years, but a woman who lost a court case in the 1990s against Hunter predator priest Denis McAlinden has received a formal apology from a Catholic Church official.
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‘‘I believe you were abused by McAlinden. I believe that he came to your parish at Wickham in late 1981 or early 1982, ingratiated himself with your family and began abusing you one Sunday afternoon when you were only 10 years old,’’ Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Bill Wright said in a letter to the woman, AR, on January 16.

The apology has appeared as an exhibit on the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry’s website. The inquiry is investigating Catholic Church and NSW Police handling of allegations about McAlinden.

The priest was sent to Wickham in Western Australia in the 1980s after several decades of allegations to church officials, including the priest being ‘‘run out of town by angry parents’’ in Forster-Tuncurry in 1975 after child sex allegations, and being ‘‘rough with the native people’’ in Papua New Guinea.

AR was in her 20s in 1991 when she told police McAlinden had sexually abused her 10 years earlier and he was charged.

He was found not guilty in a Western Australian court and died in a Catholic Church facility, without being convicted as a child sex offender, in 2005.

Bishop Wright praised AR for her courage and wrote that he ‘‘wholly [accepted] that McAlinden was a predatory sexual abuser of children’’.

‘‘You have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude, pursuing a criminal complaint against McAlinden in the early 1990s,’’ Bishop Wright wrote.

‘‘As Bishop of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle I wish to extend my most sincere apology and express profound regret for what occurred to you. I was not Bishop at that time, nevertheless I and all my brother priests share the shame and I keenly feel the hurt that has been caused.’’

The diocese has paid a settlement to AR.

The Commission of Inquiry’s Margaret Cunneen, SC, will present her final report in May.

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