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Papal nuncio releases documents to Australian abuse inquiry

Archbishop Gallagher reverses earlier refusal

<p>Picture: CathNews Australia</p>

Picture: CathNews Australia

  • Stephen Crittenden for National Catholic Reporter
  • Australia
  • December 22, 2013
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The papal nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, claimed diplomatic immunity in response to repeated requests for archival documentation that might assist a prosecutor with her inquiry into sex abuse, copies of correspondence released this week show.

In the end, though, Gallagher decided to turn over documents sought as part of the New South Wales Special Commission of Inquiry. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Friday, Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth Justice and Healing Council, said Gallagher told him the Apostolic Nunciature had handed over the documents Dec. 6.

The Truth Justice and Healing Council was established early this year to coordinate the church's response to the royal commission. Sullivan said when he took on the role he had made it clear that the church would cooperate fully with the commission. "That was the instruction from the church leadership and the same applies to other inquiries."

"Although we're very clear that the relationship between Australia and the Vatican is conducted through the appropriate diplomatic channels, we'll produce the documents the inquiry needs," Sullivan said.

A media spokesman for the NSW special inquiry said the commission, chaired by Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, expects to release the documents early next week.

The inquiry was established in November 2012 to investigate sexual abuse by two priests of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, Fr. Denis McAlinden and Fr. James Fletcher (both deceased), after allegations made by a senior New South Wales police whistleblower, Chief Inspector Peter Fox. The commission continues to inquire into and report on matters relating to the police investigation of the diocese.

The New South Wales Crown Solicitor's Office made the request on Cunneen's behalf Aug. 30 and again Oct. 22, asking for copies of any relevant documents held in the archives of the Apostolic Nunciature in Canberra or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.

The documents relate to "any allegations, complaints, suspicions or reports" regarding child sexual abuse by McAlinden or Fletcher, including a specific incident in 1995 in which Australian church officials requested then-papal nuncio Archbishop Franco Brambilla to intervene on their behalf with the papal nuncio of the Philippines.

At the time, it had been discovered that McAlinden was operating as a priest in a remote diocese in the Philippines despite the suspension of his priestly faculties by his bishop in Australia.

Full Story: Australian sex abuse commission gets documents from nuncio 

Source: National Catholic Reporter

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