Arrested … detectives with Father F in Armidale yesterday. He faces 25 child sex abuse charges.
A former NSW priest who allegedly told three senior Catholic clergy a decade ago that he had repeatedly sexually abused children has been charged with 25 child-sex offences relating to three girls.
The 59-year-old was arrested at a home in Armidale this morning, and is expected to face court this afternoon in relation to the charges dating back to the 1970s and '80s.
Following his arrest, police urged anyone with information about an alleged cover-up by the Catholic Church to come forward.
Sex crime squad commander John Kerlatec said it was too early to say for sure whether Strike Force Glenroe would investigate suggestions the Catholic Church covered up the allegations.
"It's certainly early days in regards to our investigation in respect to the alleged cover-up that's been suggested," Detective Superintendent Kerlatec said.
The offences were allegedly discovered after police formed Strike Force Glenroe in July.
Detectives have spoken to 50 people, including potential victims, their families and others who may have information.
The police say the victims were were all young girls aged between five and 18 when they were allegedly sexually and indecently assaulted by the former priest.
The State Crime Command's sex crimes squad set up Strike Force Glenroe in July to investigate allegations that Father F had abused altar boys while a priest based in Armidale and Parramatta.
Father F, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was removed from public ministry after a meeting with three clergy in 1992, following continued allegations of abuse after he was moved from the Armidale diocese to Parramatta.
The three priests now all occupy senior positions in the church, which has denied a cover-up amid conflicting accounts of Father F's admissions during the 1992 meeting and why he was not reported to police.
Father F, who was defrocked in 2005 but continued to live in Armidale, also told a court in 2004 that he had admitted to the priests that he performed oral sex on boys.
These allegations were brought to light by an ABC Four Corners report earlier this year.
Federal Court judge Antony Whitlam had been appointed by Bishop of Armidale Michael Kennedy and Bishop of Parramatta Anthony Fisher to lead its own inquiry into the church's handling of the case.
Bishop Kennedy said in a statement that that the diocese was offering its full co-operation and assistance to police.
"I am not able to comment any further as this is a matter rightly being dealt with by the NSW Police," he said.
"I again take this opportunity to extend my deepest sympathy to victims of child abuse and their families, and reassure the community of my commitment to see justice achieved."
Premier Barry O'Farrell welcomed today's arrest.
"I welcome the police decision to arrest another person accused of paedophilia," Mr O'Farrell said.
"I wish them well - that's what should be happening, rather than some of the politically motivated calls for royal commissions."