THE Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, is one of three senior church figures who have been called to appear at the Special Commission of Inquiry into the alleged cover-up of child sex abuse by the Catholic Church in the Maitland-Newcastle region.
The summonsing of the archbishop, along with the secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference, Brian Lucas, and the former Maitland-Newcastle bishop, Michael Malone, was revealed during the opening of the inquiry by Commissioner Margaret Cunneen, SC, on Wednesday.
The inquiry will examine allegations that members of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese covered up the abuse of young children by two now-dead priests, Denis McAlinden and James Fletcher.
This includes allegations that the hierarchy relocated the priests in an attempt to protect the good name of the church, and hindered the police investigations.
The commission will also examine allegations that a child abuse investigator, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, was ordered by senior police to stop investigating such matters and was directed to hand over his files in the Fletcher and McAlinden matters.
The allegations were aired by Inspector Fox on the ABC’s Lateline program in November last year, leading to the creation of the Special Commission of Inquiry, and the by the federal government’s announcement of a royal commission into child abuse .
In 2010, Archbiship Wilson, Bishop Malone and Father Lucas became the subject of a police investigation over allegations that while working in the diocese, they failed to report McAlinden to police despite being aware that he had repeatedly abused children.
Archbishop Wilson has refused to be interviewed by police about the allegations and denies involvement in a cover-up.
However, he will now be forced to give evidence at the inquiry which has ordered him to produce a number of documents.
All three men have hired barristers to represent them at the inquiry, as have the NSW Police and the Maitland-Newcastle diocese.
Commissioner Cunneen has victims of abuse to come forward so ‘‘their voices may be heard’’.
Speaking outside court, Inspector Fox noted the expense the Catholic Church had gone to defend itself at the inquiry.
‘‘I see there’s quite a formidable array ... of barristers and counsel assisting,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s certainly a very expensive legal process for the church. But I look forward to facing up to some of their questions.’’