The past three years have weighed heavily on the shoulders of Bishop Bill Wright.
Since his arrival to the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese in 2011, the diocesan head has often been forced into the spotlight as the Catholic Church dealt with allegations of historical child sex abuse within its ranks.
With the intense investigations clearly taking their toll, the bishop delivered his own personal statement on the results of the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry yesterday.
“No one could have told the entire story,” Bishop Wright said.
“It is spread over 50 odd years and at different times people have known parts of it so it’s a great benefit to us all that the commission has relentlessly tracked down all of the leads, documents and been able to tell the whole story that needed to be told, and it’s an appalling story.”
Bishop Wright described the report by Commissioner Margaret Cunneen as a great service for the diocese, the whole community “and in some measure, for Australia”.
“First of all because many children have been abused, but secondly because it details how
senior figures of the church, my predecessors as bishops, were aware of Denis McAlinden’s offending behaviour yet he was never stopped,” Bishop Wright said.
“Various efforts that were made to do something about him were ineffective to say the least and were driven by a concern to prevent scandal or to protect the church’s reputation.
“And the needs of the victims often ran a very poor second to that.”
Bishop Wright said while parts of the report came as no revelation, other parts were unexpected.
“The bishops had some awareness of this abuse as far back as the 1960s. And for all those decades it was a sad and sorry story and one we can only be ashamed of.”
And while much anticipated, Bishop Wright doesn’t believe the report will spell the end of the issue.
“Apart from the fact there is a fourth volume of the report that recommends reference to at least one senior church figure to legal processors, we still have the Strike Force Lantle investigation ongoing and there may be more consequences from that,” he said.
“This is a highly significant report and it’s a remarkable piece of work but I’m also frightfully conscious that it is part of an ongoing process as well.”