Lawyers say children put at risk by Catholic bishop’s comments

14 September 2020
Lawyers have slammed comments made by Bishop Michael McCarthy leader of the Diocese of Rockhampton encouraging Catholic priests to break the law rather the seal of the confessional when child sexual abuse is reported.

Under changes  passed into law in Queensland last week priests can now be jailed for failing to report confessions of child sexual abuse.

Jed McNamara, Queensland Head of Abuse Law at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers which acted for a man abused by notorious paedophile priest Michael McArdle in the Rockhampton Dioses, said the position of the Catholic Church in resisting such changes is untenable.

“No institution should be above the law. The Catholic Church's response to McArdle’s abuse was to move the priest from parish to parish, thus enabling his abuse of children to continue over decades.

"This put many children at risk who did not need to be put at risk, because the nature of his proclivities and his abuse was very well known,

Mr McNamara said Rockhampton priest Michael McArdle was eventually jailed for six years for 62 assaults against boys and girls  over a 22 year period.

“In an affidavit filed by McArdle in 2004, he revealed that he had confessed his crimes 1,500 times to 30 different priests over a 25-year period.”

Mr McNamara said this is extremely important legislation for the protection of children and the Queensland Government are to be commended for joining other states in acting on this.

“Plenty of professions, including doctors and health professionals, have long had obligations to report instances of abuse.

“It was as a key recommendation of the Royal Commission that admissions of abuse made through the confessional be reported, there is absolutely no excuse for Catholic Church clergy to not be held to the same standards as other professions in ensuring the safety of children is made a priority.

“Sadly however the Catholic Church and others have continued to stubbornly resist this important reform,” he said.

Media inquiries: Jacob O'Shaughnessy at Maurice Blackburn on 0428 814 037 or via jo'shaughnessy@mauriceblackburn.com.au

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