Paedophile priest John Farrell was allowed to return to public ministry in NSW just two months after being forced on "sick leave" due to complaints he had abused altar boys, reports AAP in The West Australian.
At a 1984 meeting of Church leaders in Armidale, the decision was made to send Farrell, then in his 30s, to the east Tamworth parish in northern NSW despite allegations he had abused a number of boys while an assistant priest at Moree, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard yesterday.
The Bishop of Wagga Wagga, Gerard Hanna, then a priest at east Tamworth, said the then-Bishop of Armidale, Henry Kennedy, had assumed two months was long enough to allow for any of Farrell's victims to come forward.
"He constantly resorted to the phrase, 'no one has come forward, there are no charges. There's no reason why he can't be put back into ministry'," Bishop Hanna said on Wednesday.
The reasons for Farrell's removal from Moree were kept quiet, the Bishop said, and there was no report to the police or public inquiry.
When he asked Bishop Kennedy for details about what Farrell had done, he was told: "It's that usual thing, he was messing around with altar boys" and "you have got to regard him as a big risk and give him restricted ministry and keep an eye on him."
In Tamworth, Farrell was forbidden from conducting school Masses and given limited access to children, which he "deeply resented," according to Bishop Hanna.
TRUTH JUSTICE AND HEALING COUNCIL
Church kept priest sex abuse claims quiet (AAP/West Australian)
Bishop thought NSW priest was innocent (AAP/Nine News)
Wagga Bishop Gerard Hanna knew of abuse claims against priest (The Australian)