We shan’t say unless you force us

In case we’re not already sufficiently fed up with the Catholic church today, we learn that

The Catholic Church tried to strike an agreement with New South Wales Police that would have helped shut down investigations into paedophile priests and placed police in breach of the Crimes Act.

Police records, accessed under freedom of information laws by Greens MP David Shoebridge, show two attempts were made to finalise memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between police and the church over how to deal with complaints of sexual and physical abuse by Catholic Church personnel.




Disgusting, isn’t it. “Church authorities shall cover up crimes committed by church employees unless prevented by court order.” Because after all it’s just child rape, nothing that matters.

Barrister Geoffrey Watson SC says the agreement would have placed police in breach of the Crimes Act.

“If you become aware of a serious criminal offence, you’ve got to tell the police,” he told the ABC’s Lateline program.

“When I looked at the MOUs they were really in effect trying to get the police to condone the failure to comply with that law, or even perhaps worse, get the police to participate in that.”

Dear police, can we please break the law? Thank you very much, the Catholic church.

In June 2003 Michael McDonald from the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations wrote to the Child Protection Squad: “I, therefore, seek your confirmation that the unsigned memorandum of understanding with the police remains in place.”

The Catholic Church could not tell Lateline why Mr McDonald was writing to the police, but Kim McKay from the Child Protection Squad was unequivocal in her written response to Mr McDonald.

“Please note that his (sic) draft unsigned MOU has not been approved by the NSW Police Service, and the arrangements proposed by the MOU are not currently in place,” she said.

“The arrangements proposed by the draft MOU appear to be in direct conflict with the explicit legislative requirement of section 316 of the Crime Act.”

Before this letter was sent by Superintendent McKay, the church was under the assumption the agreement was in place.

It’s so unfaaaaaaair.

After Superintendent McKay had made it clear in her letter that the unsigned agreement would have breached the Crimes Act, the church and police started negotiations to draft another agreement.

The second draft agreement, dated August 2004, includes a clause that states: “The Catholic Church or (additional party) shall make available the report of an assessment and any other matter relevant to the accused’s account of events only if authorised in writing by the accused or if required to do so by court order.”

Mr Shoebridge says the second draft agreement goes even further than the first one.

“The church wanted to effectively give the accused priest a veto power about whether or not to provide crucial information to the police – utterly extraordinary when you think that that’s less than a decade ago.”

It is, isn’t it. Just jaw-dropping.

H/t Leonie Hilliard.



  1. says

    …memorandums of understanding (MOUs)

    Un.be.liev.able. Despicable. To think that the church was in cahoots with what is supposed to be the most trusted sector of society. Then again, they worked in tandem with each other with respect of Irish institutional child abuse. So it should really be very unsurprising. The same thing over and over again, the world over.

  2. Al Dente says

    The Catholic Church shows yet again they are more concerned with protecting their image than in protecting children.

  3. left0ver1under says

    It doesn’t surprise to hear the catholics asking for complicity in covering up their crimes.

    It does surprise to hear that cops didn’t cooperate. And that this was willingly released by a government, not leaked without permission by one person.

  4. medivh says

    @left0ver1under, #4:
    An elected member of a minor party requested the information under Australia’s Freedom of Information Act. It was, in effect, dragged out by an member of an opposition party before being shown the light. I’m pretty surprised along side you that the cops didn’t co-operate, though.

    More generally: I’m sort of wondering whether the Australian Crimes Commission along with NSW’s anti-corruption board are looking into both the NSW police and the Catholic Church in NSW. Especially given Australia’s senior cardinal is one George Pell, well known abuse-hider and seems to think he’s above the law. Personally, I’d be looking for the ACC to re-categorise the RCC in Australia as an organised criminal enterprise, dealing in child sex abuse and tourism.

  5. left0ver1under says

    medivh (#5) –

    Thanks for the clarification, and no thanks for dashing my hopes. ^_^

    My parents were hardcore catholic cultists (e.g. couldn’t speak a word of Latin, but griped when Sunday “service” went all-English). As I recall from the crap being spewed, the catholics call it a “sin of omission” not to do something ethical or legally required. They allegedly consider it wrong not to confess to things…unless, of course, you’re in the leadership (e.g. a local bishop where I grew up fought the charge of rape laid against him, of which he was later convicted).

  6. jagwired says

    I’ve always heard that the best kind of “memorandums of understanding” were the ones with large numbers on them. Hmm. I wonder if the RCC has ever tried to use those kind of MOU’s.

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