Former Melbourne Archbishop Frank Little “shut his eyes” to child sex abuse allegations against a priest, the royal commission has heard.
Appearing before the commission on Thursday, former head of the Catholic Education Office Monsignor Thomas Doyle accepted that the handling of allegations against clergy rested entirely on the judgment of the archbishop.
When asked by counsel assisting the commission, Stephen Fee, why the Archbishop failed to investigate complaints against Doveton parish priest Peter Searson, Monsignor Doyle said he believed his superior had an “exaggerated respect” for the priesthood.
“I think he was in some sort of denial that these things were happening,” he said.
“So he was shutting his eyes to it?” Mr Free asked.
“Because he didn’t want to believe it?” Mr Free asked.
“Unfortunately, I think so.”
Monsignor Doyle, who oversaw the performance of all Catholic schools and their priests in the archdiocese of Melbourne for more than two decades, had earlier testified that Archbishop Little failed to act on complaints about Searson.
The commission heard that despite top church officials accepting Searson was a risk to students in the mid-1980s, a detailed investigation was never carried out.
Asked whether he regretted not doing more, Monsignor Doyle said he did not know what else could have been done at the time.
“I think with hindsight it would have been good if we could have gone directly to the police, actually, or to some canonical process with regard to Father Searson,” he said.
Monsignor Doyle agreed that he had some concerns about the church’s legal liability if allegations against a priest were made public.
The hearing continues.