Bishop told abuse victim to ‘keep faith’

Bishop told abuse victim to ‘keep faith’

WITHIN hours of nine guilty verdicts being read out, convicting pedophile priest James Fletcher, Catholic Bishop Michael Malone issued a press release publicly apologising for Fletcher’s crimes.
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But when he rang the victim just an hour after Monday’s verdicts, Bishop Malone failed to say something the young man had longed for.

Instead, the victim said Bishop Malone told him he was courageous for coming forward before telling him to “keep your faith”.

“It was terrible,” the 28-year-old told the Herald last night.

“The ‘apology’ was more like ‘thank you for having the courage to come forward and bring this man to justice’.

“It wasn’t “I am so sorry this has happened to you’; that is the difference.

“I would love an apology. I wanted to hear Fletcher say ‘I’m guilty’.

“. . . I want an apology from Michael Malone. I’ll probably just say thanks and hang up [but] that’s what I want.”

The victim said he had been looking forward to starting to feel better after the tumultuous police investigation, the rumours circulating throughout the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese and the immense personal pain.

But he remained angry about the phone call.

Bishop Malone said through a spokeswoman last night that he had rung the victim “purely” to “touch base”.

“I expressed support for him, sympathy for what he has been through, admiration for his courage,” Bishop Malone said.

“I expressed sorrow for all that had happened and said we must catch up soon.

“It was purely a phone call to touch base and express these things to him in a preliminary manner”.

When questioned further by The Herald, the Bishop said, through his spokeswoman, that “it was a brief apology with more to follow”.

The victim also criticised the church’s toll-free helpline, which Bishop Malone said was established for people who wanted to discuss the Fletcher case.

Still riled about Monday’s phone call, the victim called the helpline twice on Tuesday night only for the phone to ring out. The first call was at 9pm.

When The Herald rang the line twice at 6.50 last night, the line also rang out.

A diocesan spokesman said the hotline only operated during business hours but the church had taken the complaint on board.

· A special gathering for members of the Branxton-Greta-Lochinvar Catholic Parish next Tuesday will be held at Branxton parish hall and not at Centacare Newcastle as reported yesterday.

Bishop Michael Malone

Father James Patrick Fletcher