You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

NSW bishop destroyed sex abuse letter

AAP logoAAP 15/09/2016 Rebekah Ison

A Sydney Catholic bishop destroyed a letter regarding civil action against a pedophile priest years after police raided his office and left him "traumatised", a royal commission has heard.

Former Parramatta Bishop Bede Heather testified he developed a stress disorder and became very concerned about confidentiality after police investigating child sex allegations left his office in "disarray" in 1994.

On Thursday he admitted to ripping up a 1996 letter to lawyers about civil action taken against a pedophile priest and the diocese and later conceded he must have destroyed 1994 advice to church insurers.

"Shortly afterwards (the raid) I took the precaution of destroying all papers of mine which could have been to the disadvantage of persons with whom I deal," said Dr Heather's letter to lawyers, which was read by Chair Peter McClellan at the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse on Thursday.

Dr Heather had originally said he didn't think he had destroyed any documents created before the 1994 raid.

He said it would be reasonable to think he may have also got rid of source information regarding criminal behaviour by priests around the same time as destroying the advice to insurers.

But he could not "commit" himself to making an admission that he had destroyed the documents, he said.

The royal commission is investigating how dioceses in Armidale and Parramatta dealt with allegations of abuse at the hands of former priest John Joseph Farrell.

It has heard a victim sent an email to then-Reverend George Pell about abuse he suffered from 1982-84.

Former Armidale bishop Luc Matthys met with the victim and later wrote in a draft letter that, while he was satisfied the person deserved compensation, it would not be coming from him as the leader of the diocese.

Under questioning from Chair Peter McClellan, Dr Matthys said the church's Towards Healing process did not allow for compensation and that the process was "stymied" by victims who did not want to go to police.

"Was there any means by which they (victims) could get money from the Church, if they'd been abused by one of the priests in Armidale?" Mr McClellan asked.

"But why would they want to get money from the church?" Dr Matthys asked in reply.

The royal commission heard Dr Matthys started the process to defrock Farrell in 2003 after he was told the man still posed a risk to children by the church's program for sexual offenders.

But the process took two years, during which time Dr Matthys imposed no special restrictions on Farrell, the royal commission heard.

Farrell had not been allowed to perform public priest duties for more than a decade before he was defrocked in 2005.

The hearing is expected to continue on Monday.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon