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Senior priest questioned over Farrell case

AAP logoAAP 21/09/2016 Miranda Forster

A senior figure in the Catholic Church has been interviewed by police over whether he and others failed to report ex-priest John Farrell to authorities, the child sex abuse royal commission has heard.

Former vicar-general of Sydney John Usher told the commission he gave a statement to officers from Strike Force Glenroe in May.

"They told me that the department of police prosecutions, the DPP, had asked them to investigate this Farrell matter," Monsignor Usher, 75, told the commission on Wednesday.

Monsignor Usher's police statement said he did not recall Farrell making any direct admission to committing sexual offences on children during a 1992 meeting with himself and two other priests.

"If he had done so, I would have reported the matters to the appropriate authorities," the statement said.

It contradicts a letter former Armidale priest Wayne Peters wrote to his bishop eight days after the meeting that said Farrell admitted to fondling boys' genitals and performing oral sex on boys.

Monsignor Usher was grilled about the letter at the royal commission on Wednesday.

He maintained Farrell had made no such confession, and suggested Fr Peters had misinterpreted Farrell's talk about his fantasies and the allegations against him as admissions.

Monsignor Usher was taken to a diary note he made after the meeting which said Farrell was "unrepentant regarding his sexual misconduct with children".

He said by "sexual misconduct" he'd meant Farrell taking children to picnics and movies.

National director of Catholic Mission Brian Lucas was also at the meeting with Farrell and also maintains there was no confession.

He told the royal commission this week that he was puzzled by Fr Peters' letter.

Fr Peters died last year but had previously said he stood by the letter.

The commission has heard that by the time of the meeting Farrell had been stood down from public ministry for several months.

Complaints about his abuse of boys first surfaced in 1984 but he was allowed to work in the ministry in Tamworth and Parramatta after a psychologist declared he was not a risk to children.

Farrell was not defrocked until 2005.

The hearing into how church authorities handled the Farrell case is expected to finish on Thursday.

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