A low-ranking parish priest who agreed to give evidence against an archbishop accused of concealing child sexual abuse was mysteriously summoned to the Vatican before he was due to testify and allegedly quizzed by the Pope about what he was planning to say in court.
As the priest emerged from the 2016 meeting, Cardinal George Pell was allegedly waiting outside. “Look what I have done for you,” Cardinal Pell said, and lifted his hand for the priest to kiss his ring.
According to The Altar Boys by investigative reporter Suzanne Smith, there’s no allegation Cardinal Pell intended to put pressure on Father Glen Walsh not to give evidence.
The explosive claim about the papal meeting, contained in The Altar Boys, indicates that the pressure brought to bear on priests who betray the brotherhood extends right up to the Vatican, and has prompted calls for a police investigation.
Father Walsh was a Crown witness in the case against Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson when he met with the pontiff on February 9, 2016.
Archbishop Wilson was accused of failing to report to police the allegations of two former altar boys who claimed they had been abused by a priest in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese in the 1970s. At the time he was the highest-ranking Catholic ever to be charged with concealment offences.
Father Walsh later told confidants that the Pope asked him why he was involved in a court case against an archbishop, what he was planning to say in court, and who was walking with him on the journey. Father Walsh said he did not trust the interpreter and offered scant detail.
It was the pinnacle of what Father Walsh perceived as a sustained campaign by the priesthood to get him to toe the line on child sexual abuse. He was allegedly frozen out of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese after he defied the bishop to report a fellow priest for child sexual abuse in 2004 and was not welcomed back until early 2017.
But on October 24, 2017 – a little over two weeks before the archbishop’s trial was set down – Newcastle-Maitland Bishop Bill Wright told Father Walsh he had no future in the diocese, according to an email Father Walsh sent to a friend. The email didn’t say that this decision was because of his giving evidence.
“[Bishop Wright] will look overseas (Third World) where I can live out my days in the service to Christ and his poor, preferably as a contemplative to a leper colony,” Father Walsh wrote.
Two weeks later, before he could give evidence, Father Walsh took his own life.
Archbishop Philip Wilson was found guilty of concealment charges in May 2018 on evidence that included statements by Father Walsh, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said the book’s revelations showed the need for a police inquiry into Father Walsh’s death that would consider the actions of the Catholic hierarchy, including Pope Francis.
“Pope Francis must explain why he recalled Father Glen [Walsh], one of more than 400,000 priests from across the world, to the Vatican to answer questions about what his evidence would be in the criminal prosecution of Archbishop Wilson,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“Given the Pope’s authority over Glen, these actions can clearly be seen as an effort to intimidate him in order to protect the church.”
Bob O’Toole of the Clergy Abused Network, who wants a coronial inquiry into more than 70 alumni of Newcastle’s Catholic high schools who have taken their lives, said Father Walsh had been treated appallingly in the lead-up to his death.
“It’s entirely inappropriate for Glen to be instructed to take a trip to the Vatican to speak to the Pope about what his evidence will entail,” Mr O’Toole said.
Cardinal George Pell and Bishop Bill Wright were approached for comment.
Ot looks as if Father Walsh was treated disgracefully by Francis and others in the church.
Those who harassed Fr Walsh are surely guilty in Australian law of attempts to disrupt the course of justice.
The RCC hierarchy have told us they have changed and they now “get it” when it comes to abuse.
Thats a lie.
They are liars.
Anyone who covers up abuse is a deliberate and accomplished and professional liar.
The lives of the abused don’t matter.
The life of Father Walsh doesn’t matter.
What matters is the preservation of the “reputation” of the RCC and, of course, its monies.
A line from todays gospel sums it up.
Get behind me Satan.