Former NSW priest John Farrell claimed boys in his old parish of Moree were telling lies and were “out to get him” when he was confronted about child sex abuse allegations, a royal commission has heard.
Senior Catholic Church figure Brian Lucas aid Father Farrell was defensive and evasive at a 1992 meeting with senior priests, who’d been tasted with persuading Father Farrell to leave the church.
“(He made) a reference to the boys in Moree that he said were all making up lies and telling lies about him, were out to get him and things like that,” Fr Lucas told the child sex abuse royal commission on Tuesday.
“I was never sure… whether it was fantasy or truth. He was just very defensive and evasive was my impression of his demeanour."
Fr Lucas, the national director of Catholic Mission, repeatedly stated that while he came away from the meeting with the impression Fr Farrell was guilty of some wrongdoing, there were no specific admissions.
The statement directly contradicts another priest’s letter to the then-bishop of Armidale which said Fr Farrell made detailed confessions to abusing five boys in the early 1980s.
Fr Lucas said if the letter was true “we would have got him out of the church and that would be the end of it.”
“I cannot make sense of that letter,” he said.
Senior priests had two further meetings with Fr Farrell to persuade him to apply for laicisation (defrocking), the commission heard.
Fr Farrell had been reluctant to accept a plan to get him out of the church and was concerned about money, as the clergy was his only source of income.
Fr Lucas said he was told the harm he was causing to the church and the priesthood would continue if he didn’t leave, but he was in denial.
“He couldn’t understand rationally the ridiculous position he was in.”
The commission had previously heard Fr Farrell wasn’t defrocked until 2005.
The inquiry continues on Wednesday.