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Queensland priest to appeal against jail term

Rockhampton priest Michael McArdle will appeal against his prison term for a string of child sex offences, on the basis that he fully admitted his crimes both before and after sentencing.

The 69-year-old, in jail for six years with a recommendation that he serve just two, is taking his case to Queensland's Appeal Court, where his lawyers will argue the sentence should be cut.

Fr McArdle late last year swore an affidavit saying he went to confession regularly over 25 years to admit his crimes but no action was taken by church officials.

In the affidavit he said he was extremely remorseful for his crimes throughout country Queensland between 1962 and 1988.

The admissions could be used as evidence in a civil case by three of his victims, who are suing the church, seeking $1.5 million each.

In October last year, McArdle pleaded guilty to abusing 16 children, including altar boys and a brother and sister, during three decades as a priest in Mackay, Longreach, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Gin Gin and on Fraser Island.

During sentencing, it was recommended McArdle be eligible for parole after serving a third of the six-year term.

His appeal against the sentence is due to be lodged within the next week.

Meanwhile a Commission investigating clergy sex abuse in Ireland said in a report on Friday that the government and most religious orders are obstructing its work. The commission is specifically investigating Church-run institutions to which the government sent "problem" children and orphans.

Catholic World News reports that the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse said its efforts to investigate abuse complaints by 1712 people - many of them now more than 70 years old - were unreasonably on hold because of bureaucratic and legal delays.

Last September, the commission's chairman, Judge Mary Laffoy, resigned because she said the Education Department was blocking the investigation. The report said only two orders in Ireland had been fully cooperative with the investigation. It said others demanded proof of the allegations first. The commission said this requirement made the investigation "more protracted and costly than it should be."

Jailed priest appeals term (Sunday Mail)
Irish abuse commission says government, religious orders obstructing work (Catholic World News 30/1/04)

Diocese of Rockhampton | Bishop Brian Heenan
Rockhampton bishop asked to quit (22/10/03)
Rockhampton bishop renews apology to priest's victims (10/10/03)
Rockhampton bishop calls meetings to discuss church sex abuse (15/8/02)
Public apology for Rockhampton priest's sex abuse (17/6/02)
Church apologises to abuse victims (The Age)
Church apologises for abuse (The Courier-Mail)
Pope laments 'scandalous behaviour' of some priests (Ananova)
Towards Healing

Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse
Demands for abuse inquiry to be removed from Education (Irish Times 30/1/04)
Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act 2000

3 Feb 2004