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NSW bishop announces Vincentian priest suspension

Bishop Michael Malone of Maitland-Newcastle has suspended a Vincentian engaged in parish work in his diocese following a complaint from a member of the public that he is unfit for ministry with children.

Fr Guy Hartcher, who has served as Administrator of Gresford and Dungog Parishes, was withdrawn from active ministry as of Sunday. The circumstances relate to further information pertaining to charges against him in the 1990s. In 1993 Fr Hartcher was accused of sexual abuse against two students at a secondary school outside the diocese where he was teaching between 1971 and 1974. Both these allegations were investigated by the Police. Fr Hartcher maintained his innocence throughout the investigations. He was tried and acquitted by the Court in 1997.

Bishop Malone said a person scanning the Internet found reference to these historic matters and concluded that Fr Hartcher was unfit for ministry with children. This person made a formal complaint to Police. Bishop Malone said that until these matters are independently investigated, Fr Hartcher will be withdrawn from active ministry.

He stressed that the Diocese is "committed to ensuring a safe environment for all children", hence its response to these matters must follow strict protocol.

"I shall visit you as soon as practicable to speak with you and to try to address your concerns," he said, also announcing the availability of Centacare counsellors and a toll-free contact number.

A Message to Parishioners of Dungog and Gresford Parishes (Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle 4/9/04)

Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
Priest jailed for collecting internet porn (Independent Catholic News 6/9/04)
Activist hits churches' slow response to abuse (The Mercury 7/9/04)
Anglican Church in damage control again (ABC Radio AM 6/9/04)

7 Sep 2004