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NSW bishop apologises over abuse


Bishop Michael Malone of the regional Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has apologised to the victims of a priest who was yesterday convicted of child sex abuse.

The Daily Telegraph reports that an East Maitland court yesterday found Fr James Fletcher guilty of nine charges relating to sexual abuse with a minor.

"As bishop of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, I apologise profoundly to the victims, who cannot be named, and the victims' family and friends for the immense pain and suffering caused by Fr Fletcher's criminal actions," he said in a statement.

"Sexual abuse is a serious crime and cannot be tolerated.

"Because of these criminal actions, Fr Fletcher will not return to the ministry."

Bishop Malone said a toll-free number has been set up so people could discuss their feelings with trained counsellors.

Those who wanted help or information in relation to abuse could contact the police or the church's Towards Healing process, he said.

Fr Fletcher, who is in his early 60s and used to work in Branxton parish, was yet to be sentenced and there was another matter yet to go before court, he said.

SOURCE
Bishop apologises over abuse (Daily Telegraph/AAP 6/12/04)

LINKS
Statement from Bishop Michael Malone re Fr James Fletcher (Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle 6/12/04)
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference - Towards Healing

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7 Dec 2004