Wollongong Catholic Bishop Peter Ingham erred by not making public the reasons behind the 2008 defrocking of priest John Gerard Nestor, the Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse has found.
In a damning set of nine findings handed down on Friday, the royal commission takes aim at the Catholic Church and some of its officials for not making notes of potentially incriminating internal meetings with Nestor, and for the five years it took for an internal appeal process to run its course.
The royal commission further found the decision by some clergy to have Nestor publicly participate in church services "undermined" the efforts of other priests to protect children.
Nestor was convicted of aggravated indecent assault in 1997, and acquitted seven months later.
He denied the central allegation in the case against him, that he slept on the same mattress as a 15-year-old altar boy.
He was defrocked by decree of the Pope in 2008, after further allegations surfaced and after long periods on administrative leave.
Bishop Ingham gave evidence to the commission that he did not make Nestor's dismissal public because of Nestor's "threatening attitude", and because those who were affected were informed directly. He also noted the matter had been "off the radar" for some time.
But the royal commission found the bishop "should have made it known publicly that Nestor had been dismissed from the clerical state because of the findings of child sexual abuse and other inappropriate conduct made against him".
In 1993 Bishop William Murray, who has died, asked Father Brian Lucas, a member of the Catholic Church's NSW Special Issues Resource Group, to interview Nestor about the allegations against him.
The report found Fr Lucas should have made notes of the meeting. Not doing so meant there were no records "of any admissions or criminal conduct" available in subsequent investigations or court proceedings.
"An outcome of Father Lucas' practice of not taking notes ... was to ensure that there was no written record of any admissions of criminal conduct in order to protect the priest or religious concerned and the Church, which for the priest may have included criminal proceedings."
The royal commission found the efforts of some in the Catholic Church to protect children were undermined by Fathers Mark O'Keefe (Unanderra) and Patrick Vaughan (Ruse), who invited Nestor to publicly celebrate Mass while he was on administrative leave in the late 1990s.
The report is the result of a June inquiry concerning events between 1996 and 2009.