Editorial: March 27, 2019
When your own handling of matters of truth are in question, it pays not to attempt to cover yourself with falsehoods.
Last week, the Illawarra Mercuryrevealed a prominent Wollongong priest Father Ron Peters had been charged with historical indecent assaults.
We revealed the 61-year-old, who was chair of the Diocesan Schools Council and works in many Illawarra school communities, had been charged with three counts.
Until we reported this information, parents and the local community were blissfully unaware even though he'd been suspended by the church.
We sought answers, all to no avail, from the Wollongong Diocese on how parents and students would be informed of Father Ron's status and whether counselling was being made available.
A full 24 hours after our story broke, the Diocese's Director of Schools Peter Turner sent out a letter to parents informing them of the situation with Father Ron.
The letter, signed by Mr Turner, contained this claim: "In the past 24 hours, newspaper and Illawarra-based television media have named a priest of the diocese as the person charged by police in relation to alleged indecent assault against a 15-year-old boy in 1993.
"The disclosure of any name in matters such as this is inappropriate because it both potentially breaches the right to privacy of the person who has brought forward the complaint, and is possibly damaging and prejudicial to the legal process."
That statement is wrong.
It could not be more incorrect if it tried.
The identification of the priest does not breach the privacy of the complainant or jeopardise any legal process.
If it did so on either count, we wouldn't have published it.
To suggest so is either mischievous, ignorant or an attempt to divert attention from the fact the Diocese's own handling of the matter is being called into question.
Perhaps the Diocese could learn a thing or two from the direct approach Edmund Rice College took in addressing the matter.