Australian archbishop faces questions over handling of abuse allegations

Monsignor Mark B Coleridge Bishop of the Archdiocese of Brisbane at a press conference on the Synod of Bishops Oct 19 2015 Credit Bohumil Petrik CNA 10 19 15 Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane speaks at a Vatican press conference, Oct. 19, 2015. | Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane is being investigated by his former archdiocese over his alleged handling of information on child sex abuse given him by a woman during a 2006 meeting.

As president of the Australian bishops' conference, Coleridge attended the Feb. 21-24 Vatican summit on the protection of minors in the Church.

Guardian Australia reported Feb. 25 that "the complaint against Coleridge relates to a 2006 meeting with a Canberra woman who had offered information about child sexual abuse."

The woman was relating information about abuse in the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn. Coleridge was appointed Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn in June of that year, and was installed Aug. 17.

According to Guardian Australia, it is alleged Coleridge called the woman a gossip "and acted agressively towards her."

Coleridge has denied the allegations.

A representative of the the Canberra-Goulburn archdioese told Guardian Australia it is conducting an independent investigation, but progress has been delayed because the woman is not participating: "Archbishop Mark Coleridge cooperated with the investigation and strongly refuted the allegations. When [the complainant] was invited to cooperate with the independent investigation, she chose not to engage with the process. She has instead chosen to take these allegations to the media, which is deeply disappointing."

The Archdiocese of Sydney has also been made aware of the allegations.

Coleridge was born in 1948, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Melbourne in 1974, where he then became auxiliary bishop in 2002. He was Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn from 2006 to 2012, when he was transferred to the Archdiocese of Brisbane.

He gave a homily at a Mass in the Vatican's Sala Regia Feb. 24 at the conclusion of the child abuse summit, during which he said that "at times we have seen victims and survivors as the enemy. We have been our own worst enemy."

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