Priest stands down amid sexual misconduct probe
Catholic priest John Fleming is standing down from his duties and pledging full cooperation as the church and police investigate alleged sexual misconduct.
In a written statement, he denied ever engaging in sexual behaviour with a minor.
Father Fleming said he was shocked and sickened by claims made by three people in weekend newspapers.
The Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide asked the priest to return from Sydney to deal with the allegations dating back three decades.
The church has hired a high-profile lawyer for its inquiry.
Father Fleming has been one of the most recognisable faces in church circles for years; a keen debater on subjects from ethics to the monarchy.
He quit as an Anglican in the 1980s to join the Catholic Church, becoming one of only a few married Catholic priests.
For the past three years he has been head of Campion College, a Catholic learning centre in Sydney’s west.
Adelaide’s Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson has sought his return to Adelaide.
“I am aware of the serious allegations that have been made,” he said.
Police probe first
The reported claims are of sexual misconduct with an underage girl dating back to the 1970s.
An investigation by the Anglican Church is on hold, pending the result of police inquires.
The Catholic Church has hired a senior QC Michael Abbott to conduct its own inquiry into how the church has dealt with the claims.
“We will place no limits on the extent of his investigations,” a statement said.
A spokesman for Cardinal George Pell in Sydney has confirmed he wrote to the claimant and told her to contact police.
He also referred the matter back to the Catholic Church in South Australia.
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