Boys ‘telling lies’: priest

Former NSW priest John Farrell claimed boys in his old parish of Moree were telling lies and were "out to get him" when he was confronted about child sex abuse allegations, a royal commission has heard.

Senior Catholic Church figure Brian Lucas said Father Farrell was defensive and evasive at a 1992 meeting with senior priests who had been tasked with persuading Fr Farrell to leave the church.

"(He made) reference to the boys in Moree that he said were all making up lies and telling lies about him, were out to get him and things like that," Fr Lucas told the child sex abuse royal commission on Tuesday.

"I was never sure ... whether it was fantasy or truth. He was just very defensive and evasive was my impression of his demeanour."

Fr Lucas, the national director of Catholic Mission, repeatedly stated that while he came away from the meeting with the impression Fr Farrell was guilty of some wrongdoing, there were no specific admissions.

The statement directly contradicts another priest's letter to the then-bishop of Armidale, which said Fr Farrell made detailed confessions to abusing five boys in the early 1980s.

Fr Lucas said if the letter was true "we would have got him out of the church and that would be the end of it".

"I cannot make sense of that letter," he said.

Senior priests had two further meetings with Fr Farrell to persuade him to apply for laicisation (defrocking), the commission heard.

Fr Farrell had been reluctant to accept a plan to get him out of the church and was concerned about money, as the clergy was his only source of income. Fr Lucas said he was told the harm he was causing to the church and the priesthood would continue if he didn't leave, but he was in denial.

"He couldn't understand rationally the ridiculous position he was in."

The commission has previously heard Farrell was laicised from the priesthood in 2005 after being stood down in 1992 following a series of child sex abuse allegations against him, the commission heard.

Farrell's 2005 application for dispensation from the priesthood contains claims of drunkenness and "wild sexual activity" at St Patrick's College in Manly when he was studying to become a priest in the late 1970s.

The commission has also previously heard Fr Farrell told a bishop children "enjoyed" sexual activity and asked the Catholic Church for a $25,000 loan at the same time he was being blackmailed by one of his victims.

Farrell, 63, was sentenced to a minimum jail term of 18 years in May after being convicted of 62 offences involving 12 children in Moree, Armidale and Tamworth between 1979 and 1988. The inquiry continues on Wednesday.

- AAP, Rachel Browne

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