A leaked document shows Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey rejected recommendations when he was Archbishop of Perth to move a priest accused of child sex abuse to a ministry without a school.
The West Australian has obtained a confidential document written by Archbishop Hickey, who retired this year. It referred to Father Richard Joseph Doyle, who is now retired.
The report was signed in June 2000 and was a response to an internal assessment regarding Father Doyle, who, it stated, was the subject of child sex abuse allegations.
The assessment found there was no evidence to support a claim that a "small boy" was abused in Bruce Rock but that "on the balance of probabilities there are grounds to the complaint in respect of the girls", relating to women who said Father Doyle dealt with them inappropriately when they were children.
It concluded that because Father Doyle's attraction to young girls "continues to this day", he should be removed from his parish and placed in another ministry where there was no school.
But in Archbishop Hickey's response, he rejected those recommendations, stating that nothing indicated the schoolchildren were at risk and moving Father Doyle would not deny him access to children.
Archbishop Hickey wrote that an incident at a Moore River holiday home - over which Father Doyle was later charged but acquitted - "was not provoked by Father Doyle" and the allegations of the women about events many years earlier spoke "mainly to the overt affection of Father Doyle towards the young girls, never about sexual abuse as such".
"Interpretations were being made about Father Doyle that may not be correct," Archbishop Hickey wrote.
In 2006, Father Doyle was charged with two counts of indecently dealing with a child under 13, relating to the Moore River incident.
The complainant had reported the matter to police in late 2005. The jury in the first trial was unable to reach a verdict and Father Doyle was acquitted after a second trial.
During the 2007 trial, the court was told Father Doyle invited the then seven-year-old girl and her family to holiday at his beach shack at Moore River in 1983 or 1984.
The complainant claimed Father Doyle asked her into his bedroom while her parents were asleep to scratch his back, and that he then touched her indecently.
Father Doyle told the court there was an incident but he did not invite the girl into his bed. He denied touching her. Father Doyle told the court he regretted allowing the girl to lie with him in his bed.
He did not tell the girl's parents about the incident at the time.
He admitted writing to the girl's father in 1993, suggesting the girl receive financial compensation.
Archbishop Hickey could not be reached for comment yesterday.