Lawyers acting for a victim of one of Australia's worst paedophile Catholic priests believe there are likely to be more young girls affected by his actions living in New Zealand.

Father Denis McAlinden was one of two priests at the centre of NSW's special commission of inquiry into child abuse allegations in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

The commission found McAlinden had "a history of sexually abusing children during five decades".

Maureen O'Hearn, the Maitland-Newcastle diocese co-ordinator for healing and support, told a commission of inquiry in 2013 that she had dealt with around 28 of his victims, who were mostly young girls.

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The earliest reported incident of sexual abuse by him was in 1949 and the latest in 1996.

He was from Ireland but also lived in Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.

McAlinden was "loaned" to parishes in Hamilton before he was appointed the Parish Priest of Tokomaru Bay, Gisborne. He arrived in New Zealand on March 2, 1984, and left on December 7, 1984.

However, he earlier visited the country for 12 days in November 1983.

Disturbingly, where McAlinden travelled on that visit in 1983 and if he offended is currently unknown.

An excerpt of Priest Cotter's letter to Bishop Clarke in 1976 confirming they knew Father Denis McAlinden had a predilection for abusing young girls. Photo / Supplied.
An excerpt of Priest Cotter's letter to Bishop Clarke in 1976 confirming they knew Father Denis McAlinden had a predilection for abusing young girls. Photo / Supplied.
Priest Patrick Cotter writes how Father Denis McAlinden confessed but went on to add
Priest Patrick Cotter writes how Father Denis McAlinden confessed but went on to add "it cannot be real serious".

Lawyer Nick Kitchin, of Canberra-based Ken Cush and Associates, has recently placed more advertisements in New Zealand newspapers seeking "witnesses" - or victims - of McAlinden to come forward, the second push for victims in the past 18 months.

Kitchin told the Herald their appeal in January last year was to find witnesses to support a client's claim.

"Nobody has come forward as yet, but our client's claim continues.

"We understand that responding to such calls for witnesses can be quite difficult for people, particularly if they themselves were a victim of abuse, but they may feel that now is the right time for them to do so."

Kitchin said they knew McAlinden abused children "in a range of locations".

"As Parish Priest of Tokomaru he would have travelled around the East Coast of the North Island and very likely left a trail of abuse behind him.

"If people are out there who came into contact with McAlinden, and would like to talk to us about their experience or the experience of others, in strict confidence, we would like to hear their story."

Revealed during the commission's inquiry, was a letter written by Monsignor Patrick Cotter in 1976 confirming they knew McAlinden had a predilection for touching young girls.

He wrote to senior Bishop Clarke, "Fr. Mac has an inclination to interfere [touching only] with young girls - aged perhaps 7 to 12 or so".

"On examination this is found to be factual. Having dealt with the people I had a long session with Fr. Mac at the Presbytery.

"I have never heard of this condition before and knowing Fr. Mac as we do, we think it cannot be real serious, nor do we believe that there is any danger of a development into assault or rape."

Cotter added he was writing to get approval from Clarke to accept McAlinden's resignation and let him move to a parish in Western Australia.

The letter proved that the diocese knew about McAlinden's habit of abusing children but did nothing about it.

He would instead continue sexually abusing children for 20 years.

Nick Kitchin's advertisement appealing for more witnesses/victims to come forward.
Nick Kitchin's advertisement appealing for more witnesses/victims to come forward.

* Nick Kitchin can be reached at nick.kitchin@kencush.com.au or through the details in the above advertisement.