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Child abuse royal commission: Melbourne Archbishop defends George Pell, but admits bishops ‘did not do enough’ to remove abusive priests

Child abuse royal commission: Melbourne Archbishop defends George Pell, but admits bishops ‘did not do enough’ to remove abusive priests

By Danny Morgan
November 30,2015
From the Link: Child abuse royal commission: Melbourne Archbishop defends George Pell, but admits bishops ‘did not do enough’ to remove abusive priests

Archbishop Denis Hart

Archbishop Denis Hart

The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne has defended his predecessor, Cardinal George Pell, against allegations he did not properly follow up child sexual abuse complaints against priests.

Denis Hart has told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that during the 1980s and early 1990s senior bishops did not do enough to convince Archbishop Frank Little to remove priests who were molesting children.

Archbishop Hart said it was a complete failure of process on the part of the bishops.

“So that includes Archbishop, now Cardinal, Pell?” he was asked by counsel assisting, Gail Furness SC.

Archbishop Hart replied: “I would exclude him.”

The commission had earlier heard Cardinal Pell, as an auxiliary bishop based in Melbourne in 1989, received complaints about paedophile priest Peter Searson.

Archbishop Hart was questioned on whether Cardinal Pell had done enough to follow them up.

“It’s the case isn’t it that the Auxiliary Bishop was part of a complete failure of process?” Ms Furness asked.

Archbishop Hart said: “He’d have to explain what he did and didn’t know.”

Archbishop Frank Little

Archbishop Frank Little

At one point the Archbishop was challenged on why he had not referred to a series of documents relating to Cardinal Pell’s conduct in his statement to the commission.

Ms Furness: Why aren’t they referred to in your statement?

Archbishop Hart: I’d say that’s just an omission, that’s all.

Ms Furness: A deliberate one?

Archbishop Hart: No

Ms Furness: Inadvertent?

Archbishop Hart: Inadvertent yes.

More women within church ‘might have prevented damage’

During his evidence, Archbishop Hart acknowledged having more women in senior positions within the church might have prevented the damaged caused by paedophile priests.

The commission was told just two of the 31 Catholic archdiocese in Australia have women in senior administrative positions.

Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell

Archbishop Hart said while the numbers were low, the advice of women was increasing sought by senior church officials.

“The movement may be glacial, but it is movement,” he told the hearing.

The Archbishop also acknowledged criticism the Vatican tried to minimise the risk of scandal to the church by initiating a lengthy and complicated process to remove people from the priesthood.

“I would certainly respect that criticism. I know that the people I have been in contact with don’t have that view, but I think it’s a valid criticism,” Archbishop Hart said.

“I would hope that replies from Rome would come more quickly because you’ve got a situation where you’ve stood a priest aside, there is a whole important question of protection of people, and you don’t like to leave it in suspended animation.”

Cardinal Pell is due to give evidence before the commission in mid-December.

Child abuse royal commission: Archbishop Denis Hart admits he was aware of complaints against abusive priest

Child abuse royal commission: Archbishop Denis Hart admits he was aware of complaints against abusive priest

By Danny Morgan
December 1,2015
From the Link: Child abuse royal commission: Archbishop Denis Hart admits he was aware of complaints against abusive priest

Archbishop Denis Hart

Archbishop Denis Hart

The Archbishop of Melbourne has admitted he should have done more to remove a violent priest who was alleged to have sexually abused children.

In 1996 Denis Hart received a complaint that Father Peter Searson, a parish priest, had hit a boy in the head.

Archbishop Hart told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that at the time, he would have checked Searson’s file and been aware of a long list of other complaints, including child sexual abuse.

However, he let Searson remain as parish priest in charge of a local primary school for another four months, only restricting his contact with altar boys.

Archbishop Hart told the hearing that in hindsight, more should have been done at the time.

Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan: You would have realised from the file it wasn’t just that group that was in danger, it was everyone?

Archbishop Denis Hart: I’d have to say that now, your honour, yes.

Justice McClellan: You didn’t realise that then?

Archbishop Hart: Well, I was relying very much on proper advice because there were a number of matters coming across the desk and I think I did what I thought at the time. On reflection, of course I’d have to say more should have been done.

The commission has previously heard that the Melbourne Archdiocese lied about the reasons behind the resignation of some paedophile priests in order to protect its reputation and avoid scandal.

In 1993, a group of senior bishops including Archbishop Frank Little allowed Father Narazeno Fasciale to resign for health reasons, despite knowing the real reason was an admission he had molested children.

In 1996 the Church put out a statement denying it had ever covered-up paedophilia.

Counsel assisting Gail Furness: That’s just a lie in relation to Fasciale, isn’t it?

Archbishop Hart: Well, I think that the facts of what was done and weren’t done put the lie to that sentence.

Ms Furness: And this is 1996. That’s appalling Archbishop, isn’t it?

Archbishop Hart: I think it’s indicative of the mentality.

The commission confirmed Rome-based Cardinal George Pell will give evidence to the hearing on December 16.

It is expected he will be questioned for up to three days on his response to child sexual abuse in his time as Archbishop of Melbourne and earlier in his career in Ballarat.


Sex abuse royal commission: Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart defends role of celibacy in Catholic Church

Sex abuse royal commission: Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart defends role of celibacy in Catholic Church

Updated 26 Aug 2014, 10:02am

From the link:

Pedophile Pimp, Archbishop Denis Hart

Archbishop Denis Hart


The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, has defended the place of celibacy in the church, even though he says it is a burden for some priests.

Archbishop Hart took the stand for a second day at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Melbourne on Tuesday, where he was questioned about the causes of abuse by the clergy.

He told the commission celibacy was fulfilling for many priests.

“I believe that celibacy, supported by prayer… is a wonderful vocation and a wonderful engagement with people,” Archbishop Hart said.

“Once it becomes limited, or once it becomes turned in upon itself, then there is a danger, but celibacy rightly lived and prepared for with proper formation, I do believe has a valid function.

“I’ve had sufficient experience with people who’ve found celibacy a burden and have asked the Pope to dispense them from priesthood.

“But on the other hand, I have a much wider experience of people living a celibate life as priests and finding it fulfilling.”

Archbishop Hart said people who trained in the church had high ideals.

“I’m a celibate, I’m not married, I need to have a link to God in prayer,” he said.

“I need to have a balance in my life of proper friendships with other people.”

He said a priest could develop “wrong attitudes” if any of those things fell aside.

“[If] keeping himself focused on who he is and what he does is being neglected, or relationships with people, there’s not a balanced relationship with a group of people and a person becomes isolated,” he said.

“So that they seek out situations which are plain wrong, and they minimise the consequences of that.”

Abuse victims received almost identical letters

The royal commission heard letters of apology signed by the Archbishop and sent to survivors of child sexual abuse were almost identical.

Archbishop Hart said the reason for the identical letters was that the compensation panel for the Melbourne Response was independent and constrained by confidentiality.

“That has the undesirable effect upon me when I write a letter of apology, that I can only refer to the suffering that they’ve undertaken for the burden, that it may be in fairly general terms,” he said.

“I do read all those letters and my apology is sincere.

“I always read them carefully, and for me it’s an important way of my saying how I am shocked by what has happened, how I share in their pain, but there are limitations about what I can do.”

Archbishop Hart said the church tried to change that in the past year.

“We’ve sought to try and get some minimal information, which wouldn’t be a violation of confidence, that might try and take away the pain that a person who’s suffered might feel if they feel they’re just being fobbed off,” he said.

“That was never my intention, and if that happened, I certainly would apologise for it.

“It was never indicated to me that this was unhelpful, had it been, I would certainly have acted sooner.”


Confession should be excluded from mandatory reporting: Church

The royal commission heard the church believes mandatory reporting of abuse should exclude the confessional.

“If that were to be swept away, and I don’t believe that it can be, the possibility of offenders confessing is completely gone. They just wouldn’t go,” Archbishop Hart said.

“In the present situation, it may be the last opportunity that an offender has to face the reality of his or her offences, to be led by the priest, either to give themselves up or to report and confront the enormity of their crimes.”

He said he saw it as an opportunity for a priest to try to persuade an abuser to report themselves to the police.

“I would see that as a valuable opportunity, because if the person in going to confession has at least shown that amount of good to admit that they’ve done wrong, well then, if the priest can lead them to the consequences of that, well that would be of benefit,” he said.

But Archbishop Hart told the royal commission he did not know if that was happening in reality, because of the secrecy of the confessional.

“I don’t know that it’s happened, I don’t know that it hasn’t happened either,” he said.

He told the inquiry he did not subscribe to the view held by some in the past that the abuse of a child was considered a moral failing, not a crime.

“People sometimes had a greater deal of sympathy for a church person than they should have, and they didn’t sufficiently identify the crime that that person had committed for what it was,” he said.

“I would have to admit that, with what we’ve been doing now shows there was too much of a tendency to minimise the seriousness of the matter, and I repudiate that totally,” he said.

“I would say that these crimes occurred to some degree, and that direct and serious enough action was not taken.”

“There was too much of a tendency to minimise the seriousness of the matter, and I repudiate that totally.”

Archbishop Denis Hart

Celibacy and child abuse: why is the Catholic church pre-empting the royal commission?

Celibacy and child abuse: why is the Catholic church pre-empting the royal commission?

It’s a mistake for the Catholic church to get into debates about its folk devils. It should let the royal commission lead on the question of celibacy and child abuse

Adam Brereton Friday 12 December 2014
From the link:

The representative of the Australian Catholic church to the royal commission into child abuse has claimed that “obligatory celibacy may also have contributed to [child] abuse in some circumstances”.

In their 2014 activity report the Truth Justice and Healing Council also recommended that priests undergo “Ongoing training and development, including psycho-sexual development”.

This has been leapt upon as an admission that the church’s regime of sexual discipline for clergy is broken at best, and at worst, is a factor in producing paedophiles.

“By publicly acknowledging the potential role of celibacy in this way, the report sets an international precedent,” The Australian’s Dan Box reported.

It’s not quite as simple as that. The council’s Francis Sullivan told Guardian Australia that their statement on celibacy – one highly-qualified line in the whole report – was “not research that we’ve done that we’ve now come to an opinion on”.

It was merely the council noting that celibacy had been raised by witnesses and victims at the commission, and by the commissioners themselves.

“If we hadn’t alluded to the potential influence of celibacy in an activity report, we would have been criticised for the glaring obvious – in some people’s eyes,” he said.

“More work needs to be done to substantiate the claim”.

He also acknowledged that many priests might struggle to keep their vow and will need assistance. Obviously a breakdown in celibacy doesn’t always mean abuse. Priests in relationships – some which result in children, then kept secret – are no uncommon occurrence.

Celibacy, Sullivan says, is an important issue for the church to deal with.

Pedophile Pimp, Archbishop Denis Hart

Pedophile Pimp, Archbishop Denis Hart

It’s understandable that much of the nuance might be lost given the report’s contradiction of previous pig-headed statements from Archbishop Denis Hart and others about celibacy in the past

Nevertheless, Box’s story “took off like a fire in dry grass”.

The inclusion of the celibacy line in their activity report is, in my view, a mistake on the part of the council. The royal commission itself has not reported on the issue, except to record some victims’ opinions in an appendix to their interim report.

Sullivan thinks this is “neither here nor there” but the hard work of collating the best academic research on the pathologies of abuse is still being done.

To go out in front of the commission and “put celibacy on the table”, as the council has done, has pre-empted the commission’s own findings into the issue. Sullivan knows it’s among the most contentious and politically sensitive issues in the child abuse debate.

He also acknowledged that “it’s an extraordinarily minor element of the report”, compared to broader discussions of closed clerical culture, obedience, professional standards and the like.

Everyone has an opinion on whether celibacy contributes to clergy-perpetrated child sexual abuse: theologians, clergy, journalists, academics, and the victims themselves. Often views on celibacy are a way of leading into a speaker’s politics regarding the church more broadly, and should accordingly be treated with scepticism.

None of this is to say that celibacy doesn’t lead to abuse. Perhaps it does. But our best hope is for the commission’s researchers and experts to go through the leading academic research and the evidence of those who survived abuse, and to come to the most rigorous conclusion possible.

When I put to him that the council would prefer to talk about celibacy than more substantive issues of justice, Sullivan disagreed. It’s not an attempt “to get a conversation going about the dreaded perpetrators and not the systemic problems in the Catholic church”.

If it’s not a strategy, then it’s an oversight – one that will further contribute to the “trust deficit” Sullivan acknowledges is a feature of church life he “fronts every day”. It raises suspicion of celibate clergy in a way that implies causation when the commission itself has not come to that conclusion.

The ultimate purpose of the various inquiries into child abuse will be to inform a post-commission settlement, and the report deals extensively with what the Catholic church’s contribution to that settlement will look like.

Every time the church buys into discussions about the folk devils of celibacy and the seal of the confessional, making them first-order issues before the evidence says they’re first-order issues, the much more important question is obscured. Namely, what financial and legal mechanisms must be established to secure justice for victims?

Pedophile Pimp, Cardinal George Pell

Pedophile Pimp, Cardinal George Pell

The appearances of Cardinal George Pell and others at the commission this year were a disgrace. Catholic clergy continue to be evasive, rude, dishonest and callous in the witness box. Now that Pell has departed for Rome, there is some clear air to talk about justice.

Sullivan’s council is making an effort to engage constructively in this project. But who’s listening? The council has submitted to the inquiry at every stage and on every issue – something state governments and other organisations haven’t done.

Unless we have no faith in the commission’s processes at all, relentless cynicism of the church and Sullivan’s council is increasingly becoming an ungenerous and unproductive stance to take.

What is the church actually putting forward at this stage, beyond the celibacy question? The report proposes that organisations at fault pay into a national redress scheme, with a levy on public liability insurance to compensate victims of organisations that no longer exist. Payments from the scheme would be capped – one of the criticisms of the failed Catholic church victims’ scheme, Towards Healing.

Any cap would take place “in line with community standards”. I would imagine most members of the community would struggle to agree on what the upper limit should be. Determining one will be largely out of the church’s hands anyway.

Is their proposed scheme the best possible option, or is it a second-rate compromise designed to head off a full-blown raid of clergy abuse survivors on the church’s finances? Parishes in the US are already going bankrupt under the weight of child abuse payouts. A state-by-state statutory redefinition of vicarious liability laws, to make the church responsible for clergy abuse even where no negligence has occurred, is the gold standard. This, and a loosening of the statute of limitations for abuse and the like, could be financially disastrous for the church.

Sullivan denies that the church pursues “what might appear to be prima facie a popular policy” at the expense of a more far-reaching response like this.

But it’s hard to avoid the comments of leading Catholic lawyer Fr Frank Brennan, who has raised the spectre of a legal challenge if any future redefinition of vicarious liability goes ahead: “Ultimately, this will be a matter for the High Court, and not for [commissioner] Justice McClellan.”

It’s also hard to discount that Sullivan’s official position on vicarious liability and other associated issues is to “leave it for the courts”. This could amount to a death sentence for any state-by-state statutory scheme if the high court rules conservatively. That would be a waste of large amounts of political capital, effort and goodwill.

In any case, the commission, as the first rigorous state-run inquiry into institutional abuse in the world, has a duty to get it right. Sullivan and his council are under intense scrutiny, but nonetheless have pledged to contribute constructively to the commission’s work.

“[T]he Catholic Church needs to be more proactive, more on the front foot, more unashamedly committed to truth, justice, transparency and compassion, regardless of what the royal commission might recommend,” Brennan wrote after the release of the commission’s interim report.

Perhaps this is the case. But given the commission is a more rigorous and independent body than the church, it would be best to let it rule on the most contentious issues first.

New sex abuse case rocks church

New sex abuse case rocks church

August 18, 2014 – 1:25AM

By Reporters Cameron Houston and Chris Vedelago

From the Link:

Father Mato Krizanac has been investigated for sex abuse.

Father Mato Krizanac has been investigated for sex abuse.


The Catholic Church has expelled an inner-Melbourne priest after  allegations of sexual impropriety  as the sex abuse royal commission begins its Melbourne hearings into decades of  abuse and alleged cover-ups.

The disclosure that the priest’s alleged victim received a financial settlement from the church and refused to assist police has led to the accusation that the church paid hush money. Father Mato Krizanac, 60, of the Croatian Catholic Centre at St Nicholas’ church in Clifton Hill, was the subject of a 12-month internal investigation by the church’s independent commissioner, Peter O’Callaghan, QC, of the Melbourne Response, and the Archdiocese of Adelaide, where the alleged offences are said to have taken place in the mid 1980s.

Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart told Father Krizanac in June that he would be permanently stripped of all clerical duties,  while parishioners were believed to have been informed at Mass on Sunday.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Melbourne confirmed the allegations had been referred to South Australian police in April 2013 – a month before Father Krizanac was placed on “administrative leave” by the church.

The alleged victim received a financial settlement from the  church, but refused to assist police, who were unable to investigate the matter.

A close friend of Father Krizanac, Anton Vucic, said the Bosnian-born priest was the victim of a vendetta by the church hierarchy, which was trying to “clear the decks” before the royal commission. Mr Vucic claimed the church had paid the alleged victim in a bid to buy her silence.

“They have paid her off and shut her up plus they get rid of a man who has been denied natural justice and due process.

“Father Mato has told me that he can refute the three main allegations against him, but the church refused to listen,” Mr Vucic said.

A spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne denied any attempt by the church to silence the woman, and said the financial settlement was not bound by confidentiality provisions.

Last week, the chief  of the church’s  Truth, Justice and Healing Council,  Francis Sullivan,  said: “The days of the Catholic Church investigating itself are over”.

In a letter to parishioners of the Croatian Catholic Centre at St Nicholas’ Church, Archbishop  Hart said the Archdiocese of Melbourne was “committed to ensuring the protection of all children”.

“When the outcome was conveyed to Father Krizanac, he took the decision to return to Bosnia. I have had numerous communications with His Eminence, Vinko Cardinal Puljic, Archbishop of Vrhbosna, Sarajevo, to insure he was fully informed of the allegations, the process of the investigation and the findings,” Archbishop Hart said in the letter.

Pedophile Pimp, Archbishop Denis Hart

Pedophile Pimp, Archbishop Denis Hart

Fairfax Media can also reveal Father Krizanac, who did not respond to requests for comment, has been accused of misappropriating church funds while serving as a priest in Melbourne for more than 25 years. The Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Adelaide confirmed it had received similar complaints in May 2013. Father Krizanac had been banned from holding Mass for the Croatian community at a Fawkner church, following a dispute with another priest over the distribution of collection plate donations.

As a diocesan priest, Father Krizanac was not bound by the vow of poverty. Title searches reveal he paid $465,000 for an investment property in Fawkner, which was rented out for $380 a week.

In the early 1990s, Father Krizanac was apprehended by Australian Federal Police as he boarded a flight to the former Yugoslavia with several hundred thousand dollars in his luggage that had not been declared to customs. The money was raised by the local Croatian community and AFP officers accepted it was intended for humanitarian purposes in war-torn Bosnia.

The latest scandal to engulf the Catholic Church comes as Cardinal George Pell and Archbishop Hart face scrutiny from the royal commission this week over the church’s Melbourne Response, which was established in 1996 to deal with horrific sexual abuse by clergy.

An interim report released by the royal commission in July revealed more than 1700 private sessions had been held for victims, with the Catholic Church accounting for 61 per cent of all clerical abuse.

Commission chairman Peter McClellan has called for a two-year extension and an additional $104 million in funding from Attorney-General George Brandis, who is still considering the request.

Without more time and funding, the commission has warned, thousands of victims will not have the opportunity to tell their stories.

Christine Foster will be the first person to speak at the commission on Monday. Two of her daughters were attacked by paedophile Catholic priest Father Kevin O’Donnell, who assaulted more than 100 boys and girls over a 50-year period.

Pedophile Pimp, Cardinal George Pell

Pedophile Pimp, Cardinal George Pell


Church ‘better late than never’: Hart

Church ‘better late than never’: Hart


  • AAP
  • May 20, 2013 7:58PM

From the Link:

Pedophile Pimp, Archbishop Denis Hart

Pedophile Pimp, Archbishop Denis Hart

MELBOURNE Archbishop Denis Hart says the Catholic Church taking 18 years to petition for a pedophile priest to be defrocked is “better late than never”.

Father Desmond Gannon was convicted and jailed for sexual offences in 2009 but remains an ordained priest.

A Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse has heard he offended from 1957 to 1979 and was identified to then-Melbourne archbishop George Pell in 1998 as “high risk”.

Yet it wasn’t until 2011 that the Catholic Church in Victoria petitioned Rome for Fr Gannon to be laicised.

Asked at the inquiry on Monday why it had taken so long, current Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart replied “better late than never”.

“It’s not a nice story, I agree with you, and his activities have been most offensive,” Archbishop Hart said.

He blamed Fr Gannon’s incarceration and church law for the delay.

“There would have been very few who would have been laicised forcibly until the late 2000s, until after 2002,” Archbishop Hart said.

“I would say we did what we could.”

He said Rome required a very high standard of proof when it came to defrocking priests.

Pedophile Priest Desmond Gannon

Pedophile Priest Desmond Gannon

“They require absolute certitude as to what took place,” he said.

Pedophile Pimp, Cardinal George Pell

Pedophile Pimp, Cardinal George Pell

When pressed on the fact Fr Gannon had been “convicted, tried and sentenced” Archbishop Hart said: “I’m not proud of that but at least we’re addressing it,” drawing groans from the public gallery.

Archbishop Hart said he was initially told by the Holy See to impose a penal precept, due to Gannon’s extreme age.

He said he wrote again to Rome, insisting Gannon be laicised.

Archbishop Hart wrote that he felt if Fr Gannon wasn’t laicised it would reflect poorly on the church.

“I’m concerned that the good name of the church … could be damaged unless reverend Desmond Gannon is laicised.”


Catholic Church in Australia reveals 620 sex abuse cases

Catholic Church in Australia reveals 620 sex abuse cases

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, September 22, 2012 7:09 EDT

From the link:

The Catholic Church in one Australian state has revealed that at least 620 children have been abused by its clergy since the 1930s, sparking a fresh call Saturday for an independent inquiry.

The Catholic Church in Victoria revealed the number in a submission to a state parliamentary hearing on Friday but said the instances of abuse reported had fallen dramatically from the “appalling” numbers of the 1960s and 1970s.

“It is shameful and shocking that this abuse, with its dramatic impact on those who were abused and their families, was committed by Catholic priests, religious and church workers,” Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart said. (Editors note, Frank LaFerriere: This is the same Archbishop whom covered up the rapes of children by pedophile priests)

The full submission was not released publicly but the church said most of the 620 claims it had upheld over the last 16 years related to incidents 30 to 80 years ago, with very few related to abuse that has taken place since 1990.

Hart said the church had taken steps to redress the issue, including a programme implemented in the 1990s involving an independent investigation, an ongoing programme of counselling and support, and compensation.

“This submission shows how the church of today is committed to facing up to the truth and to not disguising, diminishing or avoiding the actions of those who have betrayed a sacred trust,” he said.

“We acknowledge the suffering and trauma endured by children who have been in the Church’s care, and the effect on their families. We renew our apology to them,” he said in a statement in which he spoke for church leaders in Victoria.

But victims’ supporters say the number of children abused was likely much higher than that confirmed by the church in its own inquiries.

President of the Law Institute of Victoria, Michael Holcroft, said there was a need for more independent investigations.

“Obviously there’s a public perception that the church investigating the church is Caesar judging Caesar and I think that the community is now looking for somebody external, someone independent to get to the bottom of what’s obviously been a big problem for a long, long time,” he told the ABC.

Archbishop Hart said victims were strongly encouraged to go to the police.

“We look to this inquiry to assist the healing of those who have been abused, to examine the broad context of the Church’s response, especially over the last 16 years, and to make recommendations to enhance the care for victims and preventative measures that are now in place,” he said.

The Victorian state government announced the inquiry into the handling of child abuse cases by religious and non-government bodies after the suicides of dozens of people abused by clergy.

Last year Pope Benedict XVI told Australian bishops that their work had been made more difficult by the clerical sex abuse scandal which has rocked the church as he exhorted them to “repair the errors of the past with honesty”.

The pontiff met victims of abuse when he travelled to Sydney in 2008.

Catholic Church cover-up

Catholic Church cover-up

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 20/05/2013

Reporter: Hamish Fitzsimmons

From the link:

The Archibishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, has admitted the church covered up sexual abuse claims against priests and has been slow to act on abuse claims.

The Archibishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, has admitted the church covered up sexual abuse claims against priests and has been slow to act on abuse claims.



EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: The Archbishop of Melbourne has admitted the Church covered up allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

Denis Hart told Victoria’s parliamentary abuse inquiry that the Church takes full responsibility for its actions, but his contrition provided little comfort for abuse victims and their families.

Hamish Fitzsimmons reports from Melbourne on Archbishop Hart’s long-anticipated appearance.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS, REPORTER: Much of the focus of this parliamentary inquiry into abuse by organisations has been on the crimes committed by clergy in the Ballarat region of Central Victoria. But the state’s most senior Catholic was today addressing the situation in the nation’s second largest city.

DENIS HART, ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE: My evidence today will solely refer to the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: The inquiry was told that of the 1,748 priests who’ve worked in Victoria, less than four per cent have been sexual offenders – 59 priests according to Archbishop Hart. At the same time, the Archbishop recognises the damage that’s been done to the 300 victims recorded in Melbourne so far

DENIS HART: I acknowledge that our incapacity to see and to react to this situation in a timely way has given rise to the need for this inquiry. I understand that the community is looking for someone to take responsibility for the terrible acts that occurred. I take responsibility.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: The head of Melbourne’s Catholics admitted one of his predecessors, Frank Little, who’s now dead, covered up abuse claims and kept no record of them, something Archbishop Hart agreed had been systemic in the past

ANDREA COOTE, ABUSE INQUIRY: Your church systemically covered up paedophile priests knowing full well that that’s what they were.

DENIS HART: I do recognise that and I do accept that.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Archbishop Hart was questioned at length about why it’s taken so long for the Church to act against paedophile priest Father Des Gannon who’s been jailed twice for sex offences against children while working in Melbourne.

GEORGIE CROZIER, ABUSE INQUIRY CHAIRWOMAN: So you’re saying he lost his faculties in 1993, is that correct?

DENIS HART: Yes. That’s right.

GEORGIE CROZIER: And it took till 2011 – 18 years – for you to contact Rome?

DENIS HART: Well, there would be very few who would have been laicized forcibly until the late 2000s, until after 2002. And we were quite determined to get something done about Gannon and we are still determined.

GEORGIE CROZIER: 18 years, 19 years later.

DENIS HART: Well, better late than never.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: As Archbishop Hart was reading his final statement to the inquiry, victims, their families and their supporters staged a dramatic walkout from the committee room where the hearing was being held. For many who’ve had to deal with the Catholic Church over the years over their abuse claims, an apology won’t be enough, and they’re hoping that this inquiry will lead to dramatic change.

ANTHONY FOSTER, ANTI-ABUSE CAMPAIGNER: What we heard today was a continuation of the same theme that we’ve been hearing about out of the Church for at least 15 years. It’s been the same story, the same defences, the same lame arguments from them time and time again. I think this committee’s heard them. I think we will see this committee cut through those defences and we expect great changes.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: The inquiry has one more public hearing left and it’s probably the most anticipated. Next Monday the former Archbishop of Melbourne, Cardinal George Pell, who’s now Archbishop of Sydney, will give evidence.

Hamish Fitzsimmons, Lateline.