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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

Child sex abuse royal commission: Child abuse claims in Victoria cost Catholic Church $34m, inquiry hears

Child sex abuse royal commission: Child abuse claims in Victoria cost Catholic Church $34m, inquiry hears

Updated Tue at 1:59pm

From the link:

Child abuse claims in Victoria since 1996 have cost the Catholic Church more than $34 million, an inquiry has heard.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is investigating the church’s so-called Melbourne Response to allegations of child sexual abuse by its clergy.

Pedophile Pimp, Cardinal George Pell

Pedophile Pimp, Cardinal George Pell

The scheme was introduced by Cardinal Pell when he was Melbourne’s archbishop in 1996, and was a first of its kind.

It allowed anyone allegedly abused by priests or others under the authority of the archbishop to have what the church called “an independent commissioner” to investigate their claims and make findings.

Compensation from the scheme was originally capped at $50,000 before being lifted to $75,000, with the cap a subject of contention among victims and their advocates.

Counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness SC said data from the Archdiocese of Melbourne showed abuse claims had cost the church more than $34 million.

“The total of ex gratia payments made under the Melbourne Response for child sexual abuse claims and amounts paid for medical counselling and treatment amounted to $17.295 million,” Ms Furness said.

“The cost of administering the Melbourne Response was $17.011 million.”

She told the commission victims had received larger payments by going outside of Melbourne Response scheme.

“The average compensation payment amount paid is $36,100,” she said.

“(A total of) $3,187 for those claims settled within the response, $168,000 for those that began within the Melbourne Response but settled outside, and just short of $300,000 for those outside the Melbourne Response.

“Since the cap increased to $75,000, the total amount of compensation paid to 65 victims of child sexual abuse has been $3.3 million, the average compensation payment being just over $50,000.”

Ms Furness told the inquiry that ex gratia payments made under the Melbourne Response scheme did not constitute an admission of liability.

“In announcing the Melbourne Response, it was stated that the establishment of the compensation panel and the offer of ex-gratia compensation payments were not an admission of liability,” she said.

“The archbishop, the archdiocese and the church, in the document recording the Melbourne Response, did not accept that they had any legal obligation to make payments to complainants.”

The hearings were interrupted after lunch by a power outage in the area.

Couple whose daughter died pulled out of ‘Melbourne Response’

Christine Foster, the mother of victims of Catholic Church abuse, was the first witness to take the stand this morning.

Two of Christine and Anthony Foster’s three daughters were assaulted by a Catholic priest while in primary school. One subsequently committed suicide.

Father Kevin McDonough

Pedophile Father Kevin McDonough

Ms Furness said Mrs Foster would give evidence that “Emma and Katie were abused by their parish priest, Father Kevin O’Donnell, when they were students at Sacred Heart primary school” and that the abuse continued in their early years at primary school and beyond.

“Neither Mrs Foster nor Anthony were aware of the abuse at the time it occurred,” she said.

Mrs Foster then gave harrowing details of the impact of O’Donnell’s sexual abuse of her two daughters.

She said Emma, who suffered from anorexia, and had at least 900 doctor, specialist and pathology visits, at least 75 outpatient psychology appointments, and more than 50 admissions to hospital, detox and rehabilitation clinics, before taking her own life in 2008.

Katie took to binge drinking to escape the memories of her abuse.

Mrs Foster said she was hit by a car after binge drinking in 1999 and now required 24-hour care.

Mrs Foster told the commission that church leaders appeared “stand-offish” and did not appear to want to listen to concerned parents at a meeting.

She said the family initially participated in the Melbourne Response scheme.

“Nothing about this process was transparent,” Ms Foster said.

They received an offer of $50,000 for Emma, which was then the maximum, which Emma accepted, although she did not sign the trust deed.

“We told Emma not to accept the offer as we knew this would end all her rights,” Mrs Foster said.

The Fosters later decided to pursue legal action against the Catholic Church, instead of continuing through the Melbourne Response scheme.

Mrs Foster said she was shocked to discover the defendants did not admit that Emma and Katie had been sexually abused.

They eventually reached an out-of-court settlement, of $750,000 plus costs, believed to be the largest compensation payout of its kind in Australia.

Six months after Emma’s death, the Fosters were accused of “dwelling crankily on old wounds”.

Mrs Foster told the commission she believed they settled for an amount of money that was far less than what their children were entitled to.

She and her husband wanted the cap on payments removed and all past claims reviewed.

One priest the subject of 19pc of compensation claims

The commission heard O’Donnell’s actions accounted for almost a fifth (19 per cent) of all compensation paid by the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.

The archdiocese paid people who were abused by O’Donnell $1,886,100 through the Melbourne Response scheme, up to March this year, the commission was told.

Other complaints about O’Donnell, who was a parish priest in Oakleigh, have been settled outside the scheme.

The total amount of compensation and counselling costs paid in relation to O’Donnell is $2,934,390.

The two institutions subject to the largest number of complaints are the Sacred Heart Primary School and the Sacred Heart Parish in Oakleigh.

Church asked me to sign away rights: witness

The commission also heard that Melbourne priest, Father Victor Rubeo, targetted two generations of one family.

Paul Hersbach gave evidence about the behaviour of Rubeo, who lived at times with him and his family.

Pedophile Priest Father Victor Rubeo (C) abused both Paul Hersbach (L) and his father Tony.

Pedophile Priest Father Victor Rubeo (C) abused both Paul Hersbach (L) and his father Tony.

He told the commission that the abuse started when he was about seven years old, when Rubeo would come into his bedroom and sit on the bed, or would watch him and his brother when they were naked in the bath.

He told the commission that Rubeo would shower him and his brother with gifts, including computers, a CD player and a go-kart.

Mr Hersbach testified that Rubeo had his own room at the Hersbach home at one stage and was involved in every aspect of the family’s lives – he opened the mail, paid the bills and bought groceries

“I thought it was normal,” he told the court.

Mr Hersbach testified that his father, Tony Hersbach, was abused decades earlier when he was an altar boy.

After his father made a complaint about his own abuse, Mr Hersbach said, Rubeo asked him to repay the $10,000 he given the family for the house.

In 1996 Rubeo pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting Mr Hersbach’s father and uncle.

Fresh charges were laid in 2010, but Rubeo died on the day he was due in court for his committal in 2011.

Paul Hersbach met with Peter O’Callaghan QC, a commissioner under the Melbourne response scheme, after disclosing his own abuse in 2006.

He said Mr O’Callaghan told him he could go to the police if he wanted, but based on what Mr Hersbach had told him, he did not think anything would happen.

Mr Hersbach did not approach the police.

He later received a compensation offer of $17,500.

“The Catholic Church has taken so much from me,” Mr Hersbach said.

“It had complete and utter control of my life.”

He said the irony was that just as he took action against the church, but was then asked to sign away his rights to take further action against them as part of the deed of settlement in which he received $17,500 in compensation.

Melbourne Response upheld 326 complaints since 1996

Ms Furness said Melbourne Archdiocese data revealed that 351 complaints had been made under the Melbourne Response scheme since it began in 1996.

“Of these complaints, 326 were upheld by an independent commissioner, nine were not upheld and 16 are currently defined as being undetermined,” she said.

“The undetermined claims are either dormant, ongoing, the complainant is deceased, or the complainant is described as considering civil proceedings.”

Of the 326 upheld complaints, the data showed 80 per cent occurred between 1950 and 1980 inclusive, 14 per cent occurred between 1981 and 1990, and 2 per cent related to alleged incidents between 1991 and 2006, Ms Furness said.

The remaining 4 per cent related to incidents between 1937 and 1949, she said.

She said 77 individuals had been named as the subject of one or more of the upheld complaints.

“Of these, just over half, 42, are known by the archbishop to be dead,” she said.

She said 84 per cent of complaints heard by the Melbourne Response scheme were about priests.

Topics: child-abuse, royal-commissions, catholic, community-and-society, melbourne-3000

First posted Mon at 10:17am