Victim Hits Church Silence on Sex Attack

By Ellen Whinnett
The Mercury [Australia]
August 13, 2003

THE Catholic Church in Tasmania has refused to tell its congregation that a priest sexually assaulted a woman because "the community was unaware of the event and had therefore not been harmed".

The woman who was assaulted said she was horrified by the decision.

"How do they know the community is unaware of it. There might be other victims out there," she said.

The woman, who does not want to be identified, was indecently assaulted by the priest in 1983. The priest has since died.

In 2002, the woman told the church of her experiences and an independent assessor was appointed to examine the evidence.

As a result of the assessor's finding, the Archbishop of Hobart, the Most Reverend Adrian Doyle, wrote to the woman apologising for the abuse.

On March 14, he wrote to the woman advising that: "I accept the conclusions of the assessor and I deeply regret the fact that a priest of this archdiocese committed a sexual assault of this kind.

"Behaviour of this kind is totally unacceptable at any time and more so on the part of a priest.

"I deeply regret that this abuse by a priest has occurred."

The woman, who received counselling from the church, then asked for a review, saying the correct processes had not been followed and asked that the church advise the congregation of the finding and the priest's name.

Archbishop Doyle's next letter shows the church refused to tell the congregation.

"I notified you that the assessor's conclusion was that "on the evidence we have gathered, we believe it is possible that (the priest) may have committed a sexual assault on the complainant as she alleges," Archbishop Doyle responded.

"In a letter dated April 25, you stated that he `had been found to be guilty of sexual assault'.

"Given the inclusion of the two words underlined above, the assessor's statement is a much less definite one than yours.

"However, in the absence of the possibility of any counter-claim by (the priest), I accepted that your claim that this action occurred and apologised."

Archbishop Doyle then commented that: "To make a public accusation when the matter was not in the public domain would harm a community which is totally unaware of the event and therefore has not been hurt."


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