Church Apologises to Abuse Victims

Ninemsn [Australia]
Downloaded October 9, 2003

The Catholic Church apologised to victims of a priest who sexually abused at least 16 children over 22 years.

Michael Joseph McArdle, 68, was jailed for six years but may be free after serving two following a recommendation by Queensland District Court judge Warren Howell that he serve one-third of his sentence.

The Brisbane hearing, at which McArdle pleaded guilty to 62 counts of indecent dealings with children, was told the paedophile had simply been transferred to another parish each time he confessed to preying on children.

Brian Heenan, the Catholic Bishop of Rockhampton, said he deeply regretted a former priest of his diocese had betrayed the trust put in him "with such tragic consequences".

"I apologise unreservedly to anyone who has been harmed," Bishop Heenan said in a statement.

"I have come to appreciate more and more what a devastating effect sexual abuse has on victims and their families, although only those victimised could really know the pain."

Bishop Heenan said the church's desire to reach out and support the victims and their families was sincere.

"The needs of the victims are our primary concern. I cannot change the past but a terrible tragedy has occurred here and we must now do what we can to support these people in their lives."

McArdle pleaded guilty to indecently dealing with two girls and 14 boys, aged eight to 13, between January 1965 and June 1987.

He molested altar boys and girls in the confessional, presbytery, vestry and on church and school camps.

He had one boy masturbate him just 10 minutes prior to celebrating Mass, as well as having abused a brother and sister in a confessional.

Victims have already launched a Supreme Court civil action against the church, alleging it knew about the abuse from 1979.

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