Sex Abuse Expert Furore

By Ellen Whinnett
The Mercury [Australia]
July 8, 2004

A CONTROVERSIAL academic and adviser to the Vatican will visit Tasmania to present a workshop and lecture on sexual abuse within Christian churches.

Bill Marshall, Australian-born but living in Canada, is one of the top academics in the field of treating sex offenders and is being brought here by the Catholic Church.

In February, the Vatican commissioned Dr Marshall and several other non-Catholic sex abuse experts to prepare a report into sexual abuse by clergy and the church's response to it.

The controversial report found that the zero-tolerance policy being implemented by some churches was too harsh, and might even discourage victims from coming forward with their complaints.

Dr Marshall was quoted by giant US news agency CNN as saying a zero-tolerance policy sent a message that the church did not care about the offender or believe he could be rehabilitated, "neither of which are good messages for the church to communicate".

Steve Fisher, from the group Survivors Investigating Child Sexual Abuse, said he was concerned about Dr Marshall's views on sexual abuse.

"No psychiatrist or psychologist I've ever read up on has said pedophiles can be rehabilitated. They say they're more likely to offend for the rest of their lives," Mr Fisher said.

He gave the example of Anglican priest Garth Hawkins, who is serving a seven-year jail term for sexually assaulting Mr Fisher and six other boys and who was recently caught sexually molesting a young inmate at Risdon Prison.

But a Tasmanian expert in treating sex offenders, Phillipa Chapman, from Centacare, said Dr Marshall's comments related specifically to the management of offenders.

She said treatment of offenders was complex and Dr Marshall was an internationally recognised expert.

He will conduct a lecture at the Stanley Burbury Theatre at the University of Tasmania on July 28. The cost is $20, payable on the night.

He will also conduct a two-day workshop at Hadleys Hotel on July 28 and 29. Tickets are available by calling Centacare on 62781660.


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