Abuse Victims' Dad Vows to Confront Pope


July 15, 2008

The parents of two girls who were sexually abused by a Melbourne priest say they will not accept the Pope's apology to clergy abuse victims unless it is backed up by action.

Anthony and Christine Foster were travelling back to Australia from Europe after vowing to confront the Pope and Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell during World Youth Day celebrations over the Church's approach to abuse victims.

Mr Foster's daughter Emma ended her own life this year at the age of 26, after struggling to come to terms with the abuse she suffered at primary school at the hands of Father Kevin O'Donnell.

O'Donnell, who died in 1997 after serving time in jail for multiple sex offences, also abused Emma's sister Katie, who turned to alcohol in her teens and was involved in an accident which left her brain-damaged and in need of constant care.

The Fosters fought a successful eight-year legal battle for compensation for the abuse, after earlier rejecting a compensation offer from Dr Pell, who was then Melbourne archbishop.

Mr Foster told ABC's Lateline both his daughters had been raped by O'Donnell and he wanted the Church to set up a better system for dealing with abuse victims.

"I want them to set up a system which provides lifetime help to victims, a system where they beg forgiveness of the victims," Mr Foster said.

"A system which gives the Catholic Church a basis on which they are able to talk to the rest of society from a point of authority, because in my view at the moment the Catholic Church has no authority at all to talk to society and tell them how they should behave."

Mr Foster said he would not accept the Pope's planned apology this week to victims unless it was backed up with "positive action".

"I'll accept an apology if the Pope will wholeheartedly embrace the notion of begging forgiveness from victims and supporting them in every way possible and putting the full resources behind that support so they can have a reasonable life."

Mr Foster said he planned to make a public statement upon his arrival in Australia.

"I expect the Pope and Cardinal Pell to respond to that statement.

"I should not have to try to see them.

"They should be coming to us to beg our forgiveness."


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