Doubts over Pope's Apology Enrage Sex Abuse Victims

By Hannah Davies and Vincent Morello
Courier Mail

July 18, 2008,23739,24037146-3102,00.html

DOUBTS over whether Pope Benedict XVI will offer sexual abuse victims an apology have enraged Australian victims of abuse by clergymen.

The Vatican yesterday poured cold water on expectations the Pope would apologise during a World Youth Day speech.

Queenslander Eric Fleissig, 41, is the latest victim to come forward after suffering years of sexual abuse at the hands of a pedophile priest.

VICTIM ... Eric Fleissig, of Mackay, says he suffered sexual abuse by a pedophile priest and says the Pope must apologise.

He said the church was treating its victims with contempt.

"The Pope has a duty to apologise and yet he is refusing to do so," he said.

"The Catholic Church failed to protect myself and other victims and continues to treat us appallingly."

A spokesman for the Pope said he had "not given a commitment" to apologise but may make a statement.

The criticism comes after Bishop Anthony Fisher said this week abuse victims were "dwelling crankily on old wounds".

Mr Fleissig, of Mackay, claims he was abused by Father Paul Rex Brown at a Catholic Church youth refuge in Tweed Heads when he was a teenager.

In 1996 Brown was convicted on a child pornography charge and, when he died in 2005 in his 60s, he was facing further child-sex charges.

Mr Fleissig has been unsuccessful in attempts to get compensation from the church.

"The abuse I suffered has affected my life in ways which people couldn't ever imagine, and yet it could have been prevented," he said.

Yesterday, Anthony and Christine Foster, whose two daughters were sexually abused by former Melbourne priest Kevin O'Donnell when they were in primary school, demanded the Pope publicly apologise..

"We're not searching for apologies for our family or ourselves," Mr Foster said. "What we want is action for the victims that remain."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said a papal apology to victims of sex abuse was strictly a matter for the church.

"I'm hopeful the church authorities handle each of these matters individually and sensitively," he said.


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