Abuse Comments Were "Aimed at Media"

July 17, 2008,23599,24033640-5016937,00.html

A CATHOLIC bishop accused of making insensitive comments about sex abuse victims was referring to the media, not victims, when he said some people were "dwelling crankily ... on old wounds", World Youth Day organisers say.

WYD coordinator Bishop Anthony Fisher, questioned yesterday about the case of two girls raped by a priest, criticised those "dwelling crankily....on old wounds".

The remarks angered sex abuse victims groups and the parents of Emma and Katherine Foster, who were sexually assaulted by a Melbourne priest while in primary school.

Anthony and Christine Foster were expected to fly into Sydney today to seek an audience with Pope Benedict XVI over the church's handling of the case of their daughters, one of whom committed suicide this year.

Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell said yesterday the girls' case was tragic and his 1998 apology to the Foster family still stood.

WYD chief operating officer Danny Casey said Bishop Fisher was busy today and would not comment further.

"The cardinal made some comments about that yesterday and I don't think there is any more that needs to be said," Mr Casey said.

He said the bishop's comments were directly solely at the media and not at abuse victims or community support groups.

"Bishop Fisher in his commentary on how some in the media seek to portray the church about abuse matters shouldn't in any way suggest he's a man lacking compassion," Mr Casey said.

"I know he's a man who feels deeply, a great degree of compassion, for the victims of abuse and indeed all those who have been hurt."

Bishop Fisher said yesterday the latest controversy was detracting from the Catholic youth festival.

"I think most of Australia was enjoying, delighting in the beauty and goodness of these young people ... rather than dwelling crankily, as few people are doing, on old wounds," he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says a papal apology to victims of sex abuse is strictly a matter for the Catholic Church.

Mr Rudd met Pope Benedict XVI in Sydney this morning.

The Pope's apology to sex abuse victims in the US earlier this year had brought "great comfort and healing", but an apology to Australian victims was a matter for the church, Mr Rudd said.

"Like all Australians, I am much looking forward to what the Pope has to say here ... as I am (during) my own conversation with the Pope later this morning," he said on Sky News.

"(But) This (apology) is a matter for the church and I respect the internal judgments of the church.

Mr Rudd described as "horrendous" the stories of sex-abuse victims.

"They're just awful, they're horrible facts." he said.

"What I do note also, (is) the church over time has been moving in response to each of these matters as they come into the public domain, and you would say sometimes better than others.

"But it's very important for the church to respond to each individual case."


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