Apology Must Go Further: Victims

July 19, 2008

[with video]

Support groups for victims of sexual abuse by clergy have branded Pope Benedict's apology as meaningless and called on him to say sorry to victims in person.

Speaking at a mass to dedicate an altar at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral this morning, the Pope said he was "deeply sorry" for sexual abuse committed by priests and other Catholic figures in Australia.

"Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice," he told an audience of Australian bishops, seminarians, and novices.

While the apology has been welcomed, victims say more direct dialogue is needed.

But Anthony Foster, whose two daughters were repeatedly raped by a Melbourne priest as children, says the Pope's apology was "remote" and "limited" and does not ease their suffering.

"I think a remote apology does not carry anywhere near the weight of a personal, direct apology," he said.

"I recognise that the Pope used appropriate words in terms of adding in a little of his own thoughts, I recognise that.

"But this is only an apology, it is only words, it does not commit all the resources of the Church to this problem."

He has called for all archdioceses to provide "practical, unlimited support" and stop blocking legal action.

"There are a lot of victims support groups who can advice the church on what's needed," he said.

Victims support group Broken Rites says victims should have been invited to the mass.

Spokeswoman Chris McIsaac says the apology is meaningless without the victims being present.

"Victims I'm sure would feel very disheartened by this and I'm sure that as the weeks go by they won't feel that there was ever a real apology ever given," she said.

John Ellis, who suffered years of abuse from the age of 14, agrees the Pope should go further.

"It (an apology) needs to be given in an event where victim's representatives are invited to specifically," he said.

"I think it will be very hurtful if he doesn't do that since we won't have been listened to."

Sexual assault victim Anthony Jones says he was abused as an adult and that has been left out of the Pope's apology.

"So he's totally ignored the sexual abuse that has been happening to adults in the Catholic Church," he said.

ABC TV's Lateline program has aired a series of revelations, outlining contradictions and omissions in the way the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, dealt with complaints from Mr Jones.

The complaints related to sexual abuse that Mr Jones received at the hands of a priest while he was serving as a religious education teacher.

In response to mounting pressure, Cardinal Pell referred the controversial matter to a hand-picked panel.

Victims say there is still time for the Pope to apologise in person.


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