Activist Wants Abuse Compensation

Herald Sun
July 19, 2008,21985,24044392-661,00.html

CHILDREN'S rights activist Hetty Johnston wants compensation for people sexually abused by Catholic clergy following the Pope's apology to victims.

Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI apologised during a ceremony to consecrate the altar of St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney as part of World Youth Day activities.

"Indeed I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering," Pope Benedict said in his homily.

Executive director of the child sexual assault advocacy group Bravehearts, Hetty Johnston, is considered one of the most powerful lobbyists against child sexual abuse in Australia.

While Ms Johnston applauded the Pope for his apology to people, she insisted the next step must now be taken.

"I'm really happy to see those words come from the Pope," Ms Johnston said.

"They are very meaningful words."

"The victims should now be properly compensated and the Church needs to deliver all allegations to police for investigation.

"For the victims it's going to be interesting to see if anything changes as a result of those words.

"I believe it will, I hope it will."

Ms Johnston led a a vigorous campaign against former Australian Governor-General Peter Hollingworth after a Toowoomba Supreme Court heard he had done nothing as Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane to alert parents of a girl abused by a boarding master at a church school.

The pressure of the campaign led to his resignation as governor-general in 2003.

More recently she was outspoken against photos of naked child models by artist Bill Henson.

Ms Johnston said she hoped the Catholic Church would follow the Anglican Church's lead, which had improved in "leaps and bounds".

"He is the leader of the church and we hope this will filter through the ranks and the Catholic Church can regain the trust of the people," she said.

"The victims should be properly compensated and the church needs to deliver all allegations to police for investigation.

"If there are any allegations they need to go straight to police and not be dealt with internally."


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