Ballarat Abuse Victims Welcome Pope's Apology

Ballarat Courier

July 21, 2008

BALLARAT victims of clerical sexual abuse have welcomed a papal apology made to Australian victims.

But they say the Pope's words must be backed up with "action" from the Catholic Church.

On Saturday Pope Benedict XVI said he was "deeply sorry" for the suffering endured by victims of abuse by Catholic priests and brothers in Australia.

"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.

"These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation."

One victim, "David", was sexually abused by a priest while a pupil at a Ballarat Catholic primary school in the 1970s.

He said he broke down when he heard the Pope's words on Saturday.

"I cried. I just cried," David said.

"We can finally start to move on (but) it's got to be backed up with some real action."

Melbourne high school teacher Stephen Woods, who was abused by three Catholic clergy members in Ballarat, said he was "relieved" to hear the apology and said it would vindicate the "thousands" of clerical abuse victims in Australia.

But he said his "heart sank" when he heard the Pope call on Catholics to back the efforts of local bishops to address the issue.

"It's the bishops who continue to stonewall victims from obtaining proper justice in the courts.

"I would like to see the Pope instruct the bishops to say who will take responsibility in each of the orders for the civil actions when litigation is taken."

Ballarat Catholic Bishop Peter Connors said he thought the Saturday mass at St Mary's Cathedral, with all Australian bishops present, was the right place for the Pope to make the apology.

"But it's up to us, as the Australian church, to respond to that," Bishop Connors said.

The bishop said he had met victims over his 11 years in Ballarat, and that the church had implemented procedures that "make sure we are going to act far more appropriately than we might have in the past".


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.