Australia: Priest blasts church’s response to child abuse

Priest Bible Church religion

Father Kevin Dillon believes the church’s “riding instructions” were to protect its material assets and it’s “good name” rather than supporting victims.
Source: Supplied

THE first practising priest to address Victoria’s child abuse inquiry has accused the Catholic church of a culture of denial that betrayed the institution as well as victims.

Kevin Dillon, parish priest at St Mary of the Angels Cathedral in Geelong, believed the church’s “riding instructions” were to protect its material assets and it’s “good name” rather than supporting victims.

Father Dillon said the church’s internal investigative procedures, the Melbourne Response in Victoria and Towards Healing nationally, “have lost all credibility with victims”.

They were “beyond repair” and should be replaced with “a totally independent and skilled committee”.

Father Dillon said that of 40 priests who graduated with him in 1969, two had been convcted of sex crimes, with four more who graduated two years later in a smaller class also being convicted.

He said while the training of priests for a life of celibacy included warnings not to play mixed doubles in tennis, the church “completely ignored” the “blight” of sex abuse.

Sitting in Geelong, the parliamentary inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations, also heard several heart-wrenching accouts of abuse from victims.

Chris Pianto, whose father Peter was a premiership footballer and coach with the city’s AFL club, told the inquiry how he was abused for two years by a teacher at St Joseph’s College, Geelong, beginning in 1971 when he was 13.

He said his father had hoped he would be an AFL footballer, like he had been. Instead, he became an alcoholic. “I feel I have been denied the chance of a normal life with a family of my own,” he said.

The teacher, who had forced him to have oral sex, was eventually jailed for five years, but only after Mr Pianto shot himself in the leg to draw attention to his allegations, which had not been believed.

Max Johnson, 72, told the inquiry he had been in many orphanages in his youth, where he was “knocked around really bad”, but nothing compared to the Morning Star Boys’ Home run by the Franciscan Fathers, who “couldn’t keep their hands off you”.

Mr Johnson told how he never learned to read and write, but was flogged with a cane and raped five times at Morning Star, which he said was “a breeding ground for pedophiles”.

He said he had spent years feeling ashamed and had not been able to tell his son of his abuse. “It just rips you to pieces,” he said. “I hate them and I’ll never forgive them as long as I live.”

In the applause that followed Mr Johnson’s evidence, a man in the public gallery yelled, “He’s a real hero”.

There was also Sandra Higgs, who said she was nine years old when a priest forced himself on her. “Christ said to us one day we will have the anti-Christ among us and we have – they are the hierarchy of the church,” she told the inquiry.

She said she had come to believe that abuse was her “cross to carry”.

Inquiry chair Georgie Crozier announced yesterday the inquiry would be extended from its April deadline to September, despite the looming federal royal commission, after making “significant progress”, including arrests last week by the Victoria Police Sano Taskforce.

Ms Crozier indicated recently that the inquiry’s recommendations could include changes to the law enabling the church to be sued, mandatory reporting of suspected abuse, and extending the statute of limitations for child abuse.

BY: STUART RINTOUL From: The Australian  February 16, 2013 12:00AM


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