We victims of clergy sexual abuse are writing this letter to support the victims of institutional abuse
in Ireland on the historic occasion of their march against clergy sexual abuse and the treatment that they have received from the church.
In doing so the politicians, and parishioners will acknowledge that it is a global problem.
The fact that it is a global problem shows that there is no room in any country for canon law to override criminal law,and the perpetrators of these heinous crimes (the Popes words not ours)should be addressed by the full force of the criminal law of the country where the crime is committed.
Victims here have tried communicating with every level of the catholic system from Parish Priest to the highly incompetent office of the Holy See to no avail.
Our latest protest was at our Church in Healesville (Australia) when the vicar general said mass, we have included the open letter that we delivered to him to which he has not had the courtesy to reply to. This is in direct contrast to the Pope's words that Victims should be listened to.
Healesville Education and Awareness Raising re Clergy
Professional Misconduct and Sexual Abuse
Dear Bishop Tomlinson,
Welcome to St Brigid's Parish Healesville.Today is both Fathers Day and the first day of Child Protection Week.
We are the parents and a teacher of two of the children abused by the two convicted paedophile priests of this parish.We request a meeting with you, in the very near future, to discuss the following important matters concerning the ongoing safety of the children of St Brigid's Parish and our diocese.
We ask that we be consulted, as well as independent, well-qualified child welfare professionals, in the development of a child safe environment policy that includes procedures and practices for the schools and parishes ofthis diocese. There should also be annual audits and regular reviews conducted by an independent body to ensure compliance - as is now the practice in many other dioceses around the world.
This would entail some discussion of the past. "We have to consider what was insufficient in our behaviour and how we can prevent, heal,reconcile."(Pope Benedict XVI)*
David Daniel (convicted 2000) and Paul Pavlou (convicted 2009) are on the sexual offenders register. Why are they still priests despite the fact that Pope Benedict XVI said that anyone "who is guilty of paedophilia cannot be a priest.'** ?
Will the Archdiocese take action to laicise priests convicted of sexual offences?
The crimes for which Paul Pavlou was convicted occurred just two years after his ordination. Obviously the archdiocese' discernment is not adequate. "We'll do all that is possible to have a strong discernment, because it is more important to have good priests than to have many priests." (Pope Benedict XVI)***
How will screening for prospective priests in Melbourne be improved and continue to keep up with new developments in this field?
Despite many requests we have been refused a meeting to discuss these matters with Archbishop Hart.
We requested a parish meeting regarding these issues but were told that we were not allowed to meet on parish premises for anything other than 'a healing mass' during which there must be no discussion of anything that has happened in the past.
These responses have been very hurtful and seem to us to be less than 'Christlike'. We are hoping that your response may be a little more inline with the Pope's recent words …"It is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again,"(2009)
We have obtained diocese endorsed parish materials from the UK, US,Canada and Ireland as examples of policies, procedures and practices to provide child safe environments. We are keen to share these with any clergy, parish or school staff, parents or parishioners who wish to see them.
To mark the occasion today we have brought white balloons - the Federal Governments endorsed symbol of Child Protection Week - for the children and copies of 'Childwise' 'Wise Up' booklets for their parents.
Maria Kirkwood, the diocese 'pastoral care' arm of the Melbourne Response has told people in the parish that to talk about what has happened is not in the best interest of victims.This is a fallacy. Victims deserve their complete anonymity but they need to safely hear our outrage. Those who have disclosed feel vindicated and those who have not yet disclosed can be encouraged to feel that it is safe to come forward if they know we are not afraid to hear the truth and will take steps to address what has contributed to their suffering.
Victims have told us that supportive letters in the newspapers and online have helped them and the deafening silence of their parish has confused, frustrated and infuriated them. In their compassion however they understand that most Catholics just do not know what to do or say or how to cope with the betrayal of trust.
In fact, all parishioners are victims of these crimes and it takes courage to face the truth and do the work necessary for reconciliation and healing.
We must all work together to ensure the safety of all of our children in the future.
We call on you, at this time in the history of St Brigid's to take up this opportunity to meet and listen to victims, their families and independent welfare professionals and enable St Brigid's to become a model of a child-safe parish for the Melbourne Archdiocese.
This should lead to necessary changes in the diocesan handling of such delicate situations as we have experienced here in this parish.
Parents and a teacher of two of the St Brigid's Parish victims
The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church allowed a Selesian brother to become a Melbourne diocesan priest in 2005 he was noticed (by a very child safety aware teacher) to have an unhealthy interest in children within 4 months of starting at the catholic primary school in Healesville Vic.
The teacher reported her suspicions only to be told her personal feelings had over ridden her professional judgment. Then the shoot the messenger syndrome which is so endemic in the catholic system took over.
The teacher was forced onto sick leave ! (a tap on the forehead, Nervous break down you know)! A few months later the first complaint was lodged by a parent ! (she's only after money, husband has left her) ! Stay away from her. The Catholic system in Melbourne was about to launch a completely unwarranted attack on a single mother of six whose only wish was to protect her children.
The smear campaign was relentless and gutless and it seems that Catholicism and Christianity are two completely different things.
The mother reported her concerns for her child to the Catholic authorities and was told there was nothing of a criminal nature there. However the Police thought different and the Priest is now a convicted sexual offender and his name will be registered for the next 15 years.
The Teacher whose only wish was to protect children in her charge and was so dedicated in her job she went without sleep one night while on camp because she knew the Priest shouldn't be trusted around the children.
My son was a victim of the first paedophile Priest in our town and I feel that by being able to guide him through his journey of this heinous crime I have learnt a lot about clergy sexual abuse and have a lot to offer on this matter.
The Church would prefer to treat us like lepers and just ignore us completely and while they will not take any positive steps to curb this epidemic of paedophilia that they have launched on our children. I feel that with victims communicating with each other, we can overcome the isolation individualism and minimization that are all part of the Churches toolkit to shut us up and by communicating with each other we can make the Catholic system a safer place for all children.
I was unceremoniously dumped into this journey through Church pedophilia and it hurts me to admit that I cannot travel within 50 mile in any direction from my home town of Healesville Victoria Australia without going through a town that has had a Pedophoile Priest in it in thelast15-20 years.
I wish the people of Ireland the very best of luck with their protest march this week.
Ian Lawther (Emancipated Catholic)