Priest calls for sex-case review
GEELONG'S most senior priest has broken ranks with his boss, Archbishop Denis Hart, to demand a review of the Melbourne Catholic Church's handling of more than 450 church sexual abuse cases over 13 years.
Father Kevin Dillon's call for a review into the system set up in 1996 by the Melbourne archdiocese to deal with abuse comes just a day after Archbishop Hart dismissed a similar demand from a victims' collective, which is backed by two interstate bishops.
Father Dillon - who is the priest at Geelong's largest church, the St Mary of the Angels Basilica - said yesterday the failure to review a system that has handled so many cases without public scrutiny was due to a church that was ''too self-protecting for its own good''.
''I have spoken to a number of people who are victims of clergy abuse and I think there are quite a number who are unhappy with the system.''
Father Dillon questioned how Archbishop Hart could label the system a success when no one had ever interviewed victims about their experiences in dealing with it or had reviewed the handling of cases.
''If you questioned everyone and they came back and said it is good, then you could say it is only a small group who are complaining. But I would be surprised if that was the case.''
Father Dillon also described as ''very unfortunate'' claims by the Melbourne Vicar General, Les Tomlinson, that there exists a ''victims industry'' and the revelation that Archbishop Hart told a woman sexually abused by a priest to ''go to hell, bitch''.
The Archbishop's outburst was detailed in a 2004 court case in which he was granted an intervention order against the woman after she repeatedly harassed him.
The Age's investigation into the Melbourne archdiocese's handling of abuse claims has also found that a priest who abused a minor was told by a church investigator he was being investigated by police three weeks before they raided his house.
On Monday, the archdiocese apologised for the release of a St Patrick's Cathedral newsletter last month that named as a ''living treasure'' a priest who abused several woman.
Father Dillon said yesterday: ''People who have picked up The Age this week will ask, 'Why do these stories keep coming?' They will keep coming until the church effectively helps those who have been abused and who don't feel supported by a church which has been part of that abuse.''