Raped girls' parents seek audience with Pope during World Youth Day in Sydney.
Thu, 17 Jul 2008
A father whose daughters were raped by a Catholic priest talks about their ordeal.
World Youth Day (WYD) has again been overshadowed by the Catholic Church's handling of sexual abuse cases, with Cardinal George Pell accused of holding up compensation claims, after a WYD coordinator said victims were “dwelling crankily… on old wounds".
Emma Foster committed suicide earlier this year – she battled with depression since she was raped by a Melbourne Catholic priest since she was in primary school.
Her sister Katie was also abused and the Foster family claim Cardinal George Pell stalled their compensation claim when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.
Outside a WYD service, Cardinal Pell has rejected the claims.
He says he apologised to the family in 1998 and organised counselling, which the Church partly paid for.
"We offered them some financial help. We also offered them counselling for Emma."
"Emma availed herself of that counselling for ten years and we contributed substantially towards those counselling costs."
He then left Melbourne in 2001, before the civil action was launched.
But he says he is saddened by her tragic death and is still sorry for what happened.
“My apology still stands,” he said.
“I repeat it. It has never been withdrawn.”
Cardinal Pell's statement comes after an Australian World Youth Day coordinator accused the sexual abuse victims of “dwelling crankily… on old wounds.”
Bishop Anthony Fisher was responding to questions about the report on ABC’s Lateline which featured Anthony Foster, and his daughters.
But today Bishop Fisher was dismissive.
"All I've seen is the reports in the newspapers today,” he told reporters this morning.
"Happily, I think most of Australia was enjoying [and] delighting in the beauty and goodness of these young people and the hope for us doing these sorts of things better in the future, as we saw last night, rather than dwelling crankily - as a few people are doing - on old wounds."
He went on to say Cardinal Pell and the Catholic Church were doing all they could to deal appropriately with sexual abuse claims.
"The cardinal has led in the church in this country in trying to put in better and better processes to deal for these things so that we get it right," he said.
"In the meantime, [we will] do all we can to prevent this happening again and to bring healing and justice to the victims."
But Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse say they are highly disturbed by Bishop Fisher’s remarks.
"Emma [O’Donnell] was raped by a priest whose prolific child sex offences had been overlooked by the Catholic Church for decades," ASCA Director Michael Salter said in a statement.
"Emma spent many years battling depression, anorexia, self-harm and drug abuse before giving up hope.
"The grief of Emma’s family and friends is overwhelming."
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