By Marlina Whop and William Rollo
ABC News, Australia
|Bishop Heenan apologising outside the Royal Commission, |
which is sitting in Rockhampton, Queensland (ABC News)
"I apologise again for the harm and suffering of former [residents] at Joseph orphanage residents at the hands of the Catholic Church, priests and sisters and staff," he said outside the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
"I also apologise for the way in which I responded to these victims. I failed them and for that I'll be forever sorry."
Bishop Heenan was cross examined for the second day at the Rockhampton hearings over the church's responses to the abuse allegations at the Neerkol orphanage from the 1940s to the 1970s.
Father Reg Durham, who was the administrator for the parish of Neerkol and had resided in the presbytery, was charged in 1997 with 40 sexual offences against five former residents and pleaded guilty to six counts of indecently dealing with a child.
Bishop Heenan told the inquiry he never took steps to de-frock Father Durham - even after the priest pleaded guilty - before his death in 2002.
In his apology, Bishop Heenan said, "I hope my evidence has provided a deeper understanding of the devastation of sexual abuse, what it does to the victims and their families. I also hope it will help the royal commission to develop recommendations that will make all institutions safer for children."
|Children at St Joseph's Orphanage at Neerkol, west of Rockhampton, were raped, |
molested and beaten, the inquiry has heard. (ABC Local: Alice Roberts)
The commission heard on Friday that it took Bishop Heenan three years to restrict Father Durham's contact with children and in 1999 he gave him a character a reference.
He also admitted that at one point he tried to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church rather than consider the victims of sexual abuse.
At one point? How about at every point?
Abuse victim Mary Adams, who gave evidence last week, said she felt satisfied hearing Bishop Heenan's testimony.
"Bishop Heenan has endeavoured to right the wrongs of the past, I feel he's certainly moved further down the track than he had in the earlier days," she said.
"I'm certainly impressed with his honesty, but it certainly hasn't helped me tremendously because I will say that a lot of my dealings with the church, I had to initiate."
The Commission, which began hearings last Tuesday in Rockhampton, was told that for more than three decades, children at the orphanage were raped, molested and beaten.
The Sisters of Mercy ran the Neerkol orphanage for half a century before it closed in the late 1970s.
One witness says she was raped when she was 14 by a worker at the orphanage in 1965, another was sexually abused by a priest and forced to drink her own urine to stay hydrated.
A senior member of the Sisters of Mercy gave evidence after Bishop Heenan and said she too did not offer to help a victim.
Sister Berniece Locke said she first became aware of abuse allegations when she saw an article in a Rockhampton newspaper in the early 1990s.
The article quoted a former resident who suffered a miscarriage after she was raped when she was 11 years old.
Sister Locke has testified that she knew the victim but did not contact her.
"I wasn't sure if the story was correct or not, wasn't convinced it was true," she told the inquiry.
So, just in case, you did nothing!
Sister Locke denied trying to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church, and said there were no proper protocols for responding to abuse at the time.
Good grief! You need proper protocols before you can respond to something as devastating as child rape? Sisters of Mercy - what a disgraceful misuse of the name!