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Australian bishops at odds over ‘Melbourne Response’ to abuse victims

August 10, 2009

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Two bishops have joined abuse victims’ advocates in criticizing the Melbourne Response-- the procedure by which Australia’s largest diocese has handled 450 abuse allegations since 1996. Father Paul Pavlou, now convicted, was warned by the archdiocese in 2007 that he was the subject of an inquiry, and a cathedral newsletter last month called a priest who abused three women “a living treasure.”

Supporting victims’ advocates, Bishop Michael J. Malone of Maitland-Newcastle said he would not make excuses for an institution “which refuses to listen or admit there is fault.” Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, the retired Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney and author of Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, added, “‘I have over the years heard a number of reports of victims feeling intimidated by the system itself. These feelings need to be heard and addressed.”

Melbourne Auxiliary Bishop Leslie Tomlinson countered, “‘You could perhaps draw a conclusion that there is what could be termed a victims’ industry … willing to exploit these victims for their own gain … I am not saying the victims’ support groups per se are suspect but I would also be saying there is the scope for an abuse to occur there.”


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