Marist apology to victims in abuse case

The Provincial of the Marist Fathers has issued a statement acknowledging the conclusion of a trial in the Supreme Court involving a member of his Order in Tasmania, in relation to charges of serious sexual misconduct involving minors.

In issuing the statement yesterday, Fr Bill Ryder said that an appeal has been lodged and other ongoing litigation processes may also be commenced, so further comment is therefore restricted by law.

However, in the light of the jury's determination, he expressed his deep personal regret and sorrow to the men involved and their families.

His statement included an apology without reservation "for any harm suffered by the former students whilst in [their] care many years ago when Marist College Burnie was conducted by the Marist Fathers".

He said that the Catholic Church has taken many attempts to try to deal with the issue, in particular, through the establishment of the Towards Healing protocol.

"It has been our policy to attempt to deal with such complaints through Towards Healing and in accordance with its philosophy of healing and reconciliation," he said.

Meanwhile The Mercury reports today that the court's decision not to include the 70 year old priest - Fr Roger Michael Bellemore - on the sex offenders' register a former priest convicted of sexually abusing young boys has angered his victims.

According to the paper, anti-child abuse campaigners also attacked the five-year jail sentence handed to former Tasmanian priest and teacher Roger Michael Bellemore, 70, for molesting four male students, then aged between 12 and 15, more than 30 years ago.

In the Supreme Court in Hobart yesterday, Bellemore was given a three-year non-parole period, for sexually abusing boys between 1967 and 1971 at Burnie's Marist College.

Bellemore stood motionless as Justice Shan Tennent handed down the sentence, telling him his crimes had a serious impact on the victims and their families - some of whom had lost faith in the church.

"You were in a position of power and you abused that power," Justice Tennent told Bellemore. "The families had trusted those boys into your care and you abused that trust."

The indecent assaults occurred when Bellemore was a priest and teacher at Marist College in his mid-30s, when he invited the boys to his room and indecently touched them or had them touch him.

Bellemore left the school in 1972 but worked as a teacher, parish priest, counsellor and chaplain until his retirement in 2003.

Marist apology to victims in abuse cas (Marist Fathers, Australian Province)
Victim fury at sex priest: Abuser jailed but not on shame list (The Mercury 28/3/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Marist Regional College

Marist Burnie ex-pupil tells of sex abuse (CathNews 21/2/06)

Retired priest escapes sex offenders register (ABC Hobart 27/3/06)
Priest appeals against sex conviction (ABC News 23/3/06)
Submitting to the faith (The Australian 23/3/06)

28 Mar 2006