Canberra bishop condemns "reprehensible" abuse, reassures parents

Reassuring parents that Canberra Catholic schools have a proud 40-year history despite recent "extremely serious" abuse allegations, auxiliary Bishop Pat Power has called for the schools to be judged on the basis of their positive contribution to the lives of thousands of students.

In a statement, Bishop Power expressed his "deep sadness" concerning the allegations of abuse at the schools.

"Any report of abuse, physical, sexual or emotional must always be thoroughly investigated with the welfare of the victims uppermost in our concern," Bishop Power said.

"The damage caused by such abuse can have terrible effects, sometimes lasting for a life-time. It should be borne in mind that in many instances it is only after a number of years that victims are able to bring themselves to report such abuse. When they do, they need to be treated with great sensitivity and care.

"Abuse of any kind is damaging," he said. "When it is carried out in a religious environment and one of trust, it is even more reprehensible."

Bishop Power also noted that since 1996 the Catholic Church in Australia has operated under Towards Healing, a set of principles and procedures in responding to complaints of abuse against personnel of the Catholic Church.

"Where criminal behaviour is involved, complainants are advised to notify the police," Bishop Power said.

"I am assured by the authorities of both Daramalan and Marist Colleges that they regard these allegations as extremely serious and are doing all in their power to ascertain the full facts and to see that those affected are treated with justice and compassion. At the same time they are giving whatever help they can to the current students and staff.

"Daramalan and Marist Colleges have a proud 40-year history in Canberra and I appeal to the public to judge them in the light of the positive contribution they have made to the lives of thousands of students over that time," he said.

"Having said that, even one instance of abuse is to be deplored and I am heartened to know that all schools have in place strict measures to ensure the protection and well-being of their students," Bishop Power concluded.

Predator on run

Meanwhile, in another story, the Courier-Mail reports that a convicted multiple rapist, Robert Fardon who sparked outrage by speaking at a Brisbane Catholic school recently is the target of a massive police hunt after missing an appointment with a parole officer.

It was revealed in a recent court hearing that Fardon was invited to give a speech to students at Brisbane Catholic boys school Padua College.

A spokesperson for the Brisbane archdiocesan pastoral services, Fr John Chalmers, told the Catholic Leader that the visit was made in good faith that Catholic Prison Ministries believed the visit would not breach Fardon's parole conditions.

According to the paper, Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby apologised to students and staff at the college, and said "it certainly won't happen again".

Bishop Power (Media Release, 23/7/07)
Sex predator on the run (Sourier-Mail, 24/7/07)
Controversial visit explained (Catholic Leader, 22/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Canberra-Goulburn diocese
Marist College, Canberra
Daramalan College, Canberra
Daramalan College {Wikipedia}

Abuse allegations surface at second Canberra college (CathNews, 23/7/07)
More accusations against Canberra suicide teacher {CathNews, 12/7/07}

Gang rape charges withdrawn (Sydney Morning Herald, 24/7/07)

24 Jul 2007