Ballarat bishop backs sex abuse apology

BALLARAT'S Catholic bishop has backed his Melbourne counterpart's apology to victims of clergy sex abuse.But victims groups say the apology does not go far enough.Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart issued an unreserved apology to victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in a pastoral letter read out in weekend Masses in Melbourne. Archbishop Hart said in the letter that the sexual outrages and breaches of vows committed by some priests brought shame upon the entire church. "How can we Catholics not be shocked and shamed?" Archbishop Hart asked. He said in the past 14 years about 300 people have been compensated as victims of sexual abuse within the Archdiocese. "We have sought to do everything in our power to bring these victims aid, consolation and, if possible, reconciliation with the church," he said. "They have been given access to compensation, on-going counselling and medical support. "As Archbishop of Melbourne, I once again express my deep sorrow and offer a sincere and unreserved apology to all victims of sexual abuse, and to their families." He encouraged victims to report any cases to the police, saying 86 offenders have been identified over an 80-year period - 60 of them were priests within the Melbourne Archdiocese. Ballarat Catholic Bishop Peter Connors said he supported the apology, having issued a similar statement three years ago to victims of clergy sexual abuse. The archbishop's apology was criticised by the Melbourne Victims Collective (MVC) as not going far enough. "Apology not accepted," said MVC co-founder Helen Last. "All Hart has done is to rehash the same apology that (former Melbourne Archbishop George) Pell gave in the mid-90s and he is now trying to re-badge it as his own and leave the same flawed system there with no changes."