Sunday, August 15, 2010
AUSTRALIA BISHOP MORRIS OFFERS TO MEET FAMILIES OF ABUSED
Cath News report: Toowoomba's Bishop William Morris said he has offered to meet the families of victims sexually abused by Catholic primary school teacher Gerard Byrnes, "so that I could apologise personally".
"Gerard Byrnes' guilty plea in the Toowoomba District Court in April meant the diocese was for the first time able to directly communicate with the victim's parents, which I did so via a letter to each parent," Bishop Morris said in a statement published in the Toowoomba Chronicle.
"I believed a letter to the victims offering a face-to-face meeting was a more respectful way of making contact, rather than an unannounced phone call."
The family of one of the victims claims they have been forced out of town over the case, the newspaper reported. Two other families of victims have spoken up in support.
"We understand your devastation and hope that you gain some strength from knowing there are people who are willing to stand side by side with you through the most challenging of times," they wrote.
"The families involved have shown incredible courage and resilience in spite of ignorance and "blind faith" being exhibited in a very public way by certain sections of the community.
"As a parent of one of the victims, we have also chosen to relocate to try and protect our family from unwanted exposure."
In his statement, Bishop Morris adds: "I can only begin to imagine the suffering which has been experienced by the victims and their families, including the one referred to in the Toowoomba Chronicle."
Bishop Morris said that invitation for a face-to-face meeting remained open and he would particularly encourage the family who spoke out in the paper to contact him.
He said he wrote to the families who had not yet pursued legal claims, inviting them to participate in the mediation process that will follow the diocese's admission of liability in July.