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Bookmark and Share      Created: 2010-07-13 05:41:44   Last updated : 1970-01-01 10:00:00

By Kath Gannaway
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13th July 2010 02:00:43 AM

A HEALESVILLE woman is calling for mandatory reporting of child abuse to be extended to the hierarchy of the Melbourne Archdiocese of the Catholic Church.

Her call follows an apology statement made by Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart to victims of abuse last week.

Jo (an assumed name, for legal reasons) however says more than a year after Healesville priest Paul Pavlou was convicted of sex abuse charges involving her son and knowingly being in possession of child pornography, nothing has changed in the church's 'in-house' approach to dealing with abuse allegations.

Pavlou was the second Healesville parish priest to be convicted of child sex offences in the last 10 years. Priest David Daniel was convicted in 2000 for a 1994 assault on a Healesville victim.

The in-house approach she speaks of is the Melbourne Response, set up in 1996 by then Archbishop George Pell to investigate clergy abuse complaints and offer counselling and compensation to victims.

Jo said Archbishop Hart's apology was an insult to victims and his statement "sexual abuse in any form, and any attempt to conceal it, is a grave evil and is totally unacceptable," were just hollow words unless the Melbourne Response team was mandated, as are teachers, doctors, nurses and police, to report to the Department of Human Services any allegations of abuse against children.

Her son was a child when he disclosed details of abuse to members of the Melbourne Response but she says they withheld the information from her and did not report it to police.

Jo spent months working through the Melbourne Response process before going to the police herself.

Jo believes the current process allows discretion for church hierarchy to continue to protect abusive clergy and is calling for the same mandatory reporting which applies to teachers in Catholic schools to be extended to include the Response team in relation to complaints about their priests.

The head of the Victoria Police Sexual Crime Squad, Detective Inspector Glen Davies confirmed to the Mail that his squad was working with the Melbourne Archdiocese and looking at their processes in relation to dealing with complaints made to them.

Jo is also calling for victims to be represented in those discussions.

"They can look at it from a police point of view and the difficulties they have as police in trying to take on the church after the Response team has had their go, but they are not listening from a victim's point of view, for instance where information was withheld from me as a parent," she said.

"It is important that the victim has a role in that process."

A spokesman for the communications company acting for the Melbourne Archdiocese confirmed that priests were required to have a working with children check, but said for the Melbourne Response team to be mandated to report child abuse would require a change to legislation.

"What I, and others, are trying to do is find a way of making it harder for them (clergy sex offenders) and if that involves changing laws in relation to mandatory reporting, then so be it," Jo said.

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