Child abuse victims protest outside NSW

By Kalvin Ng, Project Eye

Victims of church-related sexual abuse will wear t-shirts bearing the slogan “107 Catholic clergy convicted” at demonstrations in Melbourne this weekend as the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in Australia draws near.

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“We will be wearing the t-shirts and holding placards in Melbourne,” said John, a spokesperson for Melbourne-based Broken Rites Australia, an organisation that helps survivors of sexual abuse committed by the clergy.

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“We were hoping to print all 107 names [of Australian Catholic priests and brothers sentenced in court for sexual offences], but the print got too small. Then we thought of printing the 64 most serious offenders,” John explained, before the group settled on the simple slogan.

But the t-shirts are unlikely to make an appearance in Sydney, where police have been given increased powers to arrest and issue fines of up to $5,500 to anyone “causing annoyance” or inconvenience to pilgrims attending week-long celebrations at World Youth Day.

The organisation hopes that planned vigils and demonstrations outside St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne will be shown across the nation by the media, bypassing restrictions in New South Wales.

The t-shirts come as Cardinal George Pell said on ABC radio on Monday morning that the Pope is likely to express shame and regret for sexual abuse cases involving the church in Australia.

If the Pope apologises, Australia will be the second nation to receive such an apology after the United States.

“He handled [the apology] very well in the United States and I anticipate he'll do the same here,” Cardinal Pell said.

“The apology is becoming more likely,” John said. “We welcome an apology, but they should take on their responsibility,” he said.

“It would help to appropriate the healing of the victims. It won't solve the problems, but it will assist in the healing process.”

ProjectEye is a content partner for SBS providing critical news coverage of WYD08 from a youth perspective.