Sex abuse victim told to 'go to hell'
MELBOURNE Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart told a woman who had been sexually abused by a priest to "go to hell, bitch" in conduct labelled appalling by a Victorian magistrate.
Archbishop Hart later apologised to the woman in the Melbourne Magistrates Court for what magistrate Anne Goldsborough described as ''appalling words of abuse''.
But last night Archbishop Hart repeatedly claimed that he ''did not recall'' his comments or the magistrate's rebuke in mid-2004. ''It was a number of years ago, I don't recall precisely,'' he told The Age.
When put to him that he would surely recall the comment because it had become an issue in court, he again said: ''I don't recall.''
Court documents confirm the archbishop's outburst after he was granted an intervention order against the woman, who had pursued him over her abuse by priest Barry Whelan in 2001.
The magistrate said that a ''very, very angry'' Archbishop Hart had told the woman to ''go to hell bitch'' after she knocked on his door at 1.20am in March, 2004. The woman was the subject of an earlier intervention order after she had thrown stones through a window of the archbishop's house and hassled him and his staff.
Delivering her findings in June 2004, Magistrate Goldsborough said: "Archbishop Hart has apologised for this appalling and ungracious act directly from the witness box in my presence."
The magistrate said she "did not consider he [Archbishop Hart] was fearful or had any apprehension for himself or others" when he found the woman on his doorstep - but also described her conduct as unacceptable.
The magistrate found that the archbishop was angry that his privacy had been significantly breached as a result of the early morning visit.
I went to Xavier College with him. He was above himself then. He was a prefect, a Cadet Lieutenant and a real prick. We did know each other but were not really friends as such. He went straight from Xavier to the Seminary. My parents and I was to go to High Mass at St. Patricks Cathedral. The organist, Sergio de Pieri was a good friend of mine and my organ teacher. He was not allowed to teach on the Cathedral organ, but taught at St. Georges Carlton. I used to open up the Cathedral Organ for Sergio. Also I used to take up the collections at the 11 am Mass.
One Sunday before Mass Denis came up to me and told me he did not want me near the organ. I told Dad and Mum I wanted to leave that minute. Dad calmed me down and to stay. After Mass we went to the Vestiary and confronted Hart. By the time Dad had finished him he was on his knees begging for forgiveness.
I wont say exactly what I think of Hart. I dont want to get this Group into trouble, but now you know why I left the Church.
Rev. Robert Tobin (First Church of Atheism)