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Archbishop allegedly told abuse victim 'go to -

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Archbishop allegedly told abuse victim 'go to hell'

Lexi Metherell reported this story on Tuesday, August 11, 2009 12:23:00

ELEANOR HALL: A group of victims of church sexual abuse is outrage at a revelation that Melbourne's
Archbishop Denis Hart swore at a woman who'd been abused and told her to "go to hell".

The Age newspaper obtained court transcripts detailing the exchange which took place in 2004.

And while the Archbishop has since apologised in court, he also won a 13-month intervention order
against the woman, who had thrown rocks through a window at his home.

In Melbourne, Lexi Metherell reports.

LEXI METHERELL: Denis Hart became the Archbishop of Melbourne in 2001. He took over from the now
Cardinal George Pell, who in 1996 introduced a program to deal with abuse complaints called the
Melbourne Response.

Since then, the program's dealt with about 450 sexual abuse victims.

But as a group of victims campaign against the Melbourne Response, court documents have come to
light revealing an angry outburst by Archbishop Hart to one of those victims.

In the early hours of the morning in March 2004, the victim was knocking on his door.

It's unclear whether there was any exchange between the two but court documents reveal at some
stage he said "go to hell, bitch".

He had earlier taken out an intervention order against her for harassing him and his staff ... and
obtained another order in the wake of the incident.

Archbishop Hart was not available to be interviewed by The World Today but has told The Age
newspaper he does not recall making the comment.

DENIS HART (voiceover): I put my cassock on, I went down to the door and I was very annoyed. She
was ringing and ringing and ringing. I had just got to sleep. I was very tired. I was about to go
off to Rome and I went down, and I am sure I would have spoken strongly, but what I said I don't
recall.

LEXI METHERELL: Helen Last is the director of victims group In Good Faith and is a pastoral
advocate for the victim.

HELEN LAST: The church has a lot to say about compassion for victims, and being torn and to the
heart - and all of this sort of stuff. But when they are actually personally engaged with, their
manner can be quite belligerent, their manner can be very cold, their manner can be very uncaring.

And I think this is one of the worst examples that we can see of this kind of response.

LEXI METHERELL: He has apologised in court for the comment. Isn't he human just like everyone else
and prone to outbursts which may be regrettable later?

HELEN LAST: Yes. Look, he like everyone else is a human being but with all the time that he
purportedly spends in prayerful meditation, at the Eucharist, looking at being Christ-like for
modelling, this is an extraordinary thing to say.

This is a very serious use of words and symbolism to a woman who has already been abused by a
Catholic priest.

LEXI METHERELL: Helen Last is now calling for the Melbourne Response to be reviewed by the
Victorian Government.

HELEN LAST: The commission in Melbourne has 12 years of files of very serious criminal behaviour
and that those things are not appropriate to be being held in one commissioner's filing system.

We want the Government to explore those files. It's time for all those records and those histories
and files on those clerical sexual predators to be examined by the appropriate and relevant
authorities.

LEXI METHERELL: But in an interview conducted last night, Archbishop Hart has rejected calls for a
review of the system. He says those questioning the way the Melbourne archdiocese deals with sexual
abuse allegations have other issues as well.

DENIS HART: On a number of occasions we've offered meetings with this particular group. On the most
recent of those we've asked them to provide further information on what they were proposing and
they haven't yet done so.

So I think there are some underlying strands in that. However the overwhelming thing that I want to
emphasise is that we want to work through these issues. The system has worked tremendously well for
13 years.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's the Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart ending that report by Lexi
Metherell.