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Broken Rites president joins Lateline -

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The president of Broken Rites, the group established to help victims of church-related sexual abuse
Chris McIsaac, joins the program to discuss exclusive documents revealing controversial information
about the Australian Catholic Church.

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: We are joined now in the studio by Chris McIsaac, the President of "Broken
Rites," the group established to help victims of church-related abuse.

Thanks for being there.

CHRIS MCISAAC, PRESIDENT, BROKEN RITES: Thank you, Tony.

TONY JONES: Can I ask for your immediate reaction to the story that you've just seen?

CHRIS MCISAAC: Well, it's quite shocking. It doesn't surprise me, though, because we have
complaints all the time about the Church's process. But this case shows the great weakness of the
process. It's left to each individual bishop or church authority to deal with the matters, and
their decision is the end of the line for victims. So if there's something done that's incorrect,
like in this case, there's nowhere for that victim to go. Luckily for this particular victim, he
had the ability to go further forward and go through the criminal process. Broken Rites always
advises people if it's possible, go through the criminal process first.

TONY JONES: And indeed he was able to go through the legal process and find documents which lay
behind the scenes, telling a very different story to the one that appeared in the letter that
Cardinal Pell sent him?

CHRIS MCISAAC: That's correct. Well, obviously, whatever made Dr Pell act that way on that
particular day, that's just very strange and very hard to understand. I mean, there's no reality in
this. You've got two letters signed on the same day, one going completely against what your
investigator has told you, the assessor I assume. That's what they're called in the process. And
there's just no rhyme nor reason to this. I don't know why a decision like that would be made. It
can't be a mistake.

TONY JONES: Have you ever seen anything quite like this? I mean, in terms of the contradiction
between the two letters that you've just spelt out? You've looked at many, many cases obviously
involving different bishops and so on?

CHRIS MCISAAC: Nothing quite like this, but we have seen lots of situations where it's impossible
for the victim to get any justice from the particular church authority, only because that
authority, that person has dug their heels in and refuses to do anymore. Even though the processes
tended to say well, "We believe you", the victim has felt going right through the process that
their allegation has been accepted, but get to the church authority and it's dismissed.

TONY JONES: I think you can tell from looking in the victim in this case, Antony Jones, you can
tell how deeply this has all affected him. He says it's actually destroyed his faith. The letter
from Cardinal Pell, the legal process he had to go through and so on. What does it actually mean to
victims of sexual abuse by priests to get real transparency into the investigations into their
cases?

CHRIS MCISAAC: That is vital. This is what we've been calling for. This is why we're asking for a
papal apology that's absolutely meaningful, meaningful with further action, that will bring
processes into play that allow for transparency, and somewhere where there's an overriding body
that can control things, rather than the bishops making individual decisions.

But coming back to the point, all victims feel that it's a huge hurdle to bring their matter before
the church process and then when there is an outcome like this, or they find that they just can't
move forward within the process, they feel re-abused and they all say that. It's worse than the
abuse itself, because they've come to a church that they think will be caring, a church that will
look after them, this distressful thing has happened, an abhorrent thing has happened. Crimes have
been committed against them and yet, they find that it's not taken seriously. They feel that the
people that they're dealing with are insincere and it really is quite heartbreaking to a lot of
people.

TONY JONES: In this case, it is very different, because the person at the heart of responding, the
final responded if you like to the victim, is the highest authority or effectively, the highest
authority in terms of being a cardinal of the Catholic Church in Australia. I mean, does that
change it, and what are the implications for the church if that can happen?

CHRIS MCISAAC: Well, I don't know about the implications for the church, but this matter certainly
needs to be sorted out and maybe, you know, Dr Pell even needs to stand aside while it is sorted
out. Something needs to be done that's significant, that shows how serious a matter this is. We, as
the advocates on behalf of victims, victims ourselves, we're just a small support group, we feel
that the matter for the last 16 years that Broken Rites have been in operation, really is not taken
seriously within the inside of the church and this current situation with World Youth Day just says
that again.

We're told we don't even know if the Pope's going to give an apology. There's comments like, "We
think there might be one" but they're not saying, "We think there's going to be these other
organised events for World Youth Day", that is definitely all organised. So where does the sexual
abuse issue sit in terms of how important is it to the church? Situations like we've just seen
should never, never happen, and yet it has. How many others like that have happened? Well,
certainly Broken Rites know of many, not exactly the same, but many, many complaints come to us
constantly from people who are not happy with their process.

TONY JONES: Sorry to interrupt you there; do you know, is there a mechanism within inside the
Catholic Church to deal with an investigation into what the most senior Catholic has actually done?

CHRIS MCISAAC: Well, there is according to their process a review process, but I haven't seen that
successfully worked in a successful manner, as yet. I'm not quite sure if there are cases that have
been reviewed. Situations have been re-looked at, or whether decisions have been overturned because
of that review. We certainly haven't heard of that happening.

TONY JONES: Looking back over the cases you've dealt with, how common is it for the church, I'm
talking about the Roman Catholic Church here, when dealing with individual victims, to conceal the
fact there are other victims of the same priest against whom allegations are being made?

CHRIS MCISAAC: Well, this is a big problem and this again is another wounding to the victim. This
is the sort of thing where they feel re-abused. If they go along and they tell their story and
they're looked at as if "Well, you're number one to come and tell us and we really sort of feel
that Father was a good man," and then later on they find there were lots of other victims, that
really is very difficult for them to cope with.

TONY JONES: And this is not the first time you've heard of this kind of incident, or leaving aside
Cardinal Pell's involvement?

CHRIS MCISAAC: No, no, no. Unless the priest has been before the courts and perhaps in goal because
of his crimes and the church know that people will know about this situation, you're not told
whether the priest that you're speaking of has abused others.

TONY JONES: Is there a problem here for the church? I mean, a lots of the victims wouldn't want
their names to become public, wouldn't want other people to know what happened to them, is that
ultimately the excuse the church makes? Or do you feel something else is going on in these cases?

CHRIS MCISAAC: Whether it's an excuse the church make, they certainly hide behind this fact that
people won't come forward, because it really is something that cuts into somebody's psychic in a
deep way. It's very hard to talk about. And while the abuse is going on, while they're groomed by
these perpetrators, it's all about guilt, and the victim's the guilty party. And so they grow up
with that and in latter years, even in their adulthood, in terms of trying to talk about it,
there's still a lot of guilt associated with it. So coming forward is very difficult to do.

Broken Rites know of 107 priests and brothers that have been convicted, but we also know they're
the tip of the iceberg, because there's so many that people have not spoken about, but they have
not been prepared to go to the police, or have charges laid against these people. So it's a very
sad story and we don't think it's one that the church really have taken seriously enough and been
proactive in looking for victims.

TONY JONES: Chris McIsaac, we'll have to leave you there. We thank you very much for coming in to
talk to us tonight.

CHRIS MCISAAC: Thank you.