Forgotten Australians founder “Garry” and other members of the group were protesting outside St Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday where Archbishop Hart was delivering a “sincere and unreserved” apology to victims of sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy.
“As your archbishop I want you to know that I share in your desolation and betrayal,” he told the congregation.
“Sexual abuse in any form and any attempt to conceal it is grave evil.”
‘Not good enough’
For Garry, the archbishop’s apology was not good enough.
“I think the apology is about sexual abuse, not about all their wrongdoings, beating children, mentally tormenting them.
“He had this opportunity 10 years ago to apologise. All of a sudden because it’s worldwide … Denis Hart now thinks he should apologise.
“He should have apologised 10 years ago. Also he should apologise for all the wrongdoings against children.”
Garry, 63, who spent much of his childhood in an orphanage, says he was abused both sexually and physically by representatives of the Catholic church.
Garry and about five members of his recently-formed group have been staging a small protest outside the cathedral each Sunday since early June.
He says many thousands of sexual abuse victims were reluctant to come forward.
“I think the problem with the Forgotten Australians is that there is so many of us who have been damaged, but only a very, very small percentage of us are willing to put our hands up and say we were abused.”
Inside the church, Archbishop Hart read more than half of the lengthy written apology that was made available to the congregation.
“I felt I had to do this because we as bishops, priests and people need to move forward together,” he said.
The archbishop’s apology was also criticised by The Melbourne Victims Collective (MVC) as not going far enough.
“Apology not accepted,” said MVC co-founder Helen Last. “All Hart has done is to rehash the same apology that (former Melbourne Archbishop George) Pell gave in the mid-90s and he is now trying to re-badge it as his own and leave the same flawed system there with no changes.”
“Archbishop Hart has squeezed open a door of opportunity and Catholics must now demand that the door be fully swung open.
“Anything less will be crippling to abuse victims, their families and the dwindling clergy.”
In Victoria’s second-largest city, Geelong, parish priest Father Kevin Dillon also read out only a portion of Archbishop Hart’s lengthy letter, but he also made the entire document available to his congregation.
Fr Dillon, priest at St Mary of the Angels Basilica, said there was no requirement made by the archbishop that the entire letter be read out, merely that it be brought to the attention of and made available to parishoners.
He described the letter as a welcome starting point in dealing with sexual abuse by clergy.
“The letter can be a terrific starting point, not a finishing point,” he told AAP.
“It is to be hoped that the letter proves to be a valuable initiative which will lead to a consistently improved process for victims.”