Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bishop leaked woman's details

Bishop leaked woman's details
June 9, 2010
The Age
Michelle Goldsmith, who received an apology for being described as "crazy" by Bishop Joseph Grech.

ONE of Victoria's most senior Catholic figures, Bendigo's Bishop Joseph Grech, broke church rules by leaking an abuse complainant's details, and allegedly described her as ''crazy''.

Bishop Grech was forced to write a letter of apology to Eaglehawk resident Michelle Goldsmith after an internal church inquiry headed by a senior Catholic cleric.

Bishop Grech breached the confidentiality designed to protect a clerical abuse victim when he spoke about Mrs Goldsmith with the former Eaglehawk parish president.

Bishop Joseph Grech.
The parish president told The Age that Bishop Grech indicated Mrs Goldsmith was ''crazy'' when the bishop twirled his finger around the side of his head and said ''that girl needs professional help''.

Bishop Grech conceded he was sanctioned for talking with the parish president, but told The Age he was concerned only for her welfare and had ''no wish … to undermine anybody''.

Mrs Goldsmith also claims Bishop Grech shouted at her, ''You are a waste of my time and the diocese's money!'' during a 2008 argument in which she claims his spittle fell on her clothes because ''he was so furious and he was so close''. Bishop Grech denied this and in a statement to The Age said that ''definitely is not an accurate account of the conversation''.

His letter to Mrs Goldsmith says he regretted the ''distress'' caused by his general ''interaction with you''.

Mrs Goldsmith went to the internal church complaints process, ''Towards Healing'', over an affair she claims happened with her parish priest. She had also clashed with the bishop over diocese decisions. She says it took too long to resolve her complaint and that both the process and bishops prioritise the priest concerned and not their victims.

Clerical abuse rights groups have often been concerned that the confidentiality of complainants has been breached by church figures, but this is one of the few times a bishop has been officially sanctioned.

The church's independent assessor said she could not determine the nature of the relationship between Mrs Goldsmith and her parish priest, but the church did say the priest had acted ''inappropriately'' and that Mrs Goldsmith ''harbours profound anger and resentment'' towards the church.

Mrs Goldsmith believes people of the Sandhurst diocese should know what their bishop has done.

Bishop Grech's case was supervised by the most senior Australian bishop in charge of ''Towards Healing'', Toowoomba's Bill Morris. Disciplining a bishop is unusual, but Bishop Morris said, ''it does happen from time to time … systems are only as good as those who put them into practice''.

Mrs Goldsmith is adamant she was not a victim, and that she had an emotional and physical relationship with the priest (not the current Eaglehawk parish priest). She says she approached ''Towards Healing'' for counselling only, but counsellors told her she had grounds for a complaint. After her case was heard, the church agreed to pay for her counselling and antidepressant drugs. Mrs Goldsmith says the way her complaint was handled shows the church's ''priority is not the people, it's the priesthood''.

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