Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Priests removed

Church removes guilty priests Barney Zwartz
April 6, 2011

TWO Melbourne Catholic priests guilty of sexual abuse have been removed from the priesthood, Melbourne Vicar-General Bishop Les Tomlinson confirmed yesterday.

The news was sent to Melbourne priests in the Vicar-General's newsletter, but victims - while welcoming the removals - said they were angry they had not been told.

One priest, Paul Pavlou, formerly of Healesville, was defrocked by the Vatican, while the other, Barry Whelan, was laicised - made a layman - at his own request, reportedly so he could get married.

Advertisement: Story continues below In the Magistrates Court two years ago, Pavlou admitted indecent acts against a 14-year-old boy and possessing child pornography, and was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence.

In Whelan's case, the Melbourne Archdiocese has compensated at least three vulnerable women whom it agreed Whelan took advantage of or abused. One woman bore him a child.

Bishop Tomlinson said neither had been acting as a priest in Melbourne for a long time. ''When serious allegations are made against a priest, especially if they involve charges by the police, the priest is stood down,'' he said.

Advocate Helen Last of In Good Faith, who has worked with some Whelan victims, said: ''This is an important decision. Victims have been calling for the defrocking of their clerical offenders for a long time.

''Finally, something has been done, but they have been overlooked and not notified. Again, they are not considered important enough to be kept in the picture.''

A senior Melbourne Catholic who asked not to be named said that after years of inaction about removing sexual abusers from the priesthood, the Vatican had changed tack to remove them as fast as possible.

''The church is running scared. Now they are as keen as mustard to do it as soon as they can because it stops the abusers being a financial liability,'' he said. After they are laicised, the church is not liable for future offences, or for the costs of maintaining the priest.

Asked whether the church was unjustly criticised over the slow pace of the laicisation of abusers, Bishop Tomlinson said: ''It's true that many people view the church and problems with abusers with just what they know, but sometimes obligations are such that it's not possible to divulge everything that is happening, and people jump to inaccurate conclusions.''

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