Former bishop apologises for failing sex abuse victims

HE FAILED the victims of sexual abuse at Neerkol Orphanage and he will be sorry for the rest of his days.

The former Bishop of Rockhampton, Bishop Brian Heenan apologised unequivocally yesterday for the way he responded in the 1990s to allegations of child sex abuse at Neerkol Orphanage.

"I apologise again for the harm and suffering of former St Joseph's Orphanage residents at the hands of the Catholic Church clerics, sisters and staff," he said.

"I hope my evidence has provided a deeper understanding of the devastation of sexual abuse, and what it does to victims and their families.

"I've read the stories of victims (and heard them verbally) but when I saw the victims presenting their stories themselves, and saw their emotional reaction, I realised all over again how dreadful it must have been for them."

Bishop Heenan wrapped up his evidence before the Royal Commission panel at yesterday's hearing.

Fr Reginald Durham was convicted of sexually assaulting a former Neerkol Orphanage resident.

The Royal Commission heard the former Neerkol priest's brother, Fr Martin Durham, became quite distressed when he heard about the sexual abuse allegations against his brother in the 1990s.

On March 23, 1999, Bishop Heenan received a letter from Kevin Baker, a former Neerkol employee, asking for financial assistance for his legal fees for the allegations made by former residents.

Mr Baker has denied the allegations of abuse against him.

In his statement to the commission, Bishop Heenan said he refused that financial assistance.

In a letter, Bishop Heenan told Mr Baker the compensation paid to former residents of Neerkol was used to fund legal proceedings against him.

Topics:  neerkol orphanage

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