WHY draw attention to it now, those things happened 40 years ago? Wouldn’t it just be better to put it behind us now?
They’re fair questions to ask about the historic sexual abuse of children in this area, between February 1980 and September 1984, by assistant parish priest at Leongatha, the late Fr Daniel Hourigan.
The issue has come to light again after a landmark decision in the Victorian Supreme Court last Wednesday, September 30, which clears the way for the survivors of child sex abuse to seek proper compensation from the Catholic Church, and any other institution which forced inadequate settlements on their victims.
The lead applicant in this case, who suffered at the hands of Hourigan over a two-and-a-half-year period, at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church Warragul, between August 1977 and February 1980, was paid $32,500 for his silence at the time.
In the full knowledge of what had transpired, the Diocese of Sale then moved Hourigan to Leongatha, where he offended again, and then to several other towns in Gippsland, leaving a trail of destruction behind him.
So, why publicise the fact now?
The many good people of the Catholic Church have already had their spiritual home destroyed, and if not destroyed, ruined beyond recognition by the actions of a few depraved individuals.
Where hundreds of people used to go along on a Sunday morning to enjoy the community and celebration of their faith, learning valuable lessons of citizenship and humanity along the way… many now stay away.
They stay away, at least in part, because they are ashamed to be associated with a church that initially aided and abetted the crimes and then tried to cover them up.
Other institutions aren’t blameless. And the reality is, it’s still going on.
So, why publicise it now?
Because it was, as much as anything else, the unspoken words, the bungled attempts at dealing with the problem behind closed doors, that allowed it to continue.
As much as we all hate to hear it, the message must be loud and clear.