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Australian victim says pedophile priests hide behind God

Victim of abuse tells Anadolu Agency that 'bad' priests use religion to hide behind, as senior Catholic denies knowledge of 40-year-old scandals

Australian victim says pedophile priests hide behind God


By Recep Sakar

MELBOURNE, Australia

Days after Australia's most senior Catholic gave evidence from the Vatican on sexual abuse by priests, one of those abused has told Anadolu Agency of the extent of the suffering.

"I was abused in my own house and my older brothers were abused and other siblings. I had three sisters -- they were all abused," says Tim Lane, who is now 44, but was just four-years-old when he became a priest's victim in the Victoria state diocese of Ballarat.

"It is a terrible thing... a terrible thing to live with."

Lane is just one of the many Australians who were abused by priests in their homes, at churches and at religious seminaries in the cities of Ballarat and Melbourne during the 1970s and 1980s.

Last Monday, senior Catholic Cardinal George Pell insisted to a royal inquiry into child sex abuse that while he was a priest in Ballarat, he was unaware such offenders were being moved between parishes to escape prosecution, and to protect the reputation of the church.

Of particular concern to the commission are allegations that Pell sat on a committee that shifted notorious pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale from parish to parish across Ballarat as allegations emerged of him raping and abusing children everywhere he went.

Ridsdale was convicted between 1993 and 2013 of more than 140 counts of sexual offences against children, some as young as four years old. At one school he is reported to have sodomised every boy aged between 10 and 16.

Talking to Anadolu Agency earlier this month, Lane says he is unimpressed with priests in charge at the time and their present attempts to absolve themselves of any involvement in the scandal.

The royal commission has called Pell’s repeated insistence he knew nothing of priests being shielded “implausible.” In 1973, his housemate was Ridsdale.

"They are protecting themselves from Vatican and Rome, because it is such a mess that they don’t want it to come out," Lane claims.

"They don't want the issue to go all the way to Pope himself. But we paid the price here."

Lane underlines that one of the biggest problems is that in a hierarchical structure like religion, it is easy for priests to hide and children are such "easy targets".

"When you got predators and monsters like that who pretend they believe in God, hide behind God and do evil things, it is easy for them to get to kids... and... institutions keep a lot of secrets," he says.

"Any adult [claiming to be a messenger of God] can do it to any little child. When you hide behind a creator and [are] supposed to be representing God and spreading good word, hope and faith to people, but all you do is the opposite, destroying lives and raping kids... They obviously don’t believe in God of any kind."

While many people equate paedophilia to mental illness, Lane disagrees, saying that those who abused him made a choice.

"I think it is a personal choice, I don’t think it’s a sickness. I think there is a difference between mad and bad," he says.

"A mad person does not know he is mad, but a bad person does."

Over 40 years on, Lane is one of many people campaigning for the truth of what they went through to come out, and for those responsible to be charged.

Speaking from outside Ballarat town hall last Thursday -- on the fourth day of Pell's grilling over cases involving hundreds of children -- Lane said that he had not been near a church "for a long time."

Nearby are the grey brick St. Alipius Parish church -- where many boys have claimed they were abused 40 years ago -- and the red Nazareth House where many girls were molested.

Video of Pell's testimony was shown live outside of the town hall last week, while multicolored ribbons tied to the church's cast iron fence fluttered in the breeze alongside banners reading "No More Silence", and "Never Stop Fighting For Justice."

Cardinal Pell told the inquiry that the Church had made "enormous mistakes" and "catastrophic" choices by refusing to believe abused children, shifting those accused and over-relying on counselling of priests to solve the issue.

He has dismissed suggestions he resign his position, saying to do so would be "an admission of guilt".

Lane told Anadolu Agency that even today memories of the abuse still linger.

"My sisters were abused and [other] young girls by a visiting priest who used to come to our house. It affected their lives in a big way

"You don’t recover from something that does not go away," he says, tapping his head with his index finger.

"Images up here all the time... it is terrible."

Even after such betrayal by those who children presume are being sent to protect them, Lane says he has still not lost his faith.

"I still believe there is a God... I believe he’ll fix things in time. He will repay each man for his own activity, as he says in proverbs."

Lane grimaces, thinking about the town in which he and his brothers and sisters have suffered so much.

"It is very hard to live in a town that's had so much horror, but [when] you got family and friends here, and you seem to stick around where you love."

The 44-year-old underlines that that his fight for justice is not just about what happened to his family, it’s for all victims worldwide.

"Whether it’s in Turkey or in Australia, come forward and let somebody know that this is happening to you. It is not your fault, and God is on our side."

* Anadolu Agency correspondent Satuk Bugra Kutlugun contributed to this story from Ankara

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