BISHOP Brian Heenan of Rockhampton has apologised ‘unreservedly’ to victims of sexual abuse and to their families.
In a letter to all parishes on June 15-16, he also affirmed the integrity of ‘the vast majority of our priests and religious’.
Bishop Heenan was responding to revelations of sexual abuse of boys by Michael McArdle while he was a Rockhampton diocesan priest.
Allegations of abuse by the then Fr McArdle have come from Mackay, Farleigh, Longreach and Bundaberg, where he served in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mr McArdle retired from diocesan ministry in 1988 and was monitored to ensure he was not involved in any way with young people.
He formally resigned from the priesthood in October 2000.
Bishop Heenan said he was appointed to Rockhampton diocese in 1991 and was told of abuses at the hands of Michael McArdle in 1996. This abuse had occurred before 1988.
Bishop Heenan said he immediately contacted Fr McArdle, who did not deny the allegations. He agreed to attend a specialist centre for comprehensive assessment and treatment but was not permitted to return to active diocesan ministry.
‘My apology and heartfelt sorrow goes out not only to those who have suffered abuse by Michael McArdle,’ Bishop Heenan said, ‘but to all victims of abuse perpetuated by members of the Church.
‘I assure all victims and their families that the Church will respond with compassion and understanding.
‘We cannot change the past, but we must learn from our past failings and work to ensure that the lives of those affected by the evil of sexual abuse will be better into the future.’