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Australian archbishop: Abuse, secrecy was an 'awful blight' on church

May 20, 2013 at 8:14 AM

MELBOURNE, May 20 (UPI) -- The Rev. Denis Hart, archbishop of Melbourne, told investigators the Catholic Church was too slow to deal with pedophile priests.

Hart said the church didn't recognize and appropriately deal with allegations of sexual abuse, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Monday.

"We failed to recognize that abuse was occurring," he told a Victoria inquiry committee. "We failed to recognize that we had pedophiles in our midst. We failed to really listen to people when they came forward to complain."

Hart said his predecessors were secretive about two priests accused of sexual abuse and moved them to other parishes.

"I believe that's an awful blight on the church and that's why I'm here today," he said. "[And] to put my anguish and pain and anger about this to the committee."

He said officials didn't act because they wanted to protect the church's image.

The church has restructured its practices to better protect children and whistle-blowers, he said.

"I always think there's room for improvement," the archbishop said.

"I do think that one of the things that we want to do together as a community and church is really to identify how we can do things better."

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