Church ‘regrets’ abuse of boys
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By Lauren Cohen
March 8, 2009 / The Times
Almost 50 years after a teenage boy was sexually abused by a leading clergyman, the Catholic Church has acknowledged his story with a letter of regret.
In 2007, Cape Town magazine editor Mario D’Offizi revealed in a book, Bless Me Father, how Bishop Reginald Orsmond, who founded the children’s charity Boys Town, had abused him as a youngster.
This week, at the church’s invitation, he and another former Boys Town resident accepted the letters from the Archbishop of Johannesburg, Buti Tlhagale.
In D’Offizi’s letter, Tlhagale said he and the church’s professional conduct committee believed D’Offizi’s allegations were credible — but because Orsmond is dead, it was not possible to hear his response.
Tlhagale conveyed his “deepest regret for any harm that may have been done to you as a result of sexual abuse by clergy” and said the Archdiocese could explore financial support for “psychological counselling to deal with the trauma experienced”.
D’Offizi was originally told he would receive a letter of apology.
“This is a letter of regret. I can see they are admitting it, but not to the general public. I would have liked to see an actual apology,” he said.
The revelation of Orsmond’s abuse of children, many of them from broken homes or victims of sexual assault who were committed to his care by the courts, shocked those who knew him.
Orsmond chaired the South African Council of Priests and was installed as bishop of Johannesburg in 1984. He died seven years ago.
Friday’s events mean D’Offizi’s story — and those of other similarly affected Boys Town pupils — has been vindicated.
“After my book was published, I received enormous support, but there were the odd few who implied I had made it all up,” said D’Offizi.
The church approached D’Offizi last year and facilitated his being interviewed by a lawyer and a social worker. A church representative was present.
Another of Orsmond’s victims, 63-year-old Diego Zotta from Pretoria, also received a letter.
Zotta said he was abused for most of the three years he spent as a teenager at the home.
“I don’t think it (the letter) will change anything,” he said.
“The scar is still there, still festering.”