On 6 February 2017, the Royal Commission began a public hearing to inquire into the current policies and procedures of Catholic Church authorities in Australia in relation to child-protection and child-safety standards, including responding to allegations of child sexual abuse. The public hearing is expected to run for three weeks.
A Royal Commission report into the extent of abuse within the Church was tabled on day one of the public hearing. The report contains numbers that are shocking, tragic and indefensible. The abuse spans decades and has occurred in Church institutions both small and large.
The proportion of priests since 1950 with claims of abuse against them undermines the image and credibility of the priesthood. Likewise, the number of religious brothers with claims of abuse only further corrodes the community’s trust.
The data in the report shows that over the six decades from 1950 to 2010 some 1265 Catholic priests and religious were the subject of a child sexual abuse claim. Each entry, for the most part, represents a child who suffered at the hands of someone who should have cared for and protected them. The ripples of the abuse have also been felt by their family, friends and carers.
The data is an indictment on the priests and religious who abused these children.
It also reflects on the Church leaders who, at the time, failed to take steps to deal with the abusers, failed to call them to order and failed to deal with them in accordance with the law.
This data, along with all we have heard over the past four years, can only be interpreted for what it is; a massive failure on the part the Catholic Church in Australia to protect children from abusers and predators; misguided determination by leaders at the time to put the interests of the Church ahead of the most vulnerable; and a corruption of the Gospel the Church seeks to profess.
The wrongs of the past must be repaired, survivors of abuse must be shown the compassion and justice they have been calling for, child safety must be embedded in the culture of the Church.
A statement on behalf of the Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council was tabled by the Council’s CEO, Francis Sullivan, on day one of the public hearing.
The Diocese of Parramatta is committed to continuously reviewing and improving its child protection policies and procedures and encourages anyone who was abused in any way to contact our Office for Safeguarding & Professional Standards tel (02) 8838 3419 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
To download a Royal Commission Information Kit, click here.
Posted on 7 February 2017.