Catholic Church Responds to Abuse Inquiry
13 November 2013 at 4:55 pm
The Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart has accepted the highly critical findings of the Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into child abuse also saying the Committee’s report is rightly called “Betrayal of Trust”.
“It is our hope that the Inquiry, and its recommendations, will assist the healing of those who have been abused. We also hope they will enhance the care of victims and their families, and strengthen the preventative measures now in place,” he said in a statement.
The report called Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations was tabled in the Victorian Parliament.
The report into the handling of child abuse called for an Independent Statutory Body to monitor the handling of allegations of child abuse by religious and non-government organisations as well as a number of significant changes to the Crimes Act.
The Victorian Parliament’s Family and Community Development Committee took particular aim at the Catholic Church.
The report said that while there is no way it could accurately count the total number of victims of criminal child abuse in non-government organisations it could reasonably estimate that there have been several thousand victims criminally abused in non-government organisations in Victoria alone.
The Inquiry said that even today, leaders of some non-government organisations were reluctant to fully acknowledge that they adopted policies that gave first priority to protecting the interests of their organisation.
The statement from the Archbishop said: “The report documents terrible abuse that occurred in the Catholic Church, mainly over a 25-year period from 1960 to1985. It also sets out inexcusable failures in the Church’s response to that abuse.
“Victims bravely came forward to give their accounts, often at great personal cost. The Inquiry has been an important opportunity for victims to be heard.
“I have spoken before about this betrayal and the irreparable damage it has caused.
It is the worst betrayal of trust in my lifetime in the Catholic Church.
“As the Inquiry heard, we were far too slow to address the abuse, or even to accept that it was taking place. I fully acknowledge that leaders in the Church made terrible mistakes. These are indefensible.
“We know that the long-term suffering of victims and their families continues. On behalf of the Catholic Church in Victoria I apologise again for these failures to the victims, to their families, and to the community,” the Archbishop said.
“The report has some criticisms of our processes, including the Melbourne Response and Towards Healing. It also acknowledges that these processes are a genuine attempt to respond meaningfully, and that they have provided assistance to many victims.
“We believe that they have supported victims who have come forward, and have helped prevent further abuse. At the same time, we accept we can do better and are committed to improvements wherever possible.”
The Inquiry report recommends that people in positions of authority should be criminally responsible for placing children at risk of harm by other individuals and that it give consideration to an amendment to the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) to create a criminal offence of “grooming”.
It also recommends that the Victorian Government review its contractual and funding arrangements with education and community service organisations that work with children and young people to ensure they have a minimum standard for ensuring a child-safe environment.
It says the Government should consider amending the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic) to specify that no time limits apply to applications for assistance by victims of criminal child abuse in organisational settings.
Another recommendation calls on the Victorian Government to consider the introduction of a criminal offence relating to child endangerment in organisations that covers relevant wanton or reckless behaviour.
The Victorian Premier Dr Denis Napthine said all of the Committee’s recommendations would be considered as a matter urgency by the Government.
Volume 1 (PDF 2.2Mb),
Volume 2 (PDF 4.0Mb)