“In my capacity as the president of the Australian Bishops Conference, I speak to the survivors of child sex abuse, to the Catholics and to all the community, and I pledge to do everything in my power to make sure the past abuse will never happen again and the reforms that my fellow bishops and the religious leaders have approved over the last few years are implemented. I insist that the Australian Catholic Church will keep supporting the survivors of child sex abuse”. This is the solemn pledge that ends the release written by archbishop Denis Hart, president of the Australian Bishops Conference, issued today at the end of the hearings that the Royal Commission, formed to shed light on the cases of paedophilia and child sex abuse within the Church, had with the Catholic Church.
After four years of investigations, the cases of paedophilia that the Royal Commission actually found within the Catholic Church amounted to approximately 4,4000 from 1980 to 2010 alone, and approximately 1,880 priests (that is, 7% of all Australian priests) turned out to have been involved. Another thing that needed to be understood was how such cases may have been overlooked by the highest echelons of the Church.
In his release, the president of the Australian Bishops Conference, mgr. Hart, expresses his gratitude to the victims of the abuse for the “courage” they showed when they spoke about what they had had to endure. Over the last three weeks, over 70 church leaders stood in front of the Royal Commission to share the scope of their responsibilities, find failures and deficiencies, and envisage better practices for the future. Many areas of the life of the Church and clergy were addressed on these days: “Canon law, confessional, celibacy, clericalism, training, professional support and supervision”.
“What we have learnt – mgr. Hart writes – from our involvement in the case-studies of the Royal Commission and from the efforts made to get a better insight of the dynamics that helped spread child sex abuse within the Church must now be implemented in our future policies and practices”. In this respect, the president of the Australian Bishops Conference expresses his “gratitude” for the “undoubtedly tiring and exacting efforts” that have been made over these years by the Royal Commission and by the board created by the Catholic Church to coordinate the response to the Church to the crisis, “the Truth, Justice and Healing Council”. Now, the bishops are waiting for a final report and for recommendations to the Government, which will be submitted by Peter McClellan, president of the Royal Commission, by the end of this year.