Catholic Church upheld 618 child sex abuse cases
September 22, 2012
THE Catholic Church in Victoria yesterday admitted that it had upheld 618 cases of criminal child abuse by clergy in the past 16 years.
All but 13 of the cases were before 1990, some dating back to the 1930s, church spokesman Father Shane Mackinlay said. The four Victorian dioceses of the church yesterday lodged a joint submission to the State Parliament inquiry into the handling of child abuse cases by religious and non-government organisations.
Father Mackinlay told The Saturday Age 302 of the 330 cases upheld by the Melbourne Response of the Melbourne Archdiocese applied to criminal child abuse and 310 from the Towards Healing response, which covers the dioceses of Ballarat, Sale and Sandhurst (Bendigo) and the various religious orders. Another 45 cases, though not all children, are still being investigated.
Submissions to the inquiry closed yesterday, with ”hundreds” received, according to Georgie Crozier, the chairwoman of the Parliament’s family and community development committee, which is hearing the inquiry. They came from victims, advocates, churches and other interested groups. Ms Crozier said public hearings would begin next month, continuing in Melbourne and regional areas into next year. The committee is due to report by April 30.
Judy Courtin, a lawyer supporting several victims in their submissions, said that, according to the Victorian Law Reform Commission, only one in 10 victims ever came forward, suggesting a real toll closer to 6500 Victorian victims of clergy sexual abuse.
The Catholic Church yesterday launched a website dedicated to the inquiry, facingthetruth.org.au, and held meetings on Thursday and yesterday to brief clergy, church workers and members of religious orders.
Father Mackinlay said more than 100 turned up yesterday. ”There are 1.5 million Catholics in Victoria, and they all have a stake, they are all affected and many know victims. The message I hear consistently is that hiding behind closed doors makes the problem worse,” he said. In a joint statement about their submission, titled Facing the Truth, the four Victorian diocesan bishops say they will co-operate fully with the inquiry, and they have been open about the horrific abuse. They say they will waive any confidentiality requirements victims may have signed.
”In our submission we discuss the church’s commitment to caring for children, the failures of the church and the developments in society’s and the church’s understanding of the pernicious nature of paedophilia,” the bishops say. ”The submission shows how the church of today is committed to facing up to the truth and to not disguising, diminishing or avoiding the actions of those who have betrayed a sacred trust.”
The Law Institute of Victoria has echoed calls for a full royal commission into clergy abuse, arguing that the parliamentary committee does not have the powers, resources or time to complete a thorough review.
In its submission to the inquiry, the institute also calls for mandatory reporting, legislation requiring organisations to establish compensation funds, and an independent statutory body to monitor how churches respond to complaints of clergy abuse.