Aussie archbishop says abuse victims are new missionaries

Sex abuse victims who tell their stories are the new missionaries to the Catholic Church, the Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn says.

In an interview with the Canberra Times, Archbishop Christopher Prowse said the Church is going through an “unprecedented crisis”.

“There is so much shame, there is so much humiliation with the criminal acts of some of us [that] for us to stand alongside victims, to encourage them to come forward and to listen to their story, is absolutely imperative,” he said.

Appointed to lead the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn last September, Archbishop Prowse said he had been humbled and inspired by “the raw courage of so many victims of clerical sex abuse as children”.

“They have been very heroic in trying to refocus on their life and to instruct us as a church [on] where we have failed and what we can do to ameliorate a very difficult stage of our history.”

He said the victims “who are able to be courageous enough to share with us their stories” are “the new missionaries”.

“When I sit down with victims there’s tears, there is anger, there’s shouting, there’s lament.

“Yet, over a period of time, I’ve also found reservoirs of wanting to start again, a sense of forgiveness that would come after the acknowledgement of the injustice, a sense of working together to make sure these things don’t happen again.”

The archbishop is the first to concede the road to reconciliation is complex, delicate and challenging.

“Sex abuse is a bit like an atomic bomb on faith. It devastates faith for the people that have been affected by it directly.”

Last week, Pope Francis was reported in the Italian La Repubblica newspaper that abuse of children is “leprosy” in the Church.

He pledged to “confront it with the severity it requires”.

The Pope was reported as saying he had been told that two per cent of Catholic clergy are paedophiles.

The number would represent 8000 priests, based on the latest Vatican figures that count a total of 414,000 priests globally.


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