Aussie abuse inquiry puts special focus on Catholic Church

Australia’s royal commission on child sexual abuse has announced it is to have a wide-ranging extra hearing focusing on the Catholic Church.

The Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will hold a final hearing regarding the Catholic Church in February, 2017, the Australian Associated Press reported.

The commission is seeking submissions about any factors that may have contributed to child sex abuse in Catholic institutions or affected the Church’s response.

The structure and governance of the Catholic Church and the Vatican’s role are among the issues that will be examined.

Also to be looked at will be what the Church has done and plans to do to protect children and prevent abuse.

Other issues identified by the commission include canon law, mandatory celibacy and the selection, screening, training and ongoing support and supervision of working priests.

“We wish to examine to what extent these and other factors have contributed to the occurrence of child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions, or whether these issues have affected the institutional response to child sexual abuse,” commission chief executive Philip Reed said last week.

The hearing will also reveal data on the extent of child sexual abuse within Catholic institutions in Australia.

The Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council chief executive Francis Sullivan has acknowledged the Catholic Church is the single largest institutional setting in Australia in which children have been abused.

The 14 Catholic-focused public hearings by the commission have revealed elements of its culture that promote secrecy, concealment and complicity, Mr Sullivan said last month.

“Most of all they showed that the instinctive reaction to defend the Church, to prevent scandal and to uphold institutional reputation drove the management of child sex abuse cases and relegated the needs of victims below those of the Church,” Mr Sullivan said.

“Maladministration and clericalism, along with abuse of power and privilege, ensured that the sex abuse scandal was concealed for so long.”


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