The Royal Commission
To become better informed I recently attended a Briefing on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It reflects a shameful period in the Church's history and it is essential that support for victims and their families is the most important priority. Secondly the Church needs to change.
The Archbishop subsequently has called upon us to be a ‘force for change’ in our society:
"We now have an absolute responsibility to commit ourselves without reservation to being a force in our society for change. I…invite you all, in whatever ways you can, to become a part of this effort."
- Archbishop Timothy Costelloe in his Pastoral Letter of 27 Feb, 2017
Some of the facts presented at the Briefing I attended were alarming:
- 57 public hearings have been conducted and 6,570 private sessions.
- 2,001 referrals have been made to agencies including the police.
- On average it has taken victims 22 years to come forward.
- Most of the institutions where the abuse took place were faith based - 68% Catholic and 12% Anglican.
- 90% of perpetrators were male.
- Perpetrators were most likely to be members of the clergy or religious orders followed by teachers and residential care workers then foster carers and children older than the victim.
So how is the Church to change? The reality for some Catholic families is that the Catholic school is the Church. This year Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA) has been working alongside schools to create a Child Safety Framework and a Code of Conduct for staff, students and parents. We all need to be held accountable to ensure the safety of our children. Our staff have been engaging with the Code to ensure that our practices and policies are appropriate and seeking clarification when needed. This will be an ongoing process.
It is also the responsibility of the laity to support our Bishops, Priests and other clergy in ensuring open and transparent dialogue. Governance and controls at all levels need to be enhanced. In addition, Principals and other school leaders need to work with communities to create safe and happy learning environments.
We are blessed to be associated with a wonderful Catholic College with its rich Jesuit and Loreto heritage. However, it is essential that the care and support of our children is constantly monitored and adjustments made where appropriate. Much of the work of the Royal Commission is about bearing witness – understanding the causes and the impact of the abuse. I will provide further information as the Royal Commission concludes.
Together, let us seek justice.