Below are some excerpts from this week’s Report of the Inquiry into Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children (Australia) demolishing some of the Catholic Church’s favourite excuses for its appalling record on child endangerment.
Thankfully the inquiry refused to be fooled by the Catholic Church’s pretence of proper process:
The investigation and prosecution of crimes is properly a matter for the State. Any private system of investigation and compensation which has the tendency, whether intended or unintended, to divert victims from recourse to the State, and to prevent abusers from being held responsible and punished by the State, is a system that should come under clear public scrutiny and consideration.
In particular the private processing of matters involving children should come under clear public scrutiny. A private system of investigation and compensation, no matter how faithfully conducted, by definition cannot fulfil the responsibility of the State to investigate and prosecute crime. Crime is a public, not a private, matter. The substantial number of established complaints of clerical sexual abuse …reveal a profound harm, and any private process that attempts to address that harm should be publicly assessed.
And called for a proper investigation into the Catholic Church’s handling of child sex abuse cases:
There is a strong public interest in the ascertainment of whether past abuses have been institutionally hidden, whether religious organisations have been active or complicit in that suppression, and in revealing what processes and procedures were employed.
This is not a mere historical artefact. It can, and should, lead to present remedy of any deficiencies in the processes of investigation and to future prevention.
Further, people who once were abused would be accorded proper acknowledgement and respect by being able to discuss and disclose their concerns about any deficient private processes. The Inquiry considers that is a most significant rehabilitative matter.
Finally, it should not be forgotten that although the abuse may have occurred in years long past, the suffering of victims continues to this day, often most grievously.
A formal investigation should be conducted into the processes by which religious organisations respond to the criminal abuse of children by religious personnel within their organisations. Such an investigation should possess the powers to compel the elicitation of witness evidence and of documentary and electronic evidence.
The report also noted that there is currently a law already in force in Victoria which clearly identifies that it is a crime to sacrifice children to protect priestly rapists. If this law were actually enforced, nearly every Australian Cardinal, Bishop and Provincial of a Religious Order would face imprisonment, perhaps even lengthy imprisonment due to the huge numbers of these offences that have been committed.
…it is an offence for a person who has a duty of care in respect of a child to intentionally fail to take action that does, or is likely to, result in harm to the child.
Perhaps there should also be an investigation into why, when there is clear evidence Church leaders have broken this law, none have been charged or convicted with any of the offences they committed.
Victoria Police advised the Inquiry that, between 1 July 2000 and 30 June 2010, there were 15 recorded alleged offences. 15 charges laid over 10 years. For a crime the Catholic Church commits daily.
The inquiry also recommended that mandatory reporting be widened to specifically include religious personnel. Naturally the Catholic Church, which claims to be co-operating with police and doing everything possible to help victims, argued desperately against such a measure. Against being forced to end centuries of secrecy and cover-up.
Once again the inquiry did not fall for the Catholic Church’s polished excuses in favour of them continuing in their evasion of responsibility and neglect of duty of care.
mandatory reporting laws do not allow society to ignore wrongs committed by adults against children, …when entrenched into positive law will produce a less unjust society, …these laws directly acknowledge and protect a child’s right to safety .
Victoria clearly has a very long way to go before the State can claim to value, protect or care for its children. But at least it has taken the first step by holding such an inquiry. Other Australian states refuse to even consider the disastrous state of child protection or hold an official inquiry, abandoning abused children to additional suffering, and increasing the numbers of abused children in need of help.
Thank you Justice Cummins and his team for finally delivering a glimmer of hope that Australia’s thousands of victims of rapist priests and other religious, and of those who enable and cover-up their crimes, may one day see something approaching justice. Justice which, to date, we have been comprehensively denied.