Voiceless Victim

A survivor of clergy child sexual abuse speaks out for those who can't speak for themselves

Catholic Church has no business policing itself

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.

Recommendation 48

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.



5 responses to “Catholic Church has no business policing itself

  1. glorybe1929 March 2, 2012 at 2:41 am

    I just wish I knew what to send to my friends( who love the Lord so much ) who are still attending this church? They never write back,, even when I ask them to. They act as though I have sent them nothing. This is a very serious evil in their lives, as is within the rcc. and they should take it seriously but they don’t seem to care. “Don’t mess up my life, I like it the way it is.I don’t want to think about it.”. Like Scarlet,(in “Gone With The Wind”).”.I’ll think about it tomorrow” Well it may be too late tomorrow…..when they start to think about it. “God will not be mocked” and that is exactly what is happening in these situations.

    • voicelessvictim March 2, 2012 at 7:59 am

      I think you’ve struck the crux of the problem, Gloria.

      “Don’t mess up my life, I like it the way it is.I don’t want to think about it” is the very attitude which allows the Catholic hierarchy to keep sacrificing children’s safety to protect their reputations and wealth.

      As one of those sacrificed children, I am so very familiar with that selfish, cruel attitude. The attitude that allows people who firmly believe themselves to be good to turn their backs on innocent, suffering children in desperate need of help and say “My comfort is more important than protecting you from being raped”.

      They are assuming the problem doesn’t affect them personally.

      How could a criminal conspiracy to hide child rape on a widespread scale not corrupt an organisation to its very core and undermine all those trying to actually do some good?

      Even if they are comfortable supporting such an organisation, it does affect them personally. What they don’t understand is, their children and grandchildren are most at risk of being the next innocents to be targeted by the relentless predators the church works so hard to keep free. And denial of uncomfortable realities by the people looking after children is one criteria which makes those very children a more desirable target.

  2. Annette Keil-Taggart March 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Who do you talk to in Western Australia? I tried over several years and got shut out and down and put out of work .John Messer director of Catholic Ethics in Perth sniggered at me and David Freeman at Social Justice in Freemantle did his duty and listened and then forgot about it. I spoke to the Director of Catholic Education and it took three months to get an appointment, He and his offsider recorded notes and then ignored me. I tried to get an appointment with the ArchBishop of perth and his secretary told me pointless if it referred to the Bishop of Broome as he had total power in his diocese and recommended me to get an appointmen with the Pope- Ha aha joke regarding professionalism and accountability

    • voicelessvictim March 2, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      Annette, why don’t you send me a private email at voicelessvictim@gmail.com with a few more details and I’ll see what I can do to help.

      Off the top of my head I would suggest you consider making a police statement, or perhaps writing to your local member of parliament. There is no excuse for fobbing off victims of abuse, and the last thing the Church wants is for appalling behaviour like that to be revealed publicly.

      You are not alone in this and we will find appropriate support to help you through. I am in Sydney or I would do it myself, but you are welcome to call on me via phone, Skype or email if you need someone to listen and understand or for advice. Most states also have some sort of victim support structure where you may be able to access counselling, other services or even financial assistance. I will let you know what the situation is in WA.

      I recently wrote to all Bishops in Australia encouraging them to improve the way they treated victims and to report abusers to police. Very few answered at all. One of them was the Archbishop of Perth. He replied that “the abuse of vulnerable people by some members of the clergy is a matter of deep regret and sorrow. They have done untold harm and shamed us all. I have read and taken note of your suggestions. Pray God the future will be different.” If all he is doing about this problem is praying, the future will be no different at all! The Bishop of Broome did not consider victims of abuse important enough to respond. We will have to see if we can make him change his attitude.

      By the way, have you seen my post with the letter I wrote to the Pope? While I was in a meeting with Cardinal Pell, his chancellor, John Usher, recognised the details of my story and told me my letter to the Pope had been sent from Rome for him to deal with it. Perhaps if you write to the Pope using the address on my letter (it is the correct address), they will not be able to dismiss you so quickly. I can help you with the letter if you would like.

      Look after yourself,


    • voicelessvictim March 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm

      Here is the information about services for victims of crime in WA:

      The Victim Support and Child Witness Service is able to help anyone who has suffered harm from crime. This includes victims, their family, friends and co-workers and witnesses to violent crime.
      We can provide counselling, support and information to help people understand their rights and options. Welfare, health, medical and legal assistance is available for victims, as well as the possibility of financial criminal injuries compensation.
      The Victim Support and Child Witness Service provides access to all the counselling information you need. We can put you in contact with Government departments, private organisations and other support groups.
      The Victim Support Service can also provide counselling free of charge.
      It is important that you are not alone in your time of crisis. Call us on 1800 818 988.
      The Victim Support & Child Witness Service is part of the Department of the Attorney General. We have offices in Perth and regional centres around Western Australia.

      The website is http://www.courts.dotag.wa.gov.au/_files/VSS_Whataboutmethevictim.pdf

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