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Published: 06 February 2017
Author: Amy Olver
Today marked the start of a hearing which will examine the current policies and procedures of the Catholic Church in Australia in relation to child-protection and child-safety standards, including responding to allegations of child sexual abuse.
The hearing will examine the factors that may have contributed to child sexual abuse at church run institutions. It will also examine what responses the church has had to the reports generated by the Royal Commission as a result of the 16 previous hearings into the church.
Today Counsel assisting the Commission, Gail Furness SC released publicly for the first time, staggering figures which reveal that more than 20% of the members of some Catholic orders, including the Christian Brothers, were alleged to have been involved in child sexual abuse.
In response to the overwhelming statistics Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth, Justice and Healing Counsel which co-ordinates the churches response to the Royal Commission, said the figures were ‘tragic and indefensible’.
Despite this admission, in our experience the church continues to rigorously defend claims for damages resulting from child sexual abuse.
Despite the significant criticisms of the Church’s internal redress processes, called Towards Healing and Melbourne Response, it continues to divert survivors of abuse to these processes rather than allowing survivors of abuse to structure the engagement with the church. This leaves survivors with limited options in some cases forcing them to issue proceedings to avoid facing the internal redress procedures.
While the former cap of $75,000 has been doubled under the Melbourne Response, many of the concerns aired as a result of Case Study 16 which inquired into The Melbourne Response remain; perhaps most significantly, the lack of independence from the Church.
The hearing, which is the 16th public hearing to examine the Church is due to continue for 3 weeks.
You can follow our commentary on proceedings here throughout the hearing
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