How has the Catholic Church responded to child abuse allegations?

Published 12 Sep 2017

Major child abuse allegations within the Catholic Church first hit the headlines in early 2002, with the Boston Globe publishing coverage of a series of prosecutions against five priests at the Boston diocese.

The stories unleased an international scandal, as child abuse reporting in the US encouraged other victims worldwide to come forward about their own experiences.

Not only had abuse occurred, but also the church was accused of widespread cover-ups and a lack of action against alleged perpetrators.

In the US, the revelations led to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops founding a committee to protect children, which established a charter with guidelines to prevent abuse and respond to child abuse claims.

Church criticised over approach to claims

Over a decade later, however, a United Nations report in 2014 was scathing of the Vatican's measures to protect children.

"The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children," the report stated.

Meanwhile, allegations of child abuse across Australian catholic churches came to light during the recently completed Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The commission's research revealed that 7 per cent of Catholic priests working in Australia between 1950 and 2009 had faced child abuse accusations. More than 4,440 separate allegations were made over a 35-year spell, with 1,880 suspected perpetrators.

The Australian Catholic Church's Truth Justice and Healing Council (TJHC) admitted the clergy were "deeply ashamed" of historic abuse in a submission to the commission in 2014.

Furthermore, the TJHC said cover-ups had taken place and many victims were not believed when they should have been.

"The Church fully and unreservedly acknowledges the devastating, deep and ongoing impact of sexual abuse on the lives of the victims and their families," the submission said.

National redress scheme support

According to the TJHC, a national redress scheme is vital for compensating child abuse victims of the church. The council lauded the announcement that an initial $33.4 million will go towards setting up such a scheme in Australia.

The church has supported greater information sharing between organisations regarding child abuse cases. Victims have also been encouraged to make civil claims for compensation.

Would you like to learn more about measures the Catholic Church has taken in NSW to prevent child abuse?

For more information on this topic and potential compensation claims, please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.