How Has the Catholic Church Responded to Abuse Claims in Australia

Published 07 Sep 2018

Almost nine months after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its report, the Australian Catholic Church has finally responded.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia's response came after a decade of government pressure to investigate allegations surrounding child abuse in the Australian Catholic Church and other religious institutions.

But what exactly did the church decide in its 57-page response?

What did they agree with?

Of the report, there were 80 recommendations. These included:

  • Ensuring those in religious roles undertake minimum training on child safety.
  • Conducting risk assessments to identify and minimise risk to children after receiving a complaint of sexual abuse.
  • Applying the same standards for investigating complaints of child sexual abuse whether or not the victim is of a religious background.

Thankfully, the church accepted 98 per cent of recommendations, including the aforementioned. But what issue prevented the church from gaining a near perfect score?

What didn't they agree with?

Recommendation 7.4, which concerned breaking the seal of traditional confession to inform authorities of sexual abuse, was the only one that the church failed to accept. The reasoning behind such a bold decision? The church believe the recommendation to be contrary to their faith and harmful to religious liberty, as well as a fruitless endeavour. Such decision has sparked controversy, but the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference remains unmoved, with president Archbishop Mark Coleridge believing breaking the seal of traditional confessional will not make children any safer.

"Most confessions are anonymous. I am a confessor and someone comes to me anonymously and confesses to abusing a child without identifying the victim, what am I supposed to do? Say to the police someone whose name I do not know, who is anonymous, has confessed to abusing a child, the identity of whom I do not know either? Where does that leave us?", said Coleridge during a press conference.

The revelations come days after Pope Francis faces further allegations that he covered up knowings of child abuse in 2013. This incident, along with weeks of revelations surrounding the church's mismanagement of sexual abuse allegations, has caused his credibility to take a huge hit.

At Gerard Malouf and Partners, we understand the sensitivity behind issues of sexual assault. If you've been victimised by a religious institution, or any person for that matter, there's no need to hide. Our team of sexual assault lawyers will work with you and decide whether we can take your case and fight to get the compensation you deserve.

Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for more information.