The Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, has claimed that the church's response to child sexual abuse within its ranks constituted "criminal negligence".
Speaking to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse yesterday (February 23), Archbishop Fisher was one of a number of senior church officials who criticised the Catholic Church's actions.
"It was a kind of criminal negligence to deal with some of the problems that were staring us in the face," he told a hearing in Sydney.
"In other cases, I think there were people that were just like rabbits in the headlights, they just had no idea what to do, and their performance was appalling."
Child abuse within the church
The extent of abuse by church officials was highlighted in Royal Commission data published earlier this month, which showed 4,444 individuals came forward to make complaints between 1980 and 2015.
Furthermore, 1,880 alleged perpetrators had been identified since 1950, with an estimated 7 per cent of Catholic priests working in Australia between then and 2009 accused of inappropriate conduct.
The Archbishop of Perth, Timothy Costelloe, provided a statement to the commission where he highlighted weaknesses in the church's approach to resolving child sex abuse cases.
"There has been a catastrophic failure in keeping people faithful [like priests] to the commitments they made. I asked myself what can possibly have gone wrong, or what was missing, that could lead to, not just one, but countless people failing in this way," he stated.
Church undergoing changes
According to Archbishop Costelloe, the church is taking a more collaborative approach to decision-making to ensure similar incidents don't occur in the future.
He added that many bishops probably saw themselves as a law unto themselves, believing they had broad powers to do as they pleased. This attitude may have trickled down into local parishes.
Archbishop Costelloe was speaking at the 50th public hearing of the royal commission, where the archbishops for Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane were also questioned on the church's conduct.
Child abuse victims can claim compensation for the suffering they experienced from the church, even if incidents occurred many decades ago.
Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers is a highly specialised and dedicated law firm that can help individuals who are seeking redress for their injuries, both physical and psychological.
Please get in touch with us today if you'd like to speak to a member of our team.