A senior member of Australia’s Roman Catholic Church has rejected a key recommendation of a five-year inquiry into child sex abuse. The Royal Commission has made more than 400 recommendations, including the creation of a new National Office for Child Safety and the requirement that members of the clergy report abuse confided in them during confession.
The report found that tens of thousands of children were abused in Australian institutions over past decades. Most of the perpetrators were members of the clergy and school teachers.
For years, the vulnerable were preyed upon by pedophiles, while invariably those in charge looked the other way and did nothing.
The government has yet to formally respond to the commission’s report, but Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the scale of abuse was a “national tragedy.”
“I want to thank and honor the courage of the survivors and their families who have told, often for the first time, the dreadful stories of abuse that they received from people who actually owed them love and protection,” Turnbull said.
For five years the Royal Commission heard agonizing stories of rape and sexual assault. Some of the tortured children would later kill themselves, while others would endure the trauma for the rest of their lives.
Leonie Sheedy was abused in care, and says those who suffered deserve compensation.
“Children like me who were raised in Australia’s orphanages, children’s homes and foster care - we certainly were not safe from the predators and the sadists of this nation, and we deserve redress for all forms of abuse and neglect,” Sheedy said.
The head of the Anglican Church of Australia has said had expressed regret over its “shameful” handling of many abuse allegations. But the Catholic Church has rejected a key recommendation of the Royal Commission that priests should report abuse confided to them, even in the secret context of the confessional. Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, said any priest who broke the seal of confession would be excommunicated, and be expelled from the Church and denied a Catholic funeral.
More than 2,500 cases of mistreatment have been referred to the authorities, and 230 criminal prosecutions have been initiated.