Catholic Church child abuse – over 90% of Australians say ‘No More’, we’ll have a Royal Commission

by 99, editor of Turn Left

Last thursday (8 Nov) a police officer from Newcastle NSW, Peter Fox, spoke on ABCs Lateline about the police cover up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

A weekend of outrage and demands for a Royal Commission, resulted in NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell announcing an inquiry (not a Royal Commission) into the police cover-up.

That did not silence the voices of this country.

On Monday, PM Julia Gillard announced a Royal Commission.

In the lead up to that moment, were years of lawyers, abuse survivors, activist groups, police, politicians all fighting for a Royal Commission, and the Peter Fox interview was the final straw, when the community said “No More”.

The Prime Minister announced that Australia would hold a wide-ranging inquiry into child sex abuse in this country, not just the catholic church – but also including into religious and secular organisations, volunteer groups, sporting groups, scouting groups, and the responses from police and child care agencies who should have known about the ongoing abuse over decades and did nothing.

PM Gillard would not be drawn into whether there would be more than one commissioner, or the length of Commission, but that its scope would be wide, covering a range of institutions that have a duty of care to children.

The voices that had called for a Royal Commission were from across the spectrum:

Former PM Malcolm Fraser “There must be a Royal Commission into child abuse, if the RC Church is innocent, a Royal Commission should be welcomed. We would know truth.”

ALP Senator Doug Cameron: “If it had been any other organisation in the country … there’d have been a royal commission a long time ago”.

Independent Tony Windsor said a Royal Commission was needed because: “If it’s a controlled political inquiry, well you just get the same old answer, and no one does anything”.

As well as over 90% of Australians poll – and when was the last time that many Australians agreed on anything, this was an issue that people wanted action.

Source: Royal commission on church abuse is not the answer: Hockey, Shorten

In 2003, Simon Crean, Jenny Macklin, and others had called for another Royal Commission following a similar scandal engulfing the Howard-appointed Governor General Peter Hollingworth, the head of the Anglican Church. This was refused by the Howard Government.

However, among those who opposed a Royal Commission were Joe Hockey and Bill Shorten.

LNP’s Joe Hockey called a Royal Commission “ridiculous” and also said “I know victims. I have friends who have been victims. And if you ask them to give evidence before a court, they wouldn’t do it. …And having a public inquiry would traumatise them.”

ALP’s Bill Shorten said “I have thought about this question – how do you best deal with it? I am not convinced that having a royal commission is going to fix the faults”.

Cardinal Pell, who opposed a Royal Commission on saturday, and didn’t “believe a royal commission is warranted“, came around to supporting it, after it had been announced.

The statement from the Catholic Bishops conference, in response to the Royal Commission, is found here, in it Cardinal Pell says “We look forward to consultations with the Government on the terms of reference”.

This support – after the Commission was announced – doesn’t exactly sit with Pell’s other statement that “Ongoing and at times one-sided media coverage has deepened this uncertainty. This is one of the reasons for my support for this royal commission.”

By that does Pell mean, the media has taken the point of view of the victims of the ongoing systematic abuse by Catholic priests, and not the abusing Catholic priest.

Yes, it is not easy for most journalist to take the paedophiles side in a story.

Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, also supported the Royal Commission, after it was announced, and after over 90% of polled Australians said they also supported it.

However, Abbott, who once trained as a priest, and is George Pell’s BFF, wants the Commission as long it targets more than just the Catholic Church.

Victoria Police, are also investigating this issue, however

Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton told a parliamentary inquiry that the church had also hindered justice by failing to report a single case of child sex abuse in more than 50 years.

‘The process is designed to put the reputation of the church first and victims second,’ he said

Source: NSW Premier pressed for abuse inquiry

Any commission in this issue will not quick, and it will cross state borders, but now that it is on the agenda, it is time for a thorough investigation, no matter how long it takes or who gets named.

Further Information:
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox is on twitter: @Peter_Fox59 .


9 Responses to “Catholic Church child abuse – over 90% of Australians say ‘No More’, we’ll have a Royal Commission”

  1. That’s my understanding too, (St M MacKillop), a courageous advocate.

    I think this will be huge, I don’t think people realise how endemic, how widespread these atrocities have been and the people affected. The individual will have the choice of coming forward, my mother and her childhood friends are documenting the crimes against them right now. They have ‘become empowered’. This is a powerful and just action taken in Australian history. PM Gillard is taking care of business.

    • You’re right, PM JG is taking care of things.

      The fact that victims / survivors have been screaming out for decades and decades, and finally a PM says “we will listen, as long as it takes” must bring a tiny bit of healing to some people, who have for too long been ignored, called liar, or the instigator. Ive seen people saying both that it will shakes this country and open wounds and that it will be a whitewash.

  2. It may take years but I want every child in Australia to not only be told but to believe, that if they are abused we will listen and we will protect them in whatever way they need and that our community as a whole will not tolerate abuse of children.This would involve plain speaking and would cause offence to some people but these childrens’ needs should come before any organisation or religion or ethnic belief that may be offended. That is how these monsters have been able to carry on, they have been sheltered so as not to harm the public face of a church, a family or an organisation.Economic considerations have been cited by some as the reason a parent may ignore abuse by the other parent as loss of the abusing parents’income would create financial chaos for the parent and children. It will be interesting to see how we, as a society, discuss how we may deal with this aspect of the problem, especially with the right wing view becoming more and more inclined to decrease welfare payments to those in need.

  3. I’m just hoping that it doesn’t become so diluted and manipulated by the church and the state that it becomes an obfuscating waste of time, resolves nothing and still doesn’t deliver justice to the victims and punishment ot the perpetrators and those who supported them by hiding the crimes.

    • Agree – if it is too broad, it wont achieve anything. Ive seen some politicians calling for the terms of reference to be more narrow, so it doesn’t devolve into, ‘this is too bad, too non-specific, it’s a waste of time’.

  4. At last the stories will be heard. Another way that the effects of child sexual abuse last forever is because victims as they mature cannot help thinking about who comes after them, who suffers what they suffered, are they at fault because they did not report it or they did report it but no action was taken and so another child goes through the nightmare. They have no power and this commission is our best chance of giving the children their voices.

    • And then some people who know what goes on then send their own children to catholic schools and churches.

      According to some sources, Saint Mary MacKillop was kicked out of the church for raising the issue of abuse – in 1870, this is not a new thing, if done properly, it will take years and name some big names.


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