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Australian RC child abuse records made public

10 February 2017


Barrister: counsel assisting Gail Furness SC addresses Inquiry Commissioners as the hearings proceed in Sydney, this week

Barrister: counsel assisting Gail Furness SC addresses Inquiry Commissioners as the hearings proceed in Sydney, this week

IN WHAT is believed to be a world first, the Australian Roman Catholic Church’s records on child sexual abuse have been released to the public.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has revealed that, between 1980 and 2015, almost 4500 claims of child sexual abuse had been made against Roman Catholic institutions to church authorities. There were 1880 identified alleged offenders, of whom 96 (five per cent) were women. Between 1950 and 2010, almost eight per cent of priests in 75 authorities were alleged offenders.

Statistics were high in religious orders: 40 per cent of St John of God Brothers were alleged perpetrators, as well as more than 21 per cent of priests from the Benedictine Community of New Norcia, in Western Australian.

Francis Sullivan, the chief executive of the Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council — a body set up to deal with the sexual abuse scandal when the Commission was established — told the Commission hearing that the figures represented “a massive failure on the part of the Catholic Church in Australia”. The numbers were “shocking”, “tragic” and “indefensible”, he said. “As Catholics, we hang our heads in shame.”

Roman Catholic archbishops from around Australia will give evidence to the Commission over the coming weeks.


Court voids deposition. THE highest court of the Anglican Church of Australia, the Appellate Tribunal, has concluded that the deposition of a retired diocesan bishop for mismanaging sexual-abuse complaints was “null and void”.

The Rt Revd Keith Slater resigned as Bishop of Grafton, New South Wales, in 2013, acknowledging he had “failed in his duty” to ensure full compliance with the diocese’s abuse protocol. He was deposed in 2015 on the recommendation of the diocese’s Professional Standards Board (News, 23 October 2015). The result of his appeal to the Appellate Tribunal was made public last week.

The Tribunal said that, although it “lacks appellate jurisdiction in the matter”, this was “neither appropriate nor called for”, because there was no “determination” to correct on “various grounds” concerning the diocesan ordinance under which Bishop Slater was tried. “Furthermore, such jurisdiction as they purported to exercise was legally flawed…”, the Tribunal said.

In the absence of jurisdiction, however, the Tribunal’s decision is not binding. Revocation of the deposition or any other remedy for the “injustice unintentionally inflicted upon Bishop Slater” would be up to the current Bishop of Grafton, Dr Sarah Macneil, it said.

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