THE CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP of Melbourne has admitted that in the past 16 years, about 620 cases of criminal child abuse have been upheld by the Church in the state of Victoria.
In a submission to the Victorian Parliament, Archbishop Denis Hart said most claims relate to incidents from between 30 and 80 years ago. “The Church has received very few complaints of abuse that has taken place since 1990,” he continued.
The figures were revealed as part of a document, entitled Facing the Truth, given to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other non-Government Organisations.
The Church in Victoria says it will cooperate fully with the investigation, adding that it has been “open about the horrific abuse that has occurred in Victoria and elsewhere”.
“The submission shows how the Church of today is committed to facing up to the truth,” said Hart. “And to no disguising, diminishing or avoiding the actions of those who have betrayed a sacred trust.”
We look to this inquiry to assist the healing of those who have been abused, to examine the broad context of the church’s response, especially over the last 16 years, and to make recommendations to enhance the care for victims and preventative measures that are now in place.
He acknowledged the suffering and trauma endured by children and renewed the Church’s apology to them.
Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has caused deep concern among Catholics and the wider community. It is shameful and shocking that this abuse, with its dramatic impact on those who were abused and their families, was committed by Catholic priests, religious and church workers.
Dioceses, parishes and religious orders in the State began to change its approach to victims and offenders in the 1980s when policies and procedures were developed.
Hart “strongly encouraged” victims to go to the police, stating that the Church takes “no further steps” until the police commence an investigation.