Catholic Church in Australia publishes annual report on abuse

The fourth report from the Catholic Church to the National Office for Child Safety outlines initiatives across dozens of Catholic entities as they continue to strengthen their efforts to keep all people safe in Church settings.

By Lisa Zengarini

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) on Thursday published their Annual Progress Report on initiatives implemented at national and local level to fight abuse in the Church . The report has been issued yearly since 2018 on recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It summarizes reports provided by more than 50 Catholic entities across the country to give an account to the Australian government of the progress made in the field of child protection.

Acknowledgment of past failures

In the preface, Bishops' Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane and CRA president Br Peter Carroll FMS acknowledge the “shameful past” that reveals “we let down too many children and many thousands were abused in our settings”.

“The Catholic Church in Australia takes full responsibility for the harm caused by the tragic history of child sexual abuse by clergy, religious and lay Church workers”, they write. “The failings of Church personnel who offended grievously and the failings of Church leaders who responded wrongly – or not at all – have harmed victims, survivors, their families and their supporters, and have led to a life of pain and suffering for so many. These same failings have hurt the community of the Church and disillusioned many in society”, they add, acknowledging “with gratitude all who have come forward and disclosed or reported the abuse they have suffered”.

Child safety central to Church mission

On behalf of all bishops and religious in Australia, Archbishop Coleridge and Br Peter therefore reiterate the Church’s pledge  to strengthen its  commitment to children “by placing their safety front and centre” of its mission and to “building a better future” for victims and survivors. 

“Indeed”, they say, “the mission of the Church can only be carried out if we show, in concrete ways, that we have evolved, that we are deeply sorry for the abuse that has occurred and that we want to bring some healing, where that is possible”. 

Innovative responses

The 49-page annual Report aims to showcase “tangible examples” of policies, procedures and practices making the Church in Australia “more accountable and transparent” in its ongoing response to the scourge of abuse.

Archbishop Coleridge and Br Peter say the report shows there is growing consistency in the way Church entities are responding to child safety and, increasingly, the safety of adults at risk.

But it also highlights some innovative responses, including the establishment of new structures like Australian Catholic Safeguarding Limited (ACSL) -  a new national agency which replaced the Catholic Professional Standards Limited (CPSL) in December 2020 to improve child protection - collaboration across organisations and the publication of books and resources.

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18 December 2021, 10:44