Ex Pastorelle Sister Speaks Out

Guns Dogs Used to Enforce Silence in Church Abuse Cases

UPDATE: PRIEST sex offenders used weapons and bestiality to scare victims into silence, a Victorian parliamentary inquiry heard yesterday.

Speaking at the inquiry's latest hearing into child sexual abuse by church officials, victim advocates revealed Catholic leaders had wielded knives, hid pistols in their presbyteries and even toted guns around schoolyards to deter their victims from speaking out.

The shocking allegations come as Prime Minister Julia Gillard called a royal commission into child sexual abuse, promising to investigate not just those who committed evil acts but also those who turned a blind eye.

Helen Last, director of In Good Faith and Associates - the body for advocacy, justice and healing for survivors of clergy and religious abuse - told the parliamentary committee such "scenarios of terror" were disclosed following an unprecedented spike in allegations of sexual abuse committed by priests as a result of the inquiry.

She told the inquiry another victim reported clerical offenders "introducing dogs" into child sex assaults.

The explicit examples, collated by In Good Faith and Associates between 1998 and 2006, are among additional reports of abuse to the inquiry.

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Ms Last also spoke of an incident in which a Catholic hospital chaplain assaulted a married woman in her bed immediately after she had been admitted for mental health care and then raped her in his quarters before sending her back to the ward.

"These are just the worst examples of the terrorisations," she told the Family and Community Development Committee.

"There are hundreds and hundreds we can access."

She said clerical abuse continued to this day and her group had been inundated with allegations from victims in recent weeks.

But still the Catholic church had no mental health policy, she said, and adhered to an ancient secretive and hierarchical structure that "no rational person lives now."

Victims are afraid to complain because of public humiliation, a "fear of an angry punishing God" and because the church's Melbourne Response process only added to the trauma.

Ms Gillard said the royal commission would cover all religious organisations, schools, government bodies and non-profit groups such as Scouts and sports clubs.

It would also examine the response of institutions, children's services, police and the legal system.

"Child sexual abuse is a vile thing, it's an evil thing," the PM said.

"It's done by evil people, but what we've seen too, I think, in recent revelations, it's not just the evil of the people who do it. There has been a systemic failure to respond to it and to better protect children.

"We need to learn the lessons about how institutions can best respond when there are allegations of sexual abuse of children."

Ms Gillard said the inquiry could last years, and she would take a couple of weeks to consult child abuse survivors, churches and states about the terms of reference.

There could be one or more commissioners to ensure there was expertise in legal and child protection issues.

She said the royal commission should be set up by the end of the year and start work in the new year.

Meanwhile, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference welcomed the investigation into child sexual abuse at institutions across Australia.

"We do need this activity, the inquiry, at this stage, to make quite sure the right thing is being done, to clear out for once and for all any doubt about the church," the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart told ABC radio today.

"As I go around from parish to parish, I sense there is a great love for the church, a great love of priests, but a terrible scandal of the few who have offended so terribly."

Archbishop Hart said the inquiry would uphold the actions by the Catholic Church to deal with allegations of abuse.

"I certainly believe the procedures that we have used since 1996 to address matters of abuse should be subjected to appropriate scrutiny and that scrutiny has my full support," he said.

"We will co-operate fully with the royal commission."

Premier Ted Baillieu said it was important the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse continues despite the announcment of the royal commission.

"It's important that the parliamentary inquiry continue its work but does that in consultation with those who have an interest in these proceedings," he said.

Mr Baillieu said it was a matter for the parliamentary committee how it wished to proceed, but he did not want a gap between the parliamentary inquiry and the start of a royal commission.

He said the committee should consult with people who have made submissions to the inquiry or who seek to make appearances.

"I don't want to be in a situation where we leave a gap or a vacuum over an extensive period," Mr Baillieu said.

He said he had told Ms Gillard it was important Victoria be consulted as to the royal commission's terms of reference.

Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said today: "I think the decision the Prime Minister has made is exactly  the right one.

"I think having a Royal Commission at a national level into the tragedy that is the abuse of children is something that I think is very important.

"I don't think any of us want to see people to have to go through this again.

"This is about justice and there needs to be the most seamless transition."

- with Phillip Hudson, AAP

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