Ex Pastorelle Sister Speaks Out

the church cannot escape the truth now


Tuesday, November 13, 2012 ยป 07:44am

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has made the call for a royal commission to uncover the truth into child sexual abuse but its scope will move beyond the Catholic church and target all institutions.

The royal commission will cover all religious institutions, state-based organisations, schools and not-for-profit groups such as scouts and sporting clubs, and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has said he would support such a broad-based inquiry.

It will be established by the end of the year, with the terms of reference to be developed in consultation with the states and territories, victims' groups, religious leaders and community organisations.

'Any instance of child abuse is a vile and evil thing - Australians know that,' Ms Gillard told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

Once established, such a wide-ranging inquiry could run for years. Ms Gillard wants the commission to take as long as it needs, reporting regularly to government.

'I don't want some artificial sense of deadlines to impede what could be good work that we want done,' she said.

It was important to examine institutional responses to child abuse, she said, because there was evidence that adults other than the abusers had not done enough to protect children.

'It's not just the evil of the people who do it, there has been a systemic failure to respond to it and to protect children,' Ms Gillard said.

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

Ms Gillard made the announcement after calls were made by several federal Labor, Green and independent MPs.

Mr Abbott had said if the government proposed a wide-ranging royal commission to investigate child sexual abuse, the coalition was prepared to support it.

Ms Gillard stressed the commission would not target any one religion and said the Catholic Church's senior cleric in Australia Cardinal George Pell had indicated 'he's taking a very co-operative attitude'.

Later, Cardinal Pell said the public remained unconvinced the church had adequately dealt with sexual abuse. 'I believe the air should be cleared and the truth uncovered,' he said in a statement.

'We shall co-operate fully with the royal commission.' He also supported a statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference saying they believed a royal commission would help identify measures to better prevent and respond to child abuse.

The bishops said the church had taken 'decisive steps' over the past 20 years to make child safety a priority, including working with police.

'While there were significant problems concerning some dioceses and some religious orders, talk of a systemic problem of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is ill-founded and inconsistent with the facts,' their statement said.

They called for police and child protection authorities to release information about how many cases they were dealing with and the situations in which the abuse occurred.

NSW premier Barry O'Farrell, who announced a special Hunter-based inquiry into child sex abuse by Catholic clergy on Friday, welcomed the federal government's move.

'These heinous offences don't stop at state boundaries,' he said. Ms Gillard had spoken to him and Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu before announcing the commission on Monday.

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