As I have noted in a number of previous posts, Australia is the latest country in which the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal has been exploding. Now, in a move that more countries need to emulate, Australia is launching a royal commission to investigate child sex abuse. While not confined to the Roman Catholic Church, the Church will obviously receive much scrutiny, particularly since the sex abuse scandals and cover ups by the Church hierarchy did much to fuel demands for a national inquiry. Perhaps most critical is the fact that the commission will not only investigate those who sexually abused children, but also those who engaged in cover ups for predators. The Sydney Morning Herald has coverage. Here are highlights:
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has announced a sweeping royal commission into child sex abuse that will probe organisations ranging from the Catholic Church and state authorities to the boy scouts and sports groups.
The inquiry into institutional responses to abuse will not just look at perpetrators. It will also cover those who were ''complicit'' - for example, in alleged offenders being moved around - or who by ''averting their eyes'' committed acts of omission.
Ms Gillard said the allegations that had come to light recently were heartbreaking. ''These are insidious, evil acts to which no child should be subject,'' she said.
AdvertisementThe victims deserved the ''most thorough of investigations'', she said. The royal commission was not to impede police investigations or compensation claims. Ms Gillard said the inquiry would provide victims with the opportunity to speak out if they chose. ''I understand that for some people it can be healing to get the opportunity to tell their story.''
The Prime Minister spoke to Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu and NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell, who have state inquiries under way - both offered co-operation.
After a swathe of allegations of abuse in Catholic institutions in particular, Ms Gillard was under cross-party pressure to act. Chief government whip Joel Fitzgibbon urged a royal commission, as did Labor backbenchers Doug Cameron, Melissa Parke and Stephen Jones. Crossbenchers Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Nick Xenophon and the Greens also called for action.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox of the NSW police, who has been involved in investigating abuse and has alleged cover-ups, said he was stunned that the commission had been called so quickly and was delighted for the victims.
Similar inquiries in Ireland have resulted in a public repudiation of the Catholic Church and the Church is currently in a free fall in Ireland. One can only hope the Australian inquiry is as detailed and rigorous. I suspect that it will expose a veritable cesspool of cover ups by Church clerics.