Self serving strategy leaves credibility in tatters
Updated 15th October 2012
THIS IS the worst nightmare made real for the Catholic Church, its careful defences of its handling of clergy sexual abuse reduced to ruins by Victoria Police.
The police submission to the parliamentary inquiry explodes the careful strategy the church has run for years that, yes, it had made terrible mistakes, but these have been corrected by new protocols since 1996, and they can be trusted.
But the police say that even after 1996 the church hindered police investigations, protected paedophile priests and never reported a single complaint to police.
Despite constant church claims that all victims are encouraged to go to police, the police submission suggests that in fact, many are dissuaded from doing so and that the church's independent commissioner, Peter O'Callaghan QC, has a conflict of interest. Where the church says abuse has almost disappeared - only 13 of the 618 confirmed cases the church admitted to in its submission to the inquiry occurred after 1990 - the police suspect the victims have merely been slow to come forward, in the usual pattern.
The police allegations, along with others yet to be disclosed, will be a devastating blow for the faithful, who naturally want to believe the best of their leaders and who hoped that this inferno had nearly run its course.
In its submission, the Catholic Church in Victoria made what it regarded as a significant concession in dropping its opposition to the mandatory reporting of clergy suspected of child abuse (exempting information from the confessional) and agreeing to report all allegations if the police would agree to respect the privacy of victims who wanted that.
Now that seems far too little, too late. The church's credibility lies in tatters, its strategy exposed as self-serving, its good faith questioned by one group with good reason to know. Another group, victims and their advocates, have been making similar complaints for years.
All will have their chance for vindication in the coming weeks as the inquiry hears witnesses.
Letters to Newspapers