I believe the federal Government should set up a Royal Commission into systemic Child Abuse, and cover up by churches and others. I don’t rush quickly to the call for Royal Commissions. They have great investigative powers which, when combined with the constant scrutiny of the mass media, can alter the course of public opinion and personal reputation well in advance of any findings and recommendations being recorded. I believe they should only be used where it is clear that policing and judicial determination have failed. It appears that this is such a case.
This is not because there is some grand conspiracy between police, courts and church organisations. I don’t believe this is the case. But what is clear, and in some instances admitted, is that the Church organisations actively sort to cover up their offences.
Cardinal Pell attempted to explain this in an interview with The Weekend Australia:
"It wasn't just the Catholic Church that hoped (an abusive priest) would amend their conduct and give them a home somewhere else," he said.
"Back in those days, they were entitled to think of pedophilia as simply a sin that you would repent of. They didn't realise that in the worst cases it was an addiction, a raging addiction."
The problem with this view is that sexual abuse of children is not just a sin (raging addiction or otherwise) – its a crime. It was then and it is now. Any decent moral code would also see the cover up of child abuse as sinful. Above on beyond that - its also a crime of conspiracy.
My Church - the Catholic Church - has been at the centre of the storm. I don’t believe that they are the only institution in the country that has behaved in this way. Therefore a Royal Commission should not be confined to the affairs of any one religious institution in any one state.
Some have suggested that the calls for a broad based inquiry are the result of a latent anti-Catholicism. I’m sure that there are some who harbour this prejudice. I don’t believe that it is religious prejudice that motivates the majority.
I know of many Catholics who share my view. Many like my father who made great sacrifice to send their children to a school and a church believing that they were doing God’s work. Raising their children in their faith. Words could not describe the complete betrayal they felt on learning that those they trusted with their children: the Parish Priest, the Principal and others had been engaged in serial offences.
Many senior Church people I have spoken to make the point that these events all occurred in the past and the Church has changed its way. This misses the point. As each new incident is uncovered it continues to damage the reputation of all Churches. It feeds the popular belief that a conspiracy continues to this day. A Royal Commission could be the only way for the truth to be known and to enable the Church to truly demonstrate that it has not only purged itself of the past culture of cover up, but the perpetrators as well. Confession - it’s a very Catholic thing.