A senior Catholic figure has told a Special Commission of Inquiry how church leaders believed pedophile priests could be 'cured' if they received counselling, reports SBS.
Monsignor John Usher, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Sydney, yesterday appeared in a Sydney court for the Special Commission of Inquiry into matters relating to the Police investigation of certain child sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
Under questioning from counsel assisting the commission Julia Lonergan, Monsignor Usher recalled a steep 'learning curve' faced by senior clergy who were grappling with abuse allegations in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
'It's important to understand that the church, like many other institutions, really believed that if someone committed these offences it was possible for them to go into therapy and to be cured,' Monsignor Usher told the inquiry.
'I'm not saying it was a universally held view but our church is strong on forgiveness and reconciliation and if someone said "I'm truly sorry, I'm not going to do it again," there was a tendency to believe them.'
Monsignor Usher said he and a number of others in the church eventually became convinced that pedophiles were very likely to reoffend. Their task was then to educate church leaders and advocate for the victims of abuse, he said. 'We were trying to help the bishops to understand that it was not necessarily about protecting the institutions, and certainly not about protecting the offender,' he said.
Church figures give conflicting evidence to inquiry (The Australian)
Church believed pedophile priests who apologised could be cured (The Daily Telegraph)
Catholic leaders 'could not accept' that priests would abuse (The Newcastle Herald)