Pope Francis has declared Kathleen McCormack, founder and former Director CatholicCare in the Diocese of Wollongong, a Dame of the Order of Saint Gregory The Great, following her reitrement. She reflects on her work with The Illawarra Mercury.
The Church's culture of silence muted their voices, but the pain of sexual abuse victims burned until it couldn't be contained. When CatholicCare's Kathleen McCormack heard victims' stories, she went straight to the police demanding justice. 'Sexual abuse in general was a hidden culture, no one talked about it,' she says.
'A number of parents abused their children too, and in those days people didn't believe or support you.'
In the early to mid-1990s, CatholicCare advocated for victims of sexual abuse in the Church and asked clergy to address the problem. At times, Kathleen felt alone on her mission to break the silence surrounding abuse. 'I was one of the people who exposed the sexual abuse in the Church and I was left isolated,' she says.
Although Bishop William Murray found the allegations against clergy difficult to comprehend, he supported Kathleen's work. It was other clergy and lay Catholics who became stand-offish and refused to believe their beloved priests had committed despicable crimes, she says.
'Sexual abuse splits the community,' she says. 'Some of the most charismatic priests who did wonderful things for the community would have this other side to them, doing evil things - some people just couldn't believe it.'
After 35 years at the helm of CatholicCare, the founder and director is retiring. Hearing victims' stories and trying to gain justice has been the hardest part of her work.
'I did question my faith' People are capable of terrible things. But you have to hope things will change, and I think the Royal Commission will change things. People have become more aware - you have to create a culture of safety for children.'
FULL STORY Kathleen McCormack on exposing sex abuse in Church (The Illawarra Mercury)
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