The recent announcement by the Federal Government of the setting up a Royal Commission examining sexual abuse in institutions has received bi-partisan support, strong community support and a firm commitment to cooperation by the Catholic Bishops and Congregational Leaders in Australia, writes Patrician Brother Aengus Kavanagh, in the Catholic Religious Australia newsletter.
The hope is that attitudes and practices that enabled such abuse to occur in the past will be identified, that failings will be humbly acknowledged, and, most of all, that the pain of victims will be heard and heeded, and that policies and protocols will be put in place seeking to ensure that such abuse never happens again.
It is an unfortunate reality that sexual abuse of minors takes place at many levels in society. It is particularly disturbing however that such abuse has been common in the Church and in Catholic institutions. The Church’s mission is to be Christ’s presence in the world, the compassionate Christ with harsh words of condemnation for those who offend against children.
The fact that the Church sets high standards in sexual morality makes the betrayal of trust by some of its members all the more shameful. Sadly, the Patrician Brothers have not been spared failings in this regard.
It is the resolve of the Brothers to enter fully into the spirit of the Royal Commission seeking to be transparent and co-operative in the pursuit of healing and justice for victims.
There is a righteous anger among abuse victims, their families, friends and supporters about apparent Church attitudes and policies in dealing with instances of sexual abuse in the past. While not taking away from the criminality and gravity of such abuse it may be helpful though to keep things in perspective. A majority of the abuses highlighted in the media were committed thirty or forty years ago.
The word ‘paedophile’ had not entered the common discourse then. Its symptoms, causes, and most of all, its serious impact, were poorly understood. With the wisdom of hindsight, Church authorities may well reflect ‘if we knew then, what we know now’, our responses and actions would have been different.
However culpable such ignorance may have been, other attitudes and practices which ultimately caused great grief to people were not uncommon in those times. It was only in 1992 that an Act was passed by the Federal Government outlawing sponsorship of sport by tobacco companies in Australia.
Some may remember attending NRL Grand Finals in the early 1990’s to be greeted on entry by young people in attractive company uniforms handing out complimentary packets of Winfield cigarettes. A far cry from current attitudes and practices, enlightened by a better understanding of the devastating effects of tobacco on health.
FULL STORY Royal Commission a time for soul-searching and healing (CRA)