The head of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, has welcomed the release of the report by the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry.
"It is our hope that the Inquiry, and its recommendations, will assist the healing of those who have been abused. We also hope they will enhance the care of victims and their families, and strengthen the preventative measures now in place," said Archbishop Hart.
"Victims bravely came forward to give their accounts, often at great personal cost. The Inquiry has been an important opportunity for victims to be heard.
"The report documents terrible abuse that occurred in the Catholic Church, mainly over a 25-year period from 1960 to1985. It also sets out inexcusable failures in the Church’s response to that abuse.
"The Committee’s report is rightly called Betrayal of Trust. I have spoken before about this betrayal and the irreparable damage it has caused. It is the worst betrayal of trust in my lifetime in the Catholic Church.
"As the Inquiry heard, we were far too slow to address the abuse, or even to accept that it was taking place. I fully acknowledge that leaders in the Church made terrible mistakes. These are indefensible.
"The report has some criticisms of our processes, the Melbourne Response and Towards Healing. It also acknowledges that these processes are a genuine attempt to respond meaningfully, and that they have provided assistance to many victims."
The ABC says the report calls for a new law to ensure anyone failing to report serious child abuse or concealing it is guilty of an offence. It also recommends the creation of a criminal offence of "grooming" children and a new criminal offence of "endangerment" where figures of authority within institutions can be sanctioned for not taking enough precautions.
The report calls upon the Victorian Government to work with Canberra to require religious and other non-government organisations to incorporate legal structures.
The SMH says Inquiry chairwoman Georgie Crozier spoke of ‘‘a betrayal beyond comprehension’’ and children suffering ‘‘unimaginable harm’’, the SMH reported.
Cardinal George Pell also welcomed the release of the report. “The Report is an important document and it offers valuable recommendations to ensure that crimes are reported, children and vulnerable people are better protected, and those who have been hurt can more easily seek justice,” Cardinal Pell said.
“The report details some of the serious failures in the way the church dealt with these crimes and responded to victims, especially before the procedural reforms of the mid 1990s. Irreparable damage has been caused."