Inquiry raises questions about Church official's role

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A national inquiry into child sexual abuse was told yesterday that it is appropriate for authorities within the Catholic Church to play a central role in the healing process for victims, reports ABC Online.

In December, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse examined the cases of four people who had participated in the Towards Healing process.

Towards Healing was established by the Catholic Church in the mid-1990s to respond to complaints of abuse involving Church personnel.

Michael Salmon is the New South Wales and ACT Director of the Professional Standards Office of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, and is now giving evidence in Sydney. His long-awaited appearance comes after a victim accused the Church of deceiving him in the lead-up to his Towards Healing facilitation session.

A man known as DK says he was abused by three Marist Brothers at St Augustine's College college in Cairns between 1976 and 1981.

When his session to discuss compensation was organised, Michael Salmon was appointed as the mediator. DK told the hearing that Church authorities told him Mr Salmon was 'independent'.

The victim says he later saw Mr Salmon on the television defending the Church.

DK told the hearing the failure to disclose Michael Salmon's position as Director of the NSW Professional Standards Office within the Church made him feel like he was being lied to.

Mr Salmon has today told the inquiry he does not think the person co-ordinating a compensation hearing needs to be impartial. 'The role of the facilitator is one where the facilitator can be very proactive, and almost a player in the process,' he said.

TRUTH JUSTICE AND HEALING COUNCIL

The Royal Commission today resumed its hearing into the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing protocol with evidence from the NSW ACT Director of Professional Standards, Michael Salmon, into the case of a man, DK, who had been abused at St Augustine’s College, run by the Marist Brothers in Cairns.

Mr Salmon acted as a facilitator during the DK Towards HealingMuch of today’s evidence has revolved around whether DK had been informed that Mr Salmon while acting as a facilitator was also employed by the Church and the extent to which this employment could be either a conflict or at least seen as a conflict of interest.

Mr Salmon was also asked about the way in which Towards Healing operated around the country and the consistency of both implementation and outcomes. Mr Salmon said he believed consistency is something to be worked towards but the nature of individual cases and circumstances made it difficult to achieve.

Mr Salmon said it was his view the facilitator in a Towards Healing process should actively support the victim and work to achieve the best possible outcome for the damaged person. 'The whole practice and procedure of Towards Healing over recent years has been to get Church authorities to come out of their bunkers and to engage pastorally with people like DK,' Mr Salmon said.

Mr Salmon agreed consideration should be given to separating reparation from the pastoral component of Towards Healing. He also agreed the Church has an obligation to meet long-term costs relating to counselling.

'The Church generally accepts now the devastating impact of abuse on some people and that for many, healing is a life-long journey.'

At the conclusion of Mr Salmon’s evidence, Br Gerald Burns, Marist Brother and retired principal of St Augustine’s College in Cairns during the time when DK was abused, started giving evidence.

Questioning focused on the understanding of what constituted sexual abuse at that time and how perceptions have changed since the early 1980s and Br Burns’ involvement in the DK Towards Healing process.

Br Burns’ will continue giving evidence today.

For more information on the Truth Justice and Healing Council go to: www.tjhcouncil.org.au

For information on the Royal Commission go to: http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au

FULL COVERAGE

Abuse inquiry raises questions about Catholic Church official's role in the healing process (ABC)

Senior Catholic official admits church's compensation system for sex-abuse victims is 'problematic' (The Daily Telegraph)

Church abuse response 'flawed' (Skynews)

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