The official leading the Church response to child sex abuse has told a gathering of priests that “we created the abuse” and it's time for parish priests to listen to their communities, The Catholic Leader reports.
“We created the abuse. That is the harsh reality,” chief executive of the Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council (TJHC), Francis Sullivan said, addressing about 180 priests from the Archdiocese of Brisbane attending an annual convocation.
“Our culture grew the abusers and our culture protected the abusers and our culture for so long denied the victims. We didn’t listen. We didn’t believe.”
In February, the commission revealed that a total of 1880 priests, religious brothers and sisters, and lay people had been identified as alleged perpetrators in abuse claims made to the Australian Catholic Church by 4444 victims.
“There can be the tendency to compartmentalise that and simply say it was history. But it’s not history. We are living history.
“What matters is that we have to take to heart what it is saying about ourselves. It’s terribly difficult.”
Mr Sullivan said “the game has changed”, and priests must now engage in “the current realities”, including speaking directly with parishioners, some who may be abuse victims themselves, or feel angered and hurt by the Church.
Mr Sullivan foreshadowed a new era of transparency and accountability for priests, overseen by the newly created company Catholic Professional Standards Australia.
Mr Sullivan said new standards would apply “across the board in Church life”, and would include the formation of priests in seminaries, and ongoing support and training of priests during their careers.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge described Mr Sullivan’s presentation to priests as “very challenging, but very encouraging”.
“He spoke about the reality of the royal commission and all that has emerged there … where do we go in the future, a change of culture, and what does it mean in practical terms,” he said.
“What we are really talking about here is the future of the Church in Australia, not just the priesthood.”