Making parishes safe for kids

Andrea Muslin (Archdiocese of Perth)

What are Catholic parishes doing to guard against child sexual abuse, asks Eliza Borello on ABC News.

The Church has acknowledged the number of priests identified by the child abuse royal commission is indefensible, and says it is working hard to make sure the abuse is never repeated. But what does that mean for local parishes making changes to protect children into the future?

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is due to deliver its final report at the end of this year. Already it has identified nearly 2000 figures in the Church, including priests and brothers, as alleged perpetrators.

Like parishes across the country, St Anthony's in the Perth suburb of Wanneroo was rocked by revelations from the royal commission. No abuse is alleged to have happened under its roof but one of its former priests, Leo Spicer, was jailed last year for sexual offences he committed in Victoria in the 1980s.

Parish priest Fr John Daly said he is determined to make St Anthony's a safe place, for example by ensuring young altar servers do not change into their robes without parental supervision, and appointing two parishioners to act as so-called safeguarding officers.

He said he was concerned about perceptions of the Church in the wake of the royal commission, for example how the words "pedophile" and "priest" were now closely linked.

"There's no doubt that as a priest in the modern world that there is an extra burden with regard to that connection," he said. "But all it does, it's there to remind us that we are in a position of privilege in the community and we need to ensure that we are above reproach."

The Archdiocese of Perth has also employed former police officer Andrea Muslin as the director of its safeguarding project. The ABC understands that upon taking up the job she had a frank conversation with WA clergymen, making it clear any remaining pedophiles needed to go.

Ms Muslin said at times she has needed to organise supervision for parishioners who were known sex offenders and still wanted to go to Mass.

"It's about finding safe ways for them to do that and the priority will always be with the children and the families," she said.

FULL STORY

What are Catholic parishes doing to guard against child sexual abuse? (ABC News)

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