Church ‘lagging behind’ on child safety

Report notes a decline in clerical child sexual abuse since the 1980s (Bigstock)

The Church in Australia lags significantly behind other countries in protecting children from sexual abuse, researchers say, reports SBS News.

Far from being a leader in child protection, the Australian Church has been pushed into acting and needs to do much more work, the study of child sexual abuse in the Church worldwide has found.

"Much, much more remains to be done," the report by RMIT University's Centre for Global Research says.

The Church has lagged significantly behind other comparable countries in developing policies and protocols to safeguard children and vulnerable adults, researchers Des Cahill and Peter Wilkinson say in the report.

"Any suggestion that the Catholic Church in Australia has led the way in child protection is not sustainable in face of the initiatives in other countries nor has there been much accountability or evaluation in Australia," the report says.

It says there would most likely have been minimal movement on the part of the official Church if not for the work of the child abuse royal commission, state inquiries, the media and the determination of abuse survivors themselves supported by their families and advocacy groups.

It says the Church has not implemented preventative measures such as the Catholic Churches in Ireland, the UK and the US, including putting in place safeguarding mechanisms in every parish, setting up better monitoring or training mechanisms or establishing special initiatives such as hotlines or helplines.

The five-year analysis of research and public inquiries, released yesterday, notes there has been a substantial decline in clerical child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church worldwide since the 1980s.

Offences were still being committed but rarely, Professor Cahill and Dr Wilkinson, both former priests, said. But they said this did not apply in developing countries where the veil of secrecy had not been lifted.

The researchers found it is impossible to conclude that mandatory celibacy has directly caused child sexual abuse. But they found celibacy is the major precipitating risk factor that has led to psychosexually immature identities and sexual deprivation on the part of those priests and religious who have offended against children.

Meanwhile, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge has this morning responded to a New York Times inquiry regarding the RMIT research. His response is in the links below.


Australia's Catholic Church 'behind in protecting children from sexual abuse' (SBS News)

A response to the New York Times article of September 12, 2017 (Brisbane Diocese)


Australian Catholic Church Falls Short on Safeguards for Children, Study Finds (New York Times)

Podcast: Child abuse and the Catholic Church (RMIT)

Aust Catholic Church lags on child safety (

Worst of Catholic sexual abuse scandal still to come in developing world: report (ABC News)

Australian Catholic Church falls short on keeping children safe, study finds (The Age)

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