Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB testified yesterday before an inquiry into the options available to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse in Western Australia who are seeking justice. Source: ABC News.
Archbishop Costelloe began his testimony before the Community Development and Justice Standing Committee’s inquiry with his “sincere apology to those who have been so badly wronged by members of the Catholic Church”.
“I continue to be horrified by the extent of this abuse in Catholic institutions and am personally shamed by the failure of so many of our leaders to respond with compassion and integrity,” he said.
After his opening statement, the archbishop was questioned at length over reports from survivors as to the difficulty they have faced when attempting to deal with the Church, be it finding information or attempting to begin legal action.
Archbishop Costelloe responded to the many questions of this nature by firstly highlighting that the Catholic Church was a complex organisation.
“The reality of the Church is much more complex than people appreciate and that’s not to make any excuse for it, it is the reality,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
When asked his thoughts on how a survivor may feel re-traumatised when seeking justice only to be told they had not come to the right place, Archbishop Costelloe responded in a similar vein.
“I reject the suggestion that I am being dishonest or insincere in anything I’ve said about my commitment to this issue,” he said.
“I belong to the Church and must operate within the reality of the Church, we may or may not like the reality of the way the Church is structured, I can’t change it, I have to operate within it.”
Archbishop Costelloe said the WA Professional Standards Office was the appropriate body for first contact for survivors, but conceded it might not be well enough known, and highlighted the Church’s improved accountability through his archdiocese’s safeguarding program and the establishment of Australian Catholic Safeguarding Limited at the national level.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Tim Costelloe fronts WA parliamentary inquiry into institutional child sexual abuse (By Briana Shepherd and Keane Bourke, ABC News)