A Victorian MP has opened up about the sexual abuse his father suffered at the hands of a Catholic clergyman while taking aim at the Church’s refusal to comply with new mandatory reporting laws. Source: The Age.
Paul Edbrooke said he could not help but wonder how different his father’s life would have been if everyone who knew he had been raped by a clergyman as a teenager had been legally required to report the abuse.
“Could my family have avoided the suicide attempts, the trauma and the heartbreak?” the Labor member for Frankston asked in State Parliament yesterday.
Instead, the politician’s father Nick, now 64, received an apology letter from the Church one month ago. Mr Edbrooke read part of the letter during an emotional debate over new laws making it mandatory for priests to report abuse, including when it is revealed to them during confession.
“Every child deserves to be safe, to be loved and cared for. I am so sorry that this is not your experience,” the letter said. “We humbly ask for your forgiveness.”
“My Dad is a survivor, and he said that I could share this letter, if it assists Parliament to know that apologies are worth nothing, unless we follow them up with action,” he said.
Mr Edbrooke then attacked Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli for saying he was prepared to go to jail in defiance of the proposed laws, rather than breaking the seal of confession.
Archbishop Comensoli has previously said priests should be mandatory reporters, but have similar protections to the lawyer/client relationship.
Priests who refuse to report sexual abuse disclosed during confession will face up to three years in jail under the proposed laws introduced by the state government earlier this month.
The Church said it supports mandatory reporting and encourages victims to report abuse to police but will not break the seal of confession – regardless of the legislation.
Archbishop Comensoli has said the draft of the bill is “unworkable” and shows a lack of understanding about the act of confession, particularly the anonymity of penitents.