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May 15, 2021

Church put interests first: abuse inquiry

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The lives of dozens of children and their families have been devastated by the Catholic Church’s catastrophic and inexcusable failure to deal with pedophile clergy in a Victorian diocese, an inquiry has found.

Protecting the church’s reputation and avoiding scandal drove the Diocese of Ballarat’s handling of abuse complaints over at least three decades, the child abuse royal commission concluded.

“That failure led to the suffering and often irreparable harm to children, their families and the wider community,” the commission said.

“That harm could have been avoided if the church had acted in the interests of children rather than its own interests.”

The findings echo the royal commission’s conclusions about the handling of child abuse complaints in the Melbourne archdiocese under its 1974-1996 archbishop Frank Little, when a culture of secrecy prevailed in a bid to protect the church’s reputation.

Ballarat abuse survivor Phil Nagle said the commission’s findings validated what victims have been saying all along – that the church hierarchy covered up abuse and protected pedophile clergy.

“It’s just a horrible, horrible thing that the Catholic hierarchy did trying to protect their brand,” Mr Nagle said.

“Protecting a brand is no reason to create more victims and to move your pedophile clergy and members around to let them sexually abuse more kids. That’s as evil as doing the crime yourself.”

Mr Nagle, who was abused by a Christian Brother at Ballarat’s St Alipius primary school in 1974, hopes those involved in concealing abuse are prosecuted.

Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird said the mishandling of allegations against priests and church personnel and a lack of response to complaints led to unnecessary suffering for many victims and their families.

He said it also brought distress to communities throughout the Ballarat diocese, which covers the western third of Victoria.

“Where the failures of my predecessors allowed abuse to occur, I offer my heartfelt apology,” Bishop Bird said.

The commission also found the Christian Brothers leadership’s response to abuse complaints and widespread rumours of brothers’ sexual misconduct at St Alipius and Ballarat’s St Patrick’s College was grossly inadequate.

The Christian Brothers Oceania Province again apologised and said it remained committed to working with those affected to bring some healing.

“It is a matter of profound regret that these events, which have had a devastating impact on individuals and on the community, ever took place,” it said.

Other commission findings into the Catholic and Anglican churches in Newcastle may be released in coming days, ahead of the five-year inquiry’s final report being made public on December 15.


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1 COMMENT

  1. There is more. Much much more including serious human rights issues to come

    As an Australian I have not had access or ability to peaceably assemble, or to petition Government for redress of my grievances.

    I have been actively denied my human rights since 1952 and that will continue here in Australia until a redress scheme is established in Australia.

    This will be the first time many Australians will obtain that human right in Australia.

    What the Royal Commission has exposed is the methods that the Churches engaged in to deny each abused who came forward their human right to equal treatment before the law. Instead we met the walls of policing who systematically abused the human rights of children raped by clergy.

    Australia has rushed to become involved at the UN with some questioning if our representatives are there to continue the coverup or to protect the rights of religions such as the catholic Church to continue to abuse the human rights of their victims or will they be there to protect the human rights of every individual child from exploitation via the loophole that any insane claim can put forward any claim without a need for validation of any kind and to call that your religion so that the human rights abuses that are system within our laws and legal system can continue to exploit every vulnerable individual to the utmost driving them to insanity or suicide.

    That is what has driven the whole sexual abuse of children by these institutions for the entirety of their existence. That description goes some way to answer Justice McClellan’s “Why” question by saying that they could and they did get away with it for so long simply because religious claims require no evidence and this leaves us open to exploitation by every charlatan who seeks to gain sexual power over women and children.

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