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The final report of Australia’s Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse was released today. The 17-volume report, with its 189 new recommendations, now makes for 409 recommendations that the commission has made.
The president of the Australian bishops’ conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, said the report shows how many different institutions, including the Catholic Church, have historically failed children.
“This is a shameful past, in which a prevailing culture of secrecy and self-protection led to unnecessary suffering for many victims and their families,” Archbishop Hart said. “Once again I reiterate my unconditional apology for this suffering and a commitment to ensuring justice for those affected.”
Archbishop Hart’s statement recognized that many of the recommendations made by the commission would affect how the Church in Australia operates.
However, among the recommendations are the issues of priestly celibacy and the seal of confession.
Sister Ruth Durick OSU, president of Catholic Religious Australia, said religious orders across Australia are committed to continuing the work of recent years to ensure a future in which the safety and protection of children and vulnerable adults is paramount.
“We acknowledge with gratitude the courage of all those survivors who have come forward to the Royal Commission,” she said. “We will be taking very seriously the Royal Commission’s report.”
Both leaders said the Church will continue to push for the introduction of a national redress scheme for the survivors of child sexual abuse in which the Church will participate.
Cardinal George Pell is among those facing charges of sexual abuse. He maintains his innocence and said in June that he was “looking forward to finally having my day in court.”
Pope Francis on celibacy, child abusers, same-sex unions, secularism, and traditionalists
The Vatican also released a statement:
The final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse in Australia is the result of the Commission’s thorough efforts over the past several years, and deserves to be studied seriously. The Holy See remains committed to being close to the Catholic Church in Australia – lay faithful, religious, and clergy alike – as they listen to and accompany victims and survivors in an effort to bring about healing and justice. In his recent meeting with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Pope Francis said the Church is called to be a place of compassion, especially for those who have suffered, and reaffirmed that the Church is committed to safe environments for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.