Church abuse: Irish case reignites calls for local

Church abuse: Irish case reignites calls for local probe

By Barbara Miller for The World Today

Posted Thu May 21, 2009 5:24pm AEST
Updated Thu May 21, 2009 7:09pm AEST

The Australian Catholic Church says while it is ashamed at the findings from Ireland, there is no need for such a commission. (ABC News: Gary Rivett)

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland says he is profoundly ashamed and sorry about the findings of an extensive investigation into child abuse at Church-run institutions.

Ireland’s Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse report found that thousands of children were beaten, raped and humiliated, and that the Church and state knew of the abuse and did nothing to punish the perpetrators.

In response to the report, victims of abuse by members of the clergy here in Australia have renewed their calls for a royal commission into the matter to be set up here.

Dr Wayne Chamley, a spokesman for the Broken Rites group, says previous Senate inquiries into the treatment of children in care do not go far enough.

"The problem with Senate inquiries is that they don’t have powers of subpoena or powers to put witnesses under oath so many people won’t come forward. They don’t feel they have the right protections," he said.

The Australian Catholic Church says while it is ashamed at the findings from Ireland, there is no need for such a commission.

Sister Angela Ryan is with the Church’s National Professional Standards Office.

"There has been a Senate inquiry. There’s been a police royal commission in New South Wales," she said.

"Whatever is needed to check is needed but it’s really important that people who have been abused come forward and that the matters are followed through now."

She says she is ashamed by the findings of the Irish report and admits it is possible that priests known to be sex offenders were transferred to Australia.

"It’s certainly possible. If it happened and if there’s been abuse in Australia, we would certainly want to deal with that," she said.

"There certainly are procedures in place now [to check]. Whether those procedures were in place 50, 60 years ago I would doubt, but they certainly are in place now."

The Christian Brothers ran many of the institutions in Ireland for boys and more allegations were made against the Brothers than all the other male orders combined.

Brother Brian Brandon is the executive officer for professional standards with the Christian Brothers Oceania Province.

He says he is shocked and saddened by the allegations but is confident none of the perpetrators are now working in Australia.

"We don’t have any Irish Christian Brothers in Australia today, so that’s not possible. Whether it happened in the first instance I’m not sure. I’d be very sorry if it did happen," he said.

But Brother Brandon concedes that the Christian Brothers here have much work to do in dealing with victims of abuse by its members.

"I work full-time in this position and I spend a lot of time talking with victims. I was in Canberra last Monday, I was in Perth for three days last week," he said.

"Unfortunately in one sense there’s plenty of work to do, but we are committed to doing it."


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