Case Study 50: Hearing room updates

Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 14 Friday 24 February 2017

The Archbishops returned for the final day in the three-week hearing.

Discussion commenced with an examination of the history of diocesan advisory, decision making and governance structures, including the diocesan pastoral councils, parish councils and the finance councils. The panel discussed current structures, lines of accountability and the extent to which the laity are involved and how these structures might change to ensure greater participation of the laity, particularly women. The extent to which the laity is involved in the appointment of bishops and the appointment and removal of parish priests was also considered.

The panel also discussed the notion of ontological change associated with holy orders and what that means for the way ordained men relate to people in the community. The sacramental significance of ordination was discussed and the view was expressed that at its heart it signified a more radical commitment to service. Archbishop Wilson said that an immature understanding of ordination can feed clericalism.

The members of the panel expressed differing views on whether or not mandatory celibacy has been a contributing factor in the abuse of children.

"Celibacy seen as a burden runs the risk of turning in on oneself and would feed any immaturity or lack of balance in the person," Archbishop Hart said.

Commissioner Murray put to the panel that the Commission has heard many times that at the moment of abuse many children, because of what they had been taught, thought they were being abused by the representative of God.

Archbishop Wilson responded: "That's about the most horrible thing I could ever hear. It's just awful that people could behave like that."

All agreed with a proposition put by Justice McClellan that, if celibacy remains, it’s critical the church get its priestly selection and formation practices right.

Asked about whether or not they supported the new standards setting and auditing entity, Catholic Professional Standards Limited, Archbishop Costello said he’s completely dedicated to the process and that the present and future look very different to the past.

Powers given to the board in the company constitution not to publish audit reports in certain circumstances are broad. All members of the panel agreed that this aspect of the constitution needed to be reconsidered and that some redrafting was required.

Asked about participation in a national redress scheme Archbishop Hart said the archdiocese wants a single national redress scheme but is also in serious negotiations with the Victorian government, Anglican Church, Salvation Army and Uniting Church about a state scheme. He told the Commission he is prepared to consider whether the archdiocese's Melbourne Response scheme for handling child sex abuse complaints should continue, saying he is prepared to look at its future.

The Archbishops talked about measures and mechanisms in place for the care, development and supervision of priests; whether or not bishops have the authority to mandate professional supervision; and whether or not priests should be licensed or registered. There were various opinions expressed about this.  Discussion also went to whether bishops should be held to account on a range of standards. All agreed CPS Ltd might set and audit those standards, and that this would involve a significant cultural shift.

The Archbishops described current practices in relation to monitoring offenders and the pros and cons of keeping them within the fold or cutting ties with them, with the result that responsibility for them fell to the community.

The panel also discussed the practice of reconciliation, and whether or not the Australian bishops should issue a statement clarifying current practice. All noted that confessions of children are heard in a public space on most occasions. There was a level of uncertainty about whether or not parents and children were aware of the policies. Archbishop Fisher said this was one of those issues that could emerge as a national standard to be dealt with by CPS Ltd.

The panel discussed the circumstances in which the seal of confession applies and circumstances when it does not. Senior Counsel Assisting asked for clarification on what would happen if, during confession, a child disclosed abuse. Opinion varied on this. The panel also discussed whether this matter was something on which clarification could be sought from the Holy See.

The panel was asked whether or not they would grant absolution to a person who confessed to abusing a child. Responses varied on the circumstances in which absolution might be withheld pending action by the penitent to report to the authorities

The hearing has now concluded.


Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 13 Thursday 23 February 2017

Day 13 commenced with a panel discussion on the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), a papal body of seventeen members from around the world, which advises the Pope directly through its President of the Commission, Cardinal Sean O’Malley from Boston.

Panel members were Ms Kathleen McCormack AM, Australian member of the PCPM; Mr Bill Kilgallon OBE, New Zealand member of the PCPM; and Professor Sheila the Baroness Hollins, United Kingdom member of the PCPM.

The Commission heard that the PCPM is concerned with the world-wide church, and needed to come to grips with the different cultural issues relating to abuse internationally.  Professor Hollins told the Commission that the work of the PCPM is conducted primarily through its six working groups, which have responsibility for drafting of response guidelines for Church authorities; healing and care for victims, survivors and their families; education of families and communities; formation and education of church leadership; theology and spirituality; and canonical and civil norms.

Professor Hollins said it was her view that Pope Francis is very committed to dealing with child abuse.  Following the release of the Motu proprio 'As a loving mother' on 4 June 2016 the Pope had established a process through which any alleged negligence of a bishop in the exercise of his office would be considered.  She said that where sufficient evidence was available, it was possible for a bishop to be removed.

Kath McCormack, former director of CatholicCare in the Diocese of Wollongong, has been a member of the Pontifical Commission since 2015, and is chair of the PCPM's Education Working Group.  She told the Commission that education is the key to child safety, risk management and complaint handling.  She said the establishment of CPS Ltd by the Church in Australia was a positive step, but its work would need to be supplemented by an “alert culture” prepared to report conduct that was not child safe. 

Ms McCormack described the challenges faced by the PCPM in developing the Church's approach to child protection across the world, noting that in Africa child abuse is not even a crime.

Bill Kilgallon is currently Director of the National Office for Professional Standards in New Zealand.  His membership of the Pontifical Commission also commenced in 2015.  He has a background in social work and community advocacy including in response to survivors of child sexual abuse of children.

Mr Kilgallon was chair of the PCPM working group which produced guidelines to be used by episcopal conferences to formulate their response to which recommend the importance of safe recruitment and training; the development of a safe church environment, including education and awareness raising; a system for responding to abuse; and dealing with offenders and a system of independent audit and monitoring.

The panelists agreed that the Church as a world organization is struggling to come to terms with its responsibility to ensure the safety of children, however they were hopeful the PCPM has the capacity, influence and power to effect change.

The afternoon session was scheduled to examine the policies, procedures and reforms that have been put in place in the five metropolitan Archdioceses of the Catholic Church in recent times.

Panel members were Archbishop Denis Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne; Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Archbishop of Sydney; Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of

Brisbane; Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, Archbishop of Perth; Archbishop Philip Wilson, Archbishop of Adelaide.

The discussion centred on measures in place to ensure victims were heard, leadership and governance issues.

All agreed that the child sex abuse scandal was a failure of the leadership of the Catholic Church with catastrophic consequences all agreed the Church has an obligation to be a significant part of the solution.

Archbishop Fisher said there are individuals who need to take responsibility for the scandal but that the Catholic Church should hang its head in shame.

All Archbishops on the panel have issued apologies in various forms including in writing, in public statements and in private meetings, in person, via video, and from the pulpit.

All Archbishops outlined their efforts to listen to survivors and said they met with survivors as part of the Towards Healing process, including in face-to-face meetings and some have met with survivors outside the TH process and sometimes outside formal church settings. Each Archbishop described the structure and the nature of the meetings they have had with survivors.

Archbishop Costello said has made child protection the main issue in the archdiocese and that one of the big challenges is to avoid any hint that ‘we’re on top of the issue’.

All Archbishops said they have adopted a more consultative approach to leadership and encouraged cultural changes in relation to this, referring to the various parish and diocesan councils put in place after the Second Vatican Council, but noted that not all diocese embraced these opportunities due in part to the demographics and geographic isolation of the diocese.

Archbishop Coleridge said the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference works nationally but has no authority over bishops. He said that over the years it has shifted to a more pastoral modus operandi. He said the Royal Commission’s work will help shape the agenda for the historic 2020 Synod.

In response to a question about what went wrong Archbishop Costello said the church had seen itself as a law unto itself, as special, unique and important. He said there was a profound cultural presupposition about the untouchability of the church, of not having to answer to anybody. But he said the face of the church is different now and unlikely to throw up an aggressively monarchical bishop.

Archbishop Fisher said the intersection of sex, power and religion led to the abuse scandal.

Asked about the role of governance, Archbishop Costello said while the structures are fixed, there’s room for greater transparency, including through the release of an annual report and the publication of professional standards statistics, for example. He said the church has made a good start in ensuring a diverse mix of skills on boards, including participation of lay men and women. He said he doesn’t recognize in the church today some of the contributing factors from the past.

The Archdiocese of Adelaide had the lowest incidence of allegations in the data due in part Archbishop Wilson said to a long history of lay involvement in governance post Vatican II, including the participation of women.

Archbishop Fisher said you can do a lot to engender a culture of compassion and empathy by listening to people who have suffered and exposing seminarians to challenging pastoral situations in prisons and welfare services for example. Archbishop Hart said there’s a need for broad-based consultation ahead of the plenary council for 2020. The hearing will resume at 10:00am tomorrow.


Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 12 Wednesday 22 February 2017

Today’s hearing heard from members of various religious institutes in Australia.

Panel members were Father Brian McCoy SJ, Provincial, Australian Province of the Society of Jesus; Brother Peter Clinch Province Leader, Oceania Province of the Christian Brothers’ Congregation; Brother Peter Carroll, Provincial, Marist Brothers in Australia; Brother Ambrose Payne, Professional Standards Officer, De La Salle Brothers; Brother Timothy Graham, Provincial, The Hospitaller Order of St John of God, Oceania Province; Father Gregory Chambers SDB, Provincial, Salesians of Don Bosco, Australia Pacific Province; and Sister Berneice Loch RSM, Institute Leader, Institute of Sisters of Mercy Australia and Papua New Guinea.

All described the history of their orders; the geographic and demographic make-up of the congregation; the ministries they run and governance arrangements. All outlined reforms to governance including the development of PJPs in many cases; and significant changes to their approach to professional standards. Each was asked about formation process in their order and whether or not they engage members who were born overseas; whether or not they participate in professional supervision; and to outline processes for dealing with members of the order who have offended. Most were asked for a response to the data and to account for the numbers.

All described declining numbers in vocations and how they were responding.

All have voluntary supervision arrangements in place for their members. None has mandatory continuing education requirements.

While acknowledging that the detail is still limited, all strongly support a national redress scheme in which all the states participate.

Sr Berneice Loch described the relationship between the Institute and Mercy Education Ltd, which is responsible for running Mercy schools in Australia; and the involvement of lay men and women in the work in the schools. She outlined the Institute’s responses to the Royal Commission Case Study which examined the St Joseph’s Orphanage at Neerkol.  She also spoke about archive management and the work of MacKillop Family Services in particular. She outlined recent efforts to streamline professional standards practices across the Institute, including the design and rollout of a new training package. Sr Loch said the history is deeply shameful and a matter of huge regret. 

Br Peter Clinch talked about the formation of the PJP now responsible for schools, Edmund Rice Education Australia and its relationship with the Province; existing governance arrangements, including the participation of lay and religious; and the relationship with various diocesan catholic education offices and commissions.

He said he was shattered and appalled by the data released earlier in the hearing, which showed 271, or 22 per cent of Christian Brothers who ministered between 1950 and 2010 were alleged perpetrators.  He said ‘it challenges to the core why [the Brothers] even exist’. He blamed in part the scourge of harsh corporal punishment in schools and an atmosphere of bullying within the order. He lamented the fact that there is no way of knowing how many children have been abused, particularly in the homes in Western Australia as many have died and many will not come forward.

Commissioner Fitzgerald questioned how countries like Australia and Ireland could deviate so completely from the founding charism of the order and whether or not there are measures in place to mitigate this institutional dysfunction in countries where the Christian Brothers have a growing presence, including Africa and India.

Br Peter Carroll said Marist Schools Australia manages and governs Marist schools. He described formation processes, which are now largely conducted overseas; and the voluntary supervision of brothers post final vows.

He talked about the governance structures and accountability measures in the order in Australia and overseas; the development underway of a Public Juridic Person; and he noted that the provincial will exist in Australia for the brothers only, but will have no governance or supervision of institutions or ministries.

He acknowledged the data shows 286 claims were made, amounting to 20.4 per cent of brothers alleged to have committed offences between 1950 and 2010 and he listed contributing factors including poor formation and training, including a sense of entitlement akin to clericalism; unprofessional administration; and a hierarchical model of decision-making. The Marist Brothers have commissioned research on what the factors were that led to the abuse. The final report is likely to be made publicly available.

Br Ambrose Payne said that welfare and education are now each separately incorporated. Principal ministry is YourTown, formerly BoysTown which provides employment and other services for young people, many of whom have challenging behaviours.

He said structural and cultural issues were at the core of offending in the order including secrecy, misplaced respect for privacy, an unnecessary emphasis on the value of confidentiality in leadership, a historical lack of theoretical underpinning for the work of BoysTown in the 1960s. He pointed to a lack of supervision of people in positions of power. He described structures in place since the Royal Commission started, including the establishment of a referral committee, a professional standards office and an external audit process. He said new candidates in Australia are few. He described policies for dealing with brothers convicted of abuse. He noted the difficulty of properly supervising brothers who are convicted of offences. In relation to brothers facing criminal proceedings, he said the order provides financial support up to the committal stage and counsel are retained to provide advice in relation to the provision of further financial assistance for the brother concerned.

Br Timothy Graham said there are 19 brothers in Australia aged over 70, many in aged care and that the order does not actively pursue candidates. SJOG is effectively winding down in Australia. He described the data, which indicated that 40.4 per cent of brothers were accused, as heartbreaking and said the brothers live with the shame every day. He said institutions that were working with people with challenging life issues, particularly before 1980s were very closed communities, which encouraged cultures that were not safe places. He said the increased involvement of lay people and women had brought cultural change and a plummeting of claims. He said poor selection of candidates and poor psychosexual analysis, poor training for difficult ministries all came together to create the catastrophies that happened.

Brothers worked with children with intellectual disabilities and behavioural problems in schools and intervention services. The brothers no longer run or auspice schools or services.

Regarding the treatment of offending brothers he said that keeping brothers in the order is best practice. ‘It’s our social responsibility to ensure offending brothers are supervised’, he said.

Fr Greg Chambers said there are 77 Salesians in the Australia Pacific Province. They are involved in schools, parishes, and youth and retreat services. He described the governance arrangements for the schools, in parishes and in the Province and reporting obligations to Rome. He described the structures and accountability measures in place including in dioceses in which the order works. The data shows 22 percent of brothers in the order between 1950 and 2010 were alleged perpetrators. He described this as inexcusable especially given the Salesians were established in the 1850s to provide education and care to disadvantaged young people. He criticized the former practice of recruiting for the order straight from school when boys had little life experience and had had no chance to grow in maturity in relationships. His said his own supervision was not as regular as his peers on the panel.

The Commission heard about implementation of the Salesians’ child protection policy and the appointment of child safeguarding officer in 2015. He said there’s a lot to learn from lay men and women. He agreed that the life of a brother denies the development of that person in a way society would otherwise allow them to develop. He said poverty, chastity, obedience and celibacy can restrict and inhibit the individual from his own personal growth and development.

He said priests who have been convicted of the crime of child sex abuse should be dismissed from the priesthood, but that they should receive some assistance with basics after that.

Fr Brian McCoy said of the 125 member of province, many are over the aged of 60. Jesuits are engaged in education, Ignatian ministry, social services, and publishing. Some of these ministries involve children.

The Jesuits are in the process of incorporating Jesuit schools and establishing their own PJP, Jesuit Education.

The data shows a relatively low number of alleged perpetrators compared to other orders, but he said any number is terrible.

He said members of the order were not equipped to deal with changes in Vatican II and the social revolution of the 1960s.

He outlined significant changes in formation in recent years, including much more rigorous psycho sexual analysis and development. He said there is closer supervision of candidates and ordained priests than other orders.

He said some people did not grow up and they acted out of sexual immaturity. He said one of the legacies of the Irish tradition was an inability to talk about sexuality, especially for men.

He outlined a number of steps taken by the Jesuits since the Royal Commission commenced, including digital recording archives; external advisory committee; and an audit of policies and practices being carried out by the Australian Childhood Foundation for advice within three years. The order has reconstituted its professional standards consultative panel and there has been a slow cultural shift to best practice. He outlined process for dealing with claims and he said Jesuits found guilty of child sexual abuse are encouraged to seek dismissal from the order. The Jesuits fund initial trial but not an appeal.

He said the principle of confidentiality is important but it should be trumped by care of young and vulnerable. In light of ‘our’ understanding of the damage caused by child sex abuse he agreed that the confidentiality afforded by the seal of confession should be looked at. He said that the disclosure of a crime in confession should not be covered by the seal of confession.

On re-examination by Mr Gray, Sr Loch said an aspect of culture in the church that had contributed to the child sex abuse crisis, was abuse of power and that almost all power in the church was highly clerical and highly genderised. This would only change with change in that model of church. Br Clinch said women are in leadership roles in society. The church is out of step with that. The gift of the feminine is not emerging in our church at the moment. Br Carroll said it has to be more than tokenistic.

The hearing continues tomorrow at 8:00am.

Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 11 Tuesday 21 February 2017

The panel discussion on day 11 of the Catholic Church’s final hearing was attended by bishops with responsibility for various dioceses and regional archdioceses.

Attending were Archbishop Christopher Prowse, Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn; Archbishop Julian Porteous, Archbishop of Hobart; Bishop Eugene Hurley, Bishop of Darwin; Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta; Bishop Christopher Saunders, Bishop of Broome; and Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, Bishop of the Maronite Diocese of Australia.

All panelists strongly supported a national redress scheme, noting the importance of separating reparation from the pastoral context.

It was noted that all the panelists supported the establishment of Catholic Professional Standards Ltd and told the Commission that it was important that the company was financially backed and its recommendations embraced.

Other issues discussed included the extent to which the structure, governance and a culture of the Church may have contributed to the sexual abuse of children, and the church’s reform efforts in light of the Royal Commission’s work. 

The panelists were also questioned about issues of accountability and transparency; mandatory reporting; clericalism and the abuse of power; a tendency to the restoration of the traditional model of church; celibacy; seminary and ongoing formation, including psycho sexual screening; the culture of secrecy; the limited role of women and the laity in Church leadership; training of overseas-born priests; and current procedures for the administration of the sacrament of reconciliation, particularly to children. 

Archbishop Prowse described the benefits of the newly established Safeguarding Institute in the Canberra Goulburn Archdiocese, saying it has led to greater transparency and better access to information, especially for survivors. Noting that his Archdiocese spans NSW and the ACT he said he was in favour of child protection legislation uniformity.

Archbishop Porteous spoke of the approach he had taken when in his former role as rector of the Good Shepherd seminary, describing how he sought to create a positive environment for students, including improving priestly fraternity, encouraging humility and the capacity to serve.  In this context, he described clericalism as the abuse of the priestly culture.

He told the Commission that in his view responsibility for abuse sat with the individual, but that church structure, culture and governance historically may also have contributed to the occurrence of abuse.  He noted that where priests had a poor understanding of celibacy due to poor formation he felt this may also have been a contributing factor.

He also told the Commission about the “Safe Communities” program under development in the Archdiocese, which when in place will ensure all Catholic entities operating in the Archdiocese can test their child safety protocols against the Royal Commission’s Ten Key Elements of Child Safe Organisations.

Bishop Eugene Hurley outlined his recently distributed pastoral letter providing instruction for the safe practice of the sacrament of reconciliation in the Diocese of Darwin.  He noted that all people, including priests, are mandatory reporters in the Northern Territory, a requirement he said he expects his priests to take seriously.

Bishop Hurley described to the Commission his positive personal understanding and approach to celibacy, noting that the true role of a priest is to be at the service of others and that this is the best way to exclude clericalism.

Comparing the abuse that occurred in the Church to the revelations regarding Don Dale detention centre in the Northern Territory, Bishop Hurley told the Commission that he considered that the abuse was a betrayal of trust, an abuse of power, which occurred against a background of a lack of supervision and an acceptance of less than best practice.

Bishop Hurley pointed to changes made in his diocese that were intended to prevent abuse as far as possible, including strict safeguarding practices, and the enculturation of overseas personnel.

Bishop Long told the Commission that he had was born in Vietnam and arrived in Australia as a refugee by boat in 1981, aged 20.

He has a number of overseas born priests in his diocese and currently has 16 candidates studying in his diocesan seminary.  He told the Commission he was concerned about the trend towards more conservative candidates, operating under a ‘perfect society’ model of the Church promoted by previous pontificates, where the ‘pecking order’ was heavily tilted towards the ordained with the laity at the bottom.  "We need to dismantle that model of church," he said. He spoke of his belief that Pope Francis is leading the way towards reform.

He said the modern church lacked robust governance processes and denied full participation by the faithful, and women in particular in Church governance.  “For my part… as a bishop, I need to lead the way in promoting the Church as a communio, a discipleship of equals, that emphasises relationships rather than power,” he said. The panelists lent varying levels of support to Bishop Long’s view.

After lunch Bishop Saunders, described the benefits and challenges of his regional diocese, which spans a large geographic area in the north of Western Australia.  He described the increased vigilance now present in the diocese in light of the revelations of the Royal Commission.

Bishop Saunders shared his thoughts on why the abuse happened and his view of the Church’s response.  He said clericalism – understood as the abuse of power and authority – was a significant problem, which he attributed to an immature, redundant understanding of Church.  Consistent with the view of Bishop Long, Bishop Saunders observed that the Pope is encouraging a move towards Church as a community of service, and away from the concept of privilege.

Bishop Tarabay heads the Maronite diocese, an Eastern Rite diocese of the Church, which culturally largely consists of people with a Lebanese, Syrian or Egyptian background.  Bishop Tarabay told the Commission that 21 of the 54 priests of his diocese are married men, and emphasis is placed on Maronite priests living in community.  He described the formation currently being undertaken by seminarians, some of whom are married and others who have chosen to become celibate priests.

Late in the day, Bishop Long described the personal impact he felt after hearing the stories of many victims of abuse while in Melbourne and of nine victims since becoming Bishop in Parramatta.  He also revealed that he had been a victim of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy after his arrival in Australia. He said these experiences had encouraged him to seek justice, dignity and healing for all survivors.

The hearing continues tomorrow at 10:00am.


Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 10 Monday 20 February 2017

The morning’s panel discussion looked at issues related to the operation and establishment of the new professional standards setting body within the Catholic Church, Catholic Professional Standards Ltd.

The panel was made up of Justice Neville Owen, Chair of the Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, Mr Francis Sullivan CEO of the TJHC and Archbishop Mark Coleridge, a member of the TJHC.

Justice Owen told the Commission that while CPS would be funded by the Catholic Church it would in effect be functionally independent of the Church with its own board having fiduciary duties to carry out the constitution of the new business.

Justice Owen told the Commission that the creation and establishment of CPS had been in discussion with members of the ACBC and CRA for some time and it was his expectation that most if not all Church Authorities would sign up to the new company.

He told the Commission current statutory standards dealing with child protection and other areas would not be replicated by CPS rather, standards would be developed in areas that do not currently exist within the Church.

He told the Commission that the bishop or congregational leader would be audited, most likely by an external accredited audit firm, as part the compliance of the dioceses or congregation with the standards.

Justice Owen gave evidence about the appointment of board members to the company, its relationship with church leaders, the companies auditing and reporting roles, the appointment of board members and the funding of the company.

Archbishop Coleridge told the Commissioners that standards should be set by CPS in areas which could help reform church culture. Other areas in which standards could be developed could include the operations of seminaries, selection of parish priests and dismissal of priests – in conjunction with Canon law.

He was asked about provisions within the CPS constitution which provides a board scope for the company to not publish an audit report of a dioceses or congregation saying there are areas in which the constitution might need to be amended including the non-publication clauses.

Mr Sullivan was asked about the proposed national redress scheme and the ability of a diocese or congregation to opt into the scheme if the state in which they are based is not part of the scheme.

Commissioner McClelland said ‘it would be remarkable if a state stood in the way’ of a national redress scheme.

Archbishop Coleridge was asked about the Australian Catholic Ministry Register which provides church leaders with information on ‘the good standing’ of a priest wishing to enter and work within a diocese.

Mr Sullivan said that it would be ‘silly’ not to build on the current data collected by the Royal Commission so that an ongoing data base could be kept within CPS on data relating to claims, payments, convictions and other relevant information.

Archbishop Coleridge said the establishment of the TJHC and CPS represents a slow but significant change in the culture of the Catholic Church. He said while the establishment of these bodies might seem modest they are significant in terms of the Catholic Church.

The hearing was adjourned until 10:00am Tuesday 21 February.


Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 9 Thursday 16 February 2017

Senior Counsel Assisting released the full report of the Royal Commission’s survey results on claims made against Catholic organisations for alleged child sexual abuse by their personnel, following the release earlier in this hearing of the interim data report.

The morning’s panel discussion looked at issues in Catholic Education. 

Panel members were Dr Tim McDonald, Executive Director, Catholic Education Western Australia; Mr Peter Hill, Director (Employee Services), Archdiocese of Brisbane Catholic Education; Mr John Crowley, Principal, St Patrick’s College Ballarat; and Mr Stephen Elder, Executive Director, Catholic Education Melbourne, Executive Director, Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, and a member of the Truth Justice and Healing Council. All have extensive experience in Catholic Education. 

The discussion covered the structure and functions of Catholic education offices and commissions. It also looked at the relationship between relevant diocesan bodies, state departments and other authorities. 

The Commission heard about reporting obligations including to the police and to the relevant state department; the role of the Catholic Education office/commission in this process; and whether reporting obligations are the same for employees and diocesan priests. 

The hearing examined registration arrangements for teachers – lay and religious; Working With Children Checks and other relevant checks including who is mandated to have a clearance to work with children (volunteers, teachers, chaplains, parish priests); and whether or not it is possible to access files from other states. 

There was some discussion about the role of Catholic Professional Standards and changes that might result from the work of that new entity.

Other issues discussed included the extent of involvement of parish priests in programs in Catholic schools and in Victoria, possible issues arising out of the role of parish priest as employer; the relationship of the Catholic education office with the professional standards office and whether or not the Catholic education office has an investigative role in relation to student protection matters. 

The Commission also heard about responses to legislative changes in Victoria in response to the Inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations, tabled in November 2013.

The panel discussed a school’s role in complaints handling and reporting; staff training and professional development; communication with and engagement of the child’s parents, police, the school community and the professional standards office; and the sacrament of reconciliation.

Mr Crowley described efforts to engage past pupils and their families affected by abuse, and changes to child safety, curriculum and pastoral care at St Patrick’s College Ballarat in light of the history of abuse in the school. 

After lunch, the hearing looked at current child safety, complaint handling and risk management.

Panel members were Mr Mark Eustance, Director of Professional Standards for the Catholic Church, Queensland; Ms Claire Pirola, Manager, Office for Safeguarding & Professional Standards, Diocese of Parramatta; Ms Karen Larkman, Director of Safeguarding and Ministerial Integrity Office, Archdiocese of Sydney; Ms Andrea Musulin, Safeguarding Project Officer, Archdiocese of Perth; Mr Sean Tynan, Manager, Zimmerman Services, Diocese of Maitland Newcastle. All are involved in complaint handling. 

Panel members described the complaints handling processes they work with, including whether or not they use Towards Healing. All are signatories but there’s a declining number of people choosing to use the protocol. Panel members discussed the weaknesses and limits, including poor resourcing and implementation. 

The panel described the structure of their organisations and lines of accountability; parish structures and the degree of independence of their respective offices; and the relationship with the state professional standards office.

The Commission heard about the Church’s national complaints data base; professional development and staff training opportunities which may, or may not be mandatory; processes and policies for reporting to police, including whether or not blind reports are made; and the importance of the exchange of information with other agencies, and especially with the police.

Where relevant, panel members were asked for their view of NSW Ombudsmans reportable conduct scheme, and they acknowledged the importance of their relationship with the Ombudsman, police and the Office of the Children’s Guardian.

Mark Eustance described achievements of the Queensland office in the area of child protection, recent changes and the challenges still faced, including in some places a culture of discretion, a lack of willingness to fully disclose and take formal action if concerning information comes to light.

Claire Pirola said even when audits and processes are in place, early indicators of abuse can still be missed. She expressed the need for greater awareness of what constitutes boundary violations and grooming and to intervene early with high risk behavior in adults working with children. She called for a nationally consistent  approach; the availability of accurate, public data; and appropriate people in leadership roles to influence cultural change in order to improve the safety of children. 

Karen Larkman said safeguarding training for all priests and clergy is mandatory in the Sydney Archdiocese. She has developed a training package based on the Irish model. Challenges include information in general across church authorities.

Andrea Musulin said more work is needed on prevention, detection, and reducing opportunities for offences; and for increased opportunities for families and children to report. She stressed the importance of sex education for young children.  She said her greatest achievement in the role is to have installed over 200 fully trained safeguarding officers in Perth parishes. She said her biggest concern is managing risk when there’s a known child sex offender in a parish, having served a sentence, and the need for more information around their offending from the police. 

Sean Tynan said the key challenges include the use of chapter 16A in NSW which is designed to share information but there are some limitations to that in practice and it needs strengthening. He called for funding to train the trainer to be reinstated.

The hearing was adjourned until 10:00am Monday 20 February.


Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 8 Wednesday 15 February 2017

Day 8 of the final hearing into the Catholic Church commenced with a panel discussion on the professional support and supervision of priests and clergy.

Panel members included Sister Eveline Crotty RSM, Co-ordinator, Urban Ministry Movement, Sydney; Dr Michelle Mulvihill, Managing Director and Principal Consultant, Corpsych Australia; Father Gregory Bourke, National Director Clergy Life and Ministry, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference; Dr Michael Whelan SM, Director, Aquinas Academy, Parish Priest St Patrick’s Church Hill, Sydney; Dr David Leary OFM, Lecturer, Yarra Theological Union, University of Divinity, Victoria; and Father Thomas McDonough CP, Provincial Superior, The Passionists Holy Spirit Province Vice President, Catholic Religious Australia.

Panelists described efforts to date to provide professional support and supervision of priests and religious, ranging from informal support in the 1950s with ‘varying levels of success’, to a number of programs and courses which have come and gone since the 1980s.  This included the establishment in 1981 of the St Peter's Centre in Canberra which focused on ongoing formation and renewal, pastoral formation and personal development, to the Ministry for Priests program in 1986, and an ACU course in counselling which has since morphed into the current masters of clinical counselling run by the ACU.

Panelists discussed the relevance and impact of  the Vatican document of 1992, Pastores Dobo Vobis, which said there is no profession job or work which does not require constant updating if it is to remain effective, and the requirements of Integrity in Ministry, which called on bishops and superiors to make available opportunities for formation and renewal.

The panel observed that resources are currently available for appraisal and support of clergy and religious, but that uptake is limited, especially among priests. They said that engagement in supervision, ongoing formation and professional development has not been mandated but that it could be a valuable step.

Fr McDonough said appraisal and compliance should be mandated and that the consequences of non-compliance should be withdrawal of faculties or removal from the order. Dr Leary said a range of mandatory and voluntary opportunities for ongoing formation will satisfy good professional development.  Dr Whelan noted however that no supervision will be water tight and, at least initially, the number of qualified people with spiritual and theological literacy available to provide supervision would be limited.

A number of the panelists suggested Catholic Professional Standards, the new independent national entity established to set monitor and report on standards across the Catholic church nationally, might assist by setting best practice guidelines for supervision and ongoing formation, with penalties for non compliance.

The panelists agreed that a requirement for pastoral supervision and ongoing formation for clergy and religious would improve child safety in the Church. 

In the afternoon the Commission turned its attention to procedures, policies and practices in Catholic Social Services agencies. Participants included Ms Ariana Kenny, Clinical Specialist, Marist Youth Care; Mr Michael Austin, Director, CatholicCare Wollongong; Mr Dale West, Director, Centacare Catholic Family Services, Adelaide; Dr Nick Halfpenny, Director (Policy and Research), MacKillop Family Services.

Issues discussed included the size and nature of the services, particularly those services relating to children; governance structures and reporting lines; approaches to staffing and the legislation and regulations which underpin the work of the agency, including funding and accreditation responsibilities. They described their mandatory reporting requirements to which they are subject, and whether or not they operate under a reportable conduct scheme. Where appropriate, panel members also discussed any issues encountered working across state jurisdictions.

All of the agencies operate out of home care services.  They detailed how they comply with the child safe elements provided by the Royal Commission including screening, reporting, investigating allegations of abuse and initiatives in place for hearing the voice of the child.  Panel members also outlined how the agencies have responded to the work of the Royal Commission to date.

The hearing continues tomorrow.


Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 7 - Tuesday 14 February 2017

The panel discussion on Day 7 of Case Study 50 focused on initial formation of clergy and religious and the professional support and supervision of working priests and religious.

Panel participants included Dr Lydia Allen rsm, Psychologist and Director of Human Formation, Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney; Fr Peter Thompson cm, Rector at Vianney College in Wagga Wagga, and former superior of the Vincentian Fathers; Fr John Hogan, psychologist and former parish priest, now Rector at Holy Spirit Seminary in the Diocese of Parramatta; Fr Brendan Kelly sj, Novice Director  and Province Delegate for Jesuit Formation; and Dr David Leary ofm, Secretary of the Franciscan Province and Lecturer, Yarra Theological Union, University of Divinity.  

Each panelist profiled the demographics of the seminary or formation house in which they are involved, including student numbers and age range; number of overseas candidates; the duration and structure of the formation period and current approaches to the screening, selection and training of candidates. There was considerable variation in approach evident.

The panelists reported a general increase in candidate numbers in recent years, with ages of seminarians currently in training ranging from 18 to mid 30s, with the exception of the Jesuits who currently have five candidates aged from 27-57. Dr Leary noted there are no Franciscans currently in formation in Australia.

Given the length of formation (generally seven years, 14 years in the Jesuits) in some seminaries it was suggested that seminarians should undergo psychological testing at the commencement of their training and also at the conclusion.  There was some suggestion that formal formation time should be reduced, in favour of a greater emphasis on learning via interaction with community and through pastoral work.

Dr Leary told the Commission there needed to be other processes in place in seminaries in addition to psychological testing, which nurture candidates.  It was his view that observation over time was far more telling and conclusive than a snapshot of psychological process obtained during formal assessments.

Referring to the historic Tridentine model for seminary training, arguably still used to varying degrees in some seminaries, Dr Leary said a starting point for formation should not be one of protecting, isolating, "cocooning" of the candidate, but rather exposing him in a guided way to a whole range of thought, ideas and experiences that he can then reflect on.

Commissioner Fitzgerald asked the panel about his perception that the seminary model today has profound weaknesses, including limited integration of seminarians with the community, with the outcome that it is producing men for ordination who have "re-embraced clericalism", said to be a contributing factors to the abuse of adults and children.  He observed that seminarians seen to be wearing clerical garb and attending masses said in latin seemed "to those on the outside... like reversion to a former model".

Commission Chair Justice Peter McClellan said clericalism has had catastrophic consequences and he urged panel members to think about how the laity perceived current practice.

Commissioner Murray noted that the Commission had heard consistently from victims and survivors that the greatest weakness of the institutional response of faith-based organisations was their pastoral response.  He asked the panelists to describe the steps seminaries are taking to educate seminarians so as to address this.

Discussion also went to the directive from the Vatican that men with ‘deep seated’ homosexual tendencies should be excluded from the priesthood, and why this was the case when celibacy was mandated; whether or not the seal of confession applied to a child disclosing abuse, and to perpetrators confessing abuse during confession and what seminarians were being taught about these issues; the possible role of the notion of "ontological change" in power imbalances between priests and the laity; and possible cultural issues arising from the recruitment of overseas seminarians and priests.

Knowledge and opinion across the panel varied in response to these issues.

The hearing continues tomorrow with a panel to consider approaches to ongoing formation of priests and religious in the morning, and current safeguarding practices in community services agencies in the afternoon.


Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 6 - Monday 13 February 2017

The Commission started day 6 of Case Study 50 with a panel examination of the processes of priestly formation within the Catholic Church both historically and currently.

The panel consisted of Dr David Ranson, Vicar General, Diocese of Broken Bay and Parish Priest at Wahroonga; Dr Christopher Geraghty, former judge, priest and seminary lecturer in theology; Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Randazzo, former rector Holy Spirit Seminary Banyo (Qld); and Dr John Chalmers, Director of Mission and Formation, Centacare Brisbane.

Dr Geraghty told the Commission he had entered the seminary at the age of twelve in 1951, and left after ordination at 24.  He was sent to a parish in Cronulla in southern Sydney, where he was ‘left on his own with no support’.

He said while in the seminary he received no instruction on celibacy. Asked if he had struggled with celibacy as a priest he told the Commission that after the Second Vatican Council, ‘I got depressed…lonely…isolated and in that sense I was struggling with celibacy’.

Bishop Randazzo told the Commission that his experience in the seminary in the late 1980s and early 1990s had been very different. He said had received instruction on celibacy during formation, including regular instruction on personal development.

‘For me in the seminary celibacy was not presented as a series of "you can’t".  My experience was about seeking out life-giving relationships in your own life’ he said.

Dr Ranson said in the 1990s screening and assessment of candidates for seminary life was in place, including psychological assessment.

He said however that ongoing formation of clergy after ordination, while available in many dioceses, needed to be more ‘systemic’.  He suggested a shorter initial formation period, followed by clergy regularly withdrawing from ministry for a few months to undertake further formation as part of a ‘continuous adventure of learning’ may be a preferred approach.

Dr Geraghty told the Commission that while lecturing during the 1970s, he was involved in assessment at the Springwood seminary, but had been forbidden to talk to students about sex or celibacy. He agreed with Commissioner McClellan that, broadly speaking, the church had failed to understand the personality of people commencing training and failed to have appropriately trained staff involved in formation.

Bishop Randazzo acknowledged there were aspects of formation in the past which ‘were not as good as they should have been’.  In response to questions from the Commissioners he told the Commission that clericalism at any level was unhealthy and had been a factor leading to abuse within the church.  Dr Ranson agreed, saying past formation and seminarian systems had been a ‘distortion’ and that there needed to be a public recognition of past failings before the church would be able to move on.

There was broad ranging discussion about overseas priests and whether guarantees can be given that these priests are appropriately trained and aware of the issues within the Australian church. Dr Ranson, who told the Commission that 60% of priests currently serving in his Diocese were from  overseas, said this aspect was an open question and an ‘enormous challenge’ to the church.

Bishop Randazzo disputed evidence heard earlier that clericalism was being reintroduced in some parts of priestly formation, telling the Commission that this was not his experience during his time in Brisbane or in Sydney.

While Dr Geraghty urged the Commission to consider Vatican formation documents, which he argued continue to strongly influence the training of seminarians, Bishop Randazzo said the documents provide a 'skeleton' around which local formation programs are devised.

After lunch the Commission called Dr Gerardine Robinson, clinical psychologist and former clinical director of the Encompass program, which was operated by the church in Australia to provide treatment for priests and religious with substance abuse and psychosexual issues during the period 1997 until its closure in 2008.  She said the Church's decision to close Encompass was shortsighted.

She told the Commission that out of some 1,100 people to have passed through Encompass, approximately 60 to 70 of them had been child sexual abusers.

She said the Catholic Church attracted people who had three strong features: dependent, compulsive, schizoid. In Australia, this was supplemented by narcissism.  She told the Commission that when balanced, these traits generated good priests, who were compliant self starters, interested in people and keen to see things through.  Where any of these traits were not in balance, there could be a sense of superiority and entitlement, which was not suitable.

She told the Commission that in her view assessment of a candidate's suitability for the priesthood needed to be multidisciplinary and she was concerned that if completed 'in house' it would not be effective, due to a lack of available expertise, and 'things would be missed'.

She said that she thought that some seminaries were currently reverting back to clericalism practices and that if this continued the Church will need ‘ten more Encompasses in the future’.

Dr Robinson discussed issues of suitability of candidates for the priesthood, the 'recycling' of candidates from seminary to seminary, the screening and assessment of candidates, professional supervision of priests, sexual orientation and the need for appropriate education of both formaters and candidates in seminaries.

She told the Commission she did not think celibacy was a causal factor but rather a contributing factor in priests abusing children.

She said she didn’t think clergy offenders should be ‘thrown out’ of their diocese or order. She told the Commission it was important for offenders such as those released from prison to have meaningful work and social supports, to reduce the chance of recidivism.  For Church offenders, while accepting that they should never be able to return to ministry, have contact with children, be addressed as a priest or wear clerical dress, she argued that they should remain in a religious community, provided with meaningful work and surrounded by a group of people who would support them in a ‘ruthlessly honest’ way.

She said expelling them from the church was almost certain to result in them offending again.

The hearing continues tomorrow.


Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 5 - Friday 10 February 2017

The Commission started Day 5 of Case Study 50 hearing evidence from Ms Teresa Devlin, Chief Executive Officer of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Ms Devlin told the Commission about the operations of the Safeguarding Board since its establishment in 2009.

She told the Commission the Board receives it core funding from Church authorities but also self-funds through payments for training courses and other services it provides.  She said that despite the funding arrangements she considered the Board to have effective independence from the Church.

Ms Devlin said that the Board had established a Case Management Committee in response to a key concern the Board discovered in its early years, that the management of abuse claims was inconsistent across the Church in Ireland.  The Committee's role is to provide advice to Church authorities that ensured the consistent management of such claims.

The Committee provides advice to bishops and religious leaders in relation to steps taken following receipt of a complaint against a priest or member of the order, including whether a priest or religious should be stood down following a complaint. She said if the bishop does not follow that advice they are asked to explain in writing why the advice was not followed. She said in 99 percent of cases church leaders do follow the Board’s advice.

Ms Devlin said the she had found the Canon law process provided an effective framework for investigation of a claim, particularly if an accused person had been acquitted in civil criminal proceedings.

She told the Commission that the Committee expected complete openness from Church authorities when advising them on the conduct of a claim. The Board asks the relevant church authority to confirm in writing that they have ‘given them everything’ in relation to the case. She said as far as she is concerned ‘there are no secret archives’. 

She said a key objective for the Board is to provide a consistent approach across Ireland to the management of child sexual abuse claims based on civil law, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Canon law and the Gospels.

She told the Commission the Board had established Standards relating to quality assurance and monitoring of child safeguarding practice within dioceses and congregations.  This is achieved through a combination of internal self-audits and external independent audits which are compiled into a review by the Board and provided to the relevant Church authority who commits to making the report public.

She said that the Board being able to require a Church authority to provide it with all details of child abuse claims and then for this information to be made public is a ‘huge cultural shift’ in the Church in Ireland.

‘There is no doubt children are safer in the Catholic Church [in Ireland] than they have ever been. My worry is complacency. I don’t want anyone to think they can stop being vigilant,’ she told the Commission.

The hearing continues on Monday.


Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 4 - Thursday 9 February 2017

The panel discussion for the first part of day 4 of the Royal Commission’s final hearing into the Catholic Church focused on Canon law processes for dealing with clerics accused of child sexual abuse.

The panel was made up of canon lawyers Dr Rodger Austin, Fr Thomas Doyle, Sr Moya Hanlen and Mr Kieran Tapsell.

Issues considered during the hearing included the relationship between canon law and reporting to civil authorities, and bishops’ understanding of this; the process for investigating allegations and determining outcomes, and the role of bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and the role and impact of secrecy around canonical processes.

Opinion varied on these issues, but the panel agreed that the canonical processes were not well adapted to dealing with the sexual abuse of children.

The panel also discussed changes to time limits under canon law in bringing proceedings, and the CDF’s discretionary power in this regard. The panel expressed its agreement with any proposal from the Royal Commission urging removal of time limits in child sexual abuse matters.

Opinion varied on whether perpetrators should be laicised. A strong argument emerged not to laicise in order to confine or closely monitor the perpetrator and that a legally binding direction from the church on the issue would ensure the approach was consistently applied and understood.

The discussion around the intersection of civil and canon law included whether or not church authorities are obliged to report the sexual abuse of children and whether canonical or civil procedures take precedence over each other or whether they can be carried out concurrently. 

The afternoon panel discussed the operation of the sacrament of reconciliation in the context of child sexual abuse.

Panelists included Bishop Terrence Curtin, Chair ACBC Commission for Doctrine and Morals; Fr Frank O’Loughlin, parish Parish Priest Sandringham, Sacramental theologian; Fr Laurence McNamara, Lecturer moral theology and ethics; Professor Ian Waters, Professor Canon Law; Fr Joseph Grayland, PhD theology, and Parish Priest Palmerston North NZ; and Fr Frank Brennan, CEO Catholic Social Services Australia, human rights advocate and former law professor.

The panel discussed some of the misconceptions surrounding the practice of confession or reconciliation and the need for clarification.

The discussion clarified what is covered by the seal of confession with most panelists agreeing that the seal was restricted to whatever sins of the penitent were revealed to the priest and did not cover the revelation in the confessional of sins by another person.  Accordingly if a child in confession gave information that he or she had been abused, that information was not subject to the seal of confession.    

The panel noted the declining number of people who make use of the sacrament.

Discussion also went to whether the Commission might make recommendations regarding the circumstances in which absolution could be deferred.

One panel member said the age at which children make their first confession should increase from six years to 12 years and that all priests who are confessors should do regular in-service.

Commissioner Fitzgerald observed that there is a Lack of confidence in the Catholic Church due to a misunderstanding of confession.

In response to a question from Commissioner Fitzgerald, the panel suggested the appropriate committee of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference provide detail of what is and what is not covered by the seal of confession. 

The panel agreed that if a penitent confesses to abusing a child, is told to report to the authorities before receiving absolution, but doesn’t return, the abuse is likely to continue.

The hearing continues tomorrow.


Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 3 - Wednesday 8 February 2017

On day 3 of the Royal Commission’s hearing panel members discussed structural and cultural issues, including accountability and transparency. 

The panel comprised Dr Maureen Cleary, Governance and Management consultant; Patrick Parkinson, Professor Law at the University of Sydney; Peter Johnstone, President of Catholics for Renewal; and Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane and member of the Supervisory Group and the Truth Justice and Healing Council.

Dr Cleary described her extensive work with church and not for profit organisations, particularly in the area of lay participation.

She told the Commission the institutional church has a lot to learn from women religious institutes which have run a majority of church-based services.

She said the Royal Commission has shown the clergy have been very deficient in keeping up with their own knowledge and formation.

She referred to former Adelaide Archbishop Faulkner’s successful efforts to share his executive power with lay and religious women, noting that in the clerical church good things happen because of the presence of good people who are not trapped by clericalism.

Dr Cleary said the Church’s network of professional standards offices have been poorly resourced and inconsistently funded by local bishops, setting them up for failure.

Professor Patrick Parkinson has been involved in child protection for nearly 30 years.

He told the Commission that church structure undermines the Church’s capacity to respond to child sexual abuse. He said mandatory celibacy, combined with emotional and sometimes geographic isolation is causative and explains some of the shocking figures in the Royal Commission’s data survey.

And added that there is a need to find a way to engage the laity in the organisation and spiritual running of the church.

Peter Johnstone said that Catholics for Renewal is a group of committed Catholics established to respond to what they saw as the dysfunctional governance of the Church and its inadequate response to the sexual abuse of children.

He said the governance of the Church is dysfunctional. It failed to measure up against principles of good governance including accountability, transparency, leadership, listening and aligning the leadership of that organisation with its mission.

He expressed concern that bishops can take decisions in secret without any accountability.

Peter Johnstone said that for cultural change you need leadership change and recommended that the 2020 Synod be preceded by a series of synods where bishops of the country listen to the people.

Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, told the Commission that cultural change in the Church is extremely difficult. He said Pope Francis and the Royal Commission are catalysts for cultural change and that it won’t be business as usual post Royal Commission.

"I think that's probably true, that we haven't yet embraced adequately a transparency that is appropriate and even necessary for an unusual community of communities like the Catholic Church," he told the Commission.

He said there is ‘evidence of a lingering culture – that we do our own thing, we are a law unto ourselves. We hope the Royal Commission can help us with what that is and how we can go about it.’

Archbishop Coleridge said that he adopted a policy of, where possible, preferring to appoint a woman to an executive role in the Archdiocese and that he has built up good relations with religious women.

He said the Brisbane archdiocese has made genuine attempts to introduce accountability mechanisms for clergy, referring to the appointment of a Vicar for Priests, Priest in charge of clergy, life and ministry as evidence of this.

The last witness to give evidence today, Jesuit Priest Fr Gerry O’Hanlon, gave evidence via video link from Ireland.

Fr O’Hanlon is a past provincial of the Jesuits in Ireland and has extensive experience in the issue of handling child sexual abuse cases within the Irish Jesuits.

He gave evidence about some of the factors he considered had given rise to the child sexual abuse crisis in Ireland including the elevated status of the clergy, the passive role of children and the fact sociologist and psychologists had taken time to come to understand the phenomenon.

The hearing continues tomorrow.


Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 2 - Tuesday 7 February 2017

Day two of the Royal Commission’s hearing into case study 50 saw lively discussion about a number of the cultural and structural issues in the church which may have led to the sexual abuse of children.

The morning commenced with evidence from Dr Thomas Doyle, a Dominican priest from the USA and canon lawyer, author and consultant in areas of sexual abuse by clergy and religious. Dr Doyle’s experience with ‘actual’ cases spans 33 years in the USA and other countries.

Dr Doyle described a clerical church culture of deep secrecy that protected the perpetrator and the institutional church, evaded accountability and responsibility, moved pedophile priests and blamed victims.

He described his efforts to communicate the gravity of the problem of the sexual abuse of children in the church with the Church hierarchy in the USA. While working in the Papal Nuncio’s office in Washington DC he provided a report to the papal nuncio in 1985 and through him, to Rome, graphically detailing at least one case.

As public awareness grew, the bishops sought Doyle’s advice on how to deal with the problem. He provided them with an extensive report which included the definition of pedophilia and the fact that it cannot be cured.

The groundbreaking report was approved by the nuncio, but blocked by the US bishops’ conference. Doyle subsequently sent a copy to every US bishop in late 1985. He was sacked from his role in the nuncio’s office for his advocacy work with victims. He was told if he wanted a career in the church he should change his area of expertise.

He has since spoken to thousands of victims and their families. He said one of the massive holes in the Church’s approach today is the failure to comprehend the profound spiritual damage done to victims, their family and the community.

He described a clerical culture that protects bishops at all costs from embarrassment and from being lowered in the esteem of the community. One of the main causal factors has been the prioritizing of image, and the authority of the institutional church over the welfare of victims. He described a ‘clerical subculture that has infected church culture’, of a power structure that is used to ‘control and scare victims’. 

He said the practice of secrecy was relatively recent in terms of church history.

He said mandatory celibacy has prevented the personal development of priests and religious and that it may have been a factor in the sexual abuse of children.

The afternoon panel included Dr Michelle Mulvihill, Managing Director and Principal consultant, Corpsych Australia, Professor Neil Ormerod, Professor of Theology, Australian Catholic University and Professor Frank Moloney, Senior Professorial Fellow at Catholic Theological College.

Referring to the data released by the Royal Commission yesterday, Professor Ormerod said abuse is more prevalent in male religious orders with access to vulnerable children. He observed the interaction of vulnerability, power and domination, noting that private powerlessness and public dominance is a potent mix which could be sexually alluring. He said effective pastoral supervision, in line with other professions who work with emotionally distressed people was an effective way to mitigate this, but that it’s not happening in the Catholic Church.

All panelists agreed priests should have ongoing formation and supervision.

Professor Ormerod referred to the Archdiocese of Adelaide and to its low number of claims. He noted the decision of the former archbishop of Adelaide, Leonard Faulkner to forego an auxiliary bishop in favour of setting up a pastoral team which included a number of lay and religious women. He suggested that this model was a reason for the low number of claims.

Professor Maloney noted a regression since changes following Vatican II to a more conservative approach.

Dr Mulvihill called for mandatory registration of active priests, in line with other professional practices in Australia.   

Professor Ormerod warned against a culture of impotence, where change is mandated, but not implemented.

Professor Moloney discussed the complexities arising from a multicultural priesthood.

Professor Moloney observed that change is on its way for the Catholic Church in Australia, that good things are happening, but it’s like a turning wheel that needs to change direction. He said the return to a conservative approach in Church institutions and many of the seminaries is a major stumbling block to reform. “We’ve come a long way,” he said, “but the wheel’s still turning in the wrong direction”.

The hearing continues tomorrow.


Case Study 50 Catholic Church Final Hearing - Day 1 - Monday 6 February 2017

Day one of the Royal Commission’s wrap up hearing into the Catholic Church began yesterday.

The hearing will inquire into:

  1. factors that may have contributed to the occurrence of child sexual abuse at Catholic Church institutions in Australia;
  2. factors that may have affected the institutional response of Catholic Church authorities in Australia to child sexual abuse;
  3. the responses of Catholic Church authorities in Australia to relevant case study report(s) and other Royal Commission reports; and
  4. data relating to the extent of claims of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church of Australia. 

At the start of the hearing Senior Counsel Assisting the Commission, Gail Furness, gave a summary of key results of the Royal Commission's data survey on abuse claims in Catholic Church institutions.

In her address, Ms Furness said a survey revealed 4,444 alleged incidents of abuse between January 1980 and February 2015 were made to Catholic Church authorities.

Ms Furness told the hearing 1,880 alleged perpetrators were identified in claims of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. Of these, 32 per cent were religious brothers, 30 per cent were priests, 29 per cent were lay people and 5 per cent were sisters.

The commission heard that more than a third of people who gave evidence in private sessions over the past four years reported abuse in Catholic institutions.

Ms Furness said the testimony of survivors was "harrowing" and “the accounts were depressingly familiar.”

She said the Commission has made 309 referrals to police in all states and the ACT in relation to allegations of child sexual abuse involving Catholic Church institutions, with 27 prosecutions resulting. 

In a statement to the Commission, Francis Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, which assisted the Royal Commission in obtaining the data, said the numbers were shocking. 

"They are tragic and they are indefensible. Each entry in this data ... represents a child who suffered at the hands of someone who should have cared for and protected them. As Catholics, we hang our heads in shame,” he said.

The afternoon heard evidence from Dr Fr David Ranson, Vicar General of Broken Bay Diocese and Dr Fr Michael Whelan, a Marist Father and Parish Priest of St Patrick’s Church Hill.

Both spoke of their experience of formation for the priesthood and gave their views of what had contributed to child sexual abuse within the Church.

Dr Whelan said that celibacy can be lived out very, very well but that the church’s law of compulsory celibacy is misguided. “It should not be in place, I think it’s unjust, actually”, he said.

Dr Ranson said men who chose to live the celibate life without a calling were setting themselves up for living in quiet desperation and conflict.

Dr Ranson said long years of initial formation are not productive and that it’s far better to consider shorter terms of initial formation but much more developed structures of ongoing formation. “You cannot learn about life in a cocoon,” he said.

Discussion also focused on the limited role of women in the church and the need for independent, professional supervision of priests and bishops in line with the practice required of other professions.

And they called on greater transparency in governance and church structures.

The hearing continues tomorrow.

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The Council concluded its work on 30 April 2018 and is no longer distributing any material about its work.