Australian Hierarchy Responds to Role in Child Abuse
Australia’s Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse released its final report on December 15, ending a five-year investigation into child abuse and institutional coverups. The report concluded that “there is an elevated risk of child sexual abuse where compulsorily celibate male clergy or religious have privileged access to children in certain types of Catholic institutions, including schools, residential institutions and parishes.” This conclusion follows in part from the commission’s finding that more than 60 percent of all survivors who were abused in religious institutions reported that the abuse happened through the Catholic church. Based on these data, the commission “concluded that there were catastrophic failures of leadership of Catholic Church authorities over many decades.” Archbishop Dennis Hart of Melbourne offered an apology and said that the hierarchy could be open to reconsidering its stance on celibacy, but both Archbishop Hart and Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney decried the commission’s suggestion to impose reporting obligations on religious leaders who hear confessions of child sexual abuse. In a subsequent statement to reporters, Archbishop Hart pushed back on the question of celibacy. He added, “We know very well that institutions who have celibate clergy and institutions that don’t have celibate clergy both face these problems.” The Vatican said that the report “deserves to be studied seriously” but has made no official comments on its recommendations.