John Menadue. Catholic bishops keep saying sorry, but avoid structural and cultural reform.

Jun 17, 2015

Current Affairs.

Catholic bishops keep telling us that they didn’t know and how sorry they are about the horrific events in Ballarat and in many other  parts of the Catholic Church before that. We all know how terrible these events are, but what have the bishops done  to address the opaque governance structures and cultural problems  that have contributed to this abuse. The Catholic Church is still run like an absolute monarchy. Sexual abuse of children is an appalling abuse of power but it is only one form of  abuse of power in a hierarchical and clerical system.In the selection of bishops for example the laity have little or any role at all.It is a rigged system.The laity who would know about sexual abuse are isolated and passive. There is a massive governance problem in the Catholic Church.

Kevin Rudd said sorry to the Stolen Generation but very little changed. The same is true in the Catholic Church.

Together with friends, I made a submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This submission was on 11 November 2013. It focused on the lack of accountability, the abuse of power, the problems of governance and a clerical culture that contributed to current problems.

Our concerns were identified earlier by the Murphy Commission which was concerned with the Archdiocese of Dublin. That Commission found that the ‘structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated the cover-up’.

The Victorian Parliamentary Enquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations handed down its report ‘Betrayal of Trust’ on 13 November 2013. This report said ‘No representatives of the Catholic Church directly reported the crimes committed by its members to the police’. (p.170) The Committee found ‘that there is simply no justification for this position’. It said that in not once instance of the 307 cases involving the Diocese of Ballarat, Sale and Sandhurst did the bishops report directly to the police. That is extraordinary, even though the church cooperated once police enquiries were afoot.

The submission to the Royal Commission can be found in the following link.


The submission can also be found on the Royal Commission website under the item ‘Towards Healing issues paper’.

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