-- Catholic News Agency
Australian Bishops Pledge Cooperation With Abuse Inquiry
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, September 25 (CNA) .- The Catholic bishops of Australia's Victoria state have said the Catholic Church in Victoria will cooperate "fully" with the Australian state's parliamentary inquiry into child abuse.
"Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has caused deep concern among Catholics and the wider community," Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne said Sept. 21. "It is shameful and shocking that this abuse, with its dramatic impact on those who were abused and their families, was committed by Catholic priests, religious and church workers."
The Victorian parliament has launched an inquiry into how religious and other non-governmental organizations handled child abuse, following suicides by dozens of people abused by clergy, Agence France Presse reports.
The Catholic bishops said the incidence of abuse has fallen "dramatically" from the "appalling numbers" in the 1960s and 1970s. In the last 16 years, the Catholic Church in Victoria has upheld about 620 cases of criminal child abuse, with most claims regarding incidents between 30 and 80 years ago.
The bishops said there have been "very few" complaints of abuse since 1990.
Michael Holcroft, President of the Law Institute of Victoria, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that there is a need for independent investigations.
"Obviously there's a public perception that the church investigating the church is Caesar judging Caesar, and I think that the community is now looking for somebody external, someone independent to get to the bottom of what's obviously been a big problem for a long, long time," he said.
Chrissie Foster, the mother of two daughters raped by their parish priest in the mid-1980s, objected that the Church only revealed the figure on Sept. 21. Foster also accused the Church of doing nothing to stop abusive priests.
Archbishop Hart stated the Church's support for "brave" victims of abuse who come forward and speak to the inquiry and the Church's support for those who do not testify.
"We acknowledge the suffering and trauma endured by children who have been in the Church's care, and the effect on their families," the archbishop said. "We renew our apology to them."
He said the Catholic Church's submission to the inquiry examines what the Church has learned from "past failures" and how it has changed its approach to victims and offenders.
The submission discusses the Church's commitment to caring for children and developments in society's and the Church's understanding of "the pernicious nature of pedophilia."
"The Church, both internationally and in Australia, has continued to review and refine its processes, procedures, and practices," he said. "We put the child first, and our refined measures promote the protection of children."
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