‘Betrayal of Trust’ is the title of the report released this week in Australia as a result of a parliamentary inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other non-government organisations. The report is the first of several inquiries into child sexual abuse in Australia, by a Victorian Parliamentary Committee.
“Children were betrayed by trusted figures in organisations of high standing and suffered unimaginable harm,”
“Parents of these children experienced a betrayal beyond comprehension. And the community was betrayed by the failure of organisations to protect children in their care.”
The report’s criticism of the Catholic church is unsparing. Its recommendations are radical. If adopted they would strip the Catholic church of its virtual immunity in the courts and compel religious leaders of all faiths to report child abuse to the police.
Their 678-page report, Betrayal of Trust, paints a picture of a powerful institution riddled with abuse and determined to handle both abusers and victims as far as possible without interference from the state. Nothing like it has been published before in this country.
Its conclusions are plain and devastating: “No representative of the Catholic church directly reported the criminal conduct of its members to the police. The committee found that there is simply no justification for this position.”
The church is condemned in the report for sidelining the courts as well as the police. The committee expressed “great concern” at the church’s use of highly technical legal strategies to prevent victims taking their cases to court.
The Metropolitan Police’s paedophile unit is currently investigating the abuse of children in schools run by the Salesian Catholic order as part of Operation Torva. Anyone who wants to contact the police about Operation Torva should dial 101. Anyone who would prefer to call somebody other than the police can contact the Lantern Project on 0151 630 6956 or NAPAC on 0800 085 3330.
An open letter to MPs calling for the Department of Education to order a public inquiry into child safeguarding failures in the Roman Catholic church and church of England, and for the inquiry to make recommendations for improvements, can be found at stopchurchchildabuse.co.uk