2,000 Australian Catholic Figures Accused of Child Abuse*

2,000 Australian Catholic Figures Accused of Child Abuse*


In some dioceses, up to 40% of priests were accused of abusing children.

Australia's Cardinal George Pell

Australia’s Cardinal George Pell

Australia’s Cardinal George Pell


A Royal Commission into child abuse by the Australian Catholic church has revealed a shocking picture of impunity and predation, with nearly 7% of priests accused of abusing children between Jan. 1980 and Feb. 2015.

According to the damning report released by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Monday, 4,444 alleged victims suffered child abuse at the hands of the Catholic church.

But despite this, “Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious (figures) were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past,” said Gail Furness, senior counsel assisting the commission.

The commission found an alleged 1,880 predators within the Catholic church. Of these 572 — over one in three — were Catholic priests. In some dioceses, up to 40% of priests were accused of abusing children.

In one case, the inquiry heard testimony from Peter Blenkiron who recounted how he was physically and sexually abused by his Christian teacher in class while the other students were told to look away.

In another case, Catholic priest Peter Searson was accused of sexually abusing a 9-year girl in his confessional booth.

The harrowing report accuses the Catholic church of fostering a perverse system of fear and shame where abuse victims were “ignored or worse, punished,” said Furness.

On average, the commission found it took 33 years for each instance of abuse to be reported.

What’s more, the Holy See refused to assist the commission, according to Furness.

She told the hearing, “The royal commission hoped to gain an understanding of the action taken in each case. The Holy See responded, on July 1, 2014, that it was ‘neither possible nor appropriate to provide the information requested.’”

In response to the shocking report, the church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, which was set up to coordinate the response to the findings, has condemned the abuse as a “massive failure.”

“These numbers are shocking, they are tragic, they are indefensible,” said chief executive Francis Sullivan Monday, speaking on behalf of the council.

“As Catholics, we hang our heads in shame.”

The landmark royal commission was set up in 2013 to investigate allegations of sexual and physical abuse in religious, educational and sporting institutions in Australia.

The commission is now in its final stage, where the final three weeks are expected to investigate the cultural causes for the crisis and how the church can improve protections for children.


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