1880 accused: Full extent of Catholic Church sex abuse

 Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Almost 4500 people made allegations of child sexual abuse to Catholic authorities over 35 years, an inquiry has heard.
Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Almost 4500 people made allegations of child sexual abuse to Catholic authorities over 35 years, an inquiry has heard. AAP / Jeremy Piper,

THE vile extent of child sex abuse within the Catholic Church has finally been unmasked with yesterday's Royal Commission revealing worshippers now hang their "heads in shame" after decades of systemic exploitation within its ranks.

The Royal Commission into Institutionalised Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has identified 1880 alleged perpetrators along with 4444 victims who have come forward to report an incident within the Church between 1980 and 2015.

Ninety per cent of the alleged offenders were men - with the highest number acting as religious brothers, followed by priests and lay people associated with the Church.

Victims were an average age of 10.5 for girls and 11.6 for boys, with an average 33 years between the alleged abuse and official complaint.

The figures were revealed by Senior Counsel Assisting Gail Furness SC and tendered to the Commission yesterday along with an in-depth report documenting child sexual abuse from 1950-2010.

The report compiles data from a survey of 75 Catholic Church authorities - with priest members - and 10 Catholic orders whose members are religious brothers and sisters.

It classes 7 per cent of priests over that period of time as alleged perpetrators of sexual abuse.

The St John of God Brothers had the highest proportion of religious brothers who were classed as alleged perpetrators (40.4 per cent) followed by Christian Brothers (22 per cent), Salesians of Don Bosco (21.9 per cent) and Marist Brothers (20.4 per cent).

The highest proportion of alleged perpetrators who were priests came from the Benedictine Community of New Norcia (21.5 per cent) along with the Salesians of Don Bosco (17.2 per cent) and Marist Fathers (13.9 per cent).

All Australian archdioceses and dioceses were represented at the hearing by The Truth Justice and Healing Council.

Chief Executive Francis Sullivan cried as he told the public gallery the number of sexual abuse claims was "tragic" and "indefensible" and had left Catholics disgusted.

"This data, along with all we have heard over the past four years, can only be interpreted for what it is - a massive failure on the part the Catholic Church in Australia to protect children from abusers and predators, a misguided determination by leaders at the time to put the interests of the Church ahead of the most vulnerable and a corruption of the Gospel the Church seeks to profess.

"As Catholics we hang our heads in shame."

The Truth Justice and Healing Council has proposed a national independent child abuse redress scheme to determine "fair and compassionate" compensation for abuse survivors. Under their plan, the scheme would be operated by the Commonwealth but funded by the institutions in which the abuse took place.

Protesters gathered outside the hearing at Governor Macquarie Tower to lobby for a similar compensation system for victims of sexual abuse.

The Royal Commission will continue over the next three weeks and include appearances from the most senior members of the Church in Australia including seven archbishops.

Yesterday parish priest Dr Michael Whelan, from St Patrick's Church Hill, said he could not explain why alleged perpetrators did what they did.

"I know one family where two members of the family became male religious - one turned out to be a terrible paedophile and the other turned out to be a fine religious," he said.

Also at the hearing it was revealed the chair of the Royal Commission had requested documents from the Vatican in relation to former Wollongong priest John Gerard Nestor which were refused.

The Holy See responded it was neither "possible nor appropriate to provide the information requested" and would only respond "in future to appropriate and specific requests".

Dr David Ranson, Diocese of Broken Bay Vicar General, told the hearing he was invited by the Jesuit community to give a reflection on "celibate sexuality" in the early 1990s. Dr Ranson said he was later asked to speak to other religious houses on the same topic at a time that coincided with the "increasing revelation" of child sex abuse in the church.

He said during his workshops he "would put up different sexual fantasies, different scenarios that represented sexual misconduct just using different case studies. What I was trying to do was simply create all these different scenarios that were possibilities and to try to get people to understand what ... were the driving factors underneath this."


Proportion of priests identified as alleged perpetrators (1950-2010)

Diocese of Lismore - 13.9%

Diocese of Wollongong - 11.7%

Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn - 8.4%

Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle - 7.9%

Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney - 7%

Diocese of Parramatta - 2.2%

Topics:  abuse catholic church editors picks royal commission

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