Bishop Robinson says let public judge Church on sex abuse
Bishop Geoffrey Robinson has commented that a revision of the Australian Catholic Church's procedures for responding to sexual abuse complaints "establishes public criteria according to which the community may judge the resolve of Church leaders to address issues of abuse within the Church".
"If we do not follow the principles and procedures of this document, we will have failed according to our own criteria," said Bishop Robinson, who chairs the National Committee for Professional Standards.
A revised version of the 1996 document Towards Healing was released yesterday.
The Bishops' Conference and the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes commissioned an independent panel to conduct the review that led to the revisions. The panel was led by Professor Patrick Parkinson, Pro-Dean of the Faculty of Law at Sydney University and author of the book Sexual Abuse and the Churches. The process included broad consultation with complainants, accused, church authorities and the various persons who had a role in responding to complaints.
The major change to the principles is the extension of the definition of abuse to include physical and emotional abuse. The changes to the procedures aim to clarify the steps to be taken and provide a document that is clear and able to be applied to the many and varied matters that can be brought forward.
Bishop Robinson said: "In actual fact, many of the changes introduced in this document are currently being followed in practice so this document is a formalisation of those processes."
He emphasised that finding the best solution to abuse is something the Church is still working towards. "In this document, we do not claim to have all the answers - we never have," said Bishop Robinson. "We are fully aware that whilst we have assisted many complainants to move towards healing, there are still some who are dissatisfied. We hope that the changes implemented through this document will further reduce this number and assist the Church to respond in a just and compassionate manner to complaints of abuse."
The revised document is available on the Bishops Conference website.