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Parents threaten Catholic Church in South Australia

The Church is facing legal action from parents of intellectually disabled children allegedly sexually abused by a school bus driver in Adelaide.

Parents have written to senior Church officials expressing dissatisfaction with their formal response to allegations children were abused more than a decade ago. They have gathered written support for a class action against the Church for allegedly breaching its duty of care by failing to protect their children.

Their letter says they will take legal action if they do not receive a detailed response by the end of next week to demands for an internal inquiry, compensation and counselling.

Details of the letter emerged as Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson called a media conference to repeat a public commitment to rid the SA Catholic Church of child sex offenders.

Archbishop Wilson announced the Church has engaged private consultants to overhaul child-protection mechanisms in its schools. He confirmed an internal inquiry into how the Church handled the abuse allegations when they first surfaced 10 years ago had been delayed because of legal complications.

Archbishop Wilson yesterday released the text of a private speech he gave to school principals last month. He warned that child sexual abuse had the potential to destroy the Catholic Church.

"I believe we are dealing with a firestorm that, unless it's brought under control and dealt with, is going to be really destructive, perhaps the greatest ever destruction of the Church in Western civilisation," he said. "Sexual abuse is disastrous personally, it's disastrous on a family level and it's disastrous on a community level."

Archbishop Wilson said the SA Catholic Church had engaged a Melbourne-based child protection consultancy, Child Wise, to help develop a strategy to minimise the risk of abuse.

It would provide expert advice on risk assessments, improvement of screening procedures, recruitment and selection practices, codes of conduct, legal issues and responsibilities and dealing with complaints of abuse.

Sex abuse 'firestorm' could destroy the Church, warns Catholic Archbishop (Media Release)
Catholic Education South Australia
Child Wise

The Advertiser

30 Apr 2002