Lawyer urges transparency in sex abuse response
A prominent Sydney Catholic lawyer has written a second time to Australia's Catholic bishops and heads of religious congregations urging more lay involvement and transparency in the Church's response to the sex abuse crisis.
Geoff Cahill, inaugural NSW Commissioner for Equal Opportunity and ALP General Secretary, has sent the Church leaders an updated version of a 1993 paper he published in the NSW Law Society Journal. The paper was designed to alert religious institutions to the criminal and civil liability they faced, and to offer positive "Safe Guard" guidelines for consideration.
Mr Cahill regretted that the development of the Bishops' 1996 protocol Towards Healing did not rely more on lay expertise. He said it needed "a strict authoritative regime of compliance to ensure that the policies of the protocol are rigorously applied".
He cited the North American experience to point out that issue was brought to light by the 'public voice of the laity', and the norms determined by the US Bishops Conference last month "resulted in a power sharing decision which will have a far reaching effect in the Church throughout the Western World".
He said: "The Australian Catholic Bishops have the option of seizing on the initiative by expeditiously adopting and implementing the principles established by the American Norms. Alternatively, they can wait until the public clamour of the Laity and the community at-large also involves the intercession of His Holiness or Governments."
He described the example of the US Bishops in recognising transparent power sharing and direct involvement of the Laity in the governance of the American Catholic Church as principles "that are clearly the best protection against the errors of the past".
Abuse protocol needs compliance agency, not lip service (Geoff Cahill, June 2002)
Cahill Corporate Services
Geoff Cahill Solicitor and Attorney
16 Jul 2002