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Bishop says it's time to face up to the big picture on abuse

Canberra Auxiliary Bishop Pat Power has commented on the John Jay Report on clergy sex abuse in the US, saying the Australian Church's focus on particular cases has obscured the larger context of the problem.

He told ABC Radio National's Religion Report that it's important that the truth comes out, that these cases are part of a larger culture of abuse.

"We've been fairly preoccupied with trying to meet the immediate needs of victims and trying to deal with the people that have been responsible for those crimes," he said. "The Americans probably have gone that step further in terms of having investigated the whole history of abuse... I am sure that the American study and the results that have come out of it, will be of concern to our Australian committee."

The 140 page report, which was authorised by the US Catholic Bishops, was written by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and released on 27 February. It revealed a massive under-reporting of sexual abuse, suggesting 4400 priests, or 4% of those in the priesthood, abused 9700 minors between 1950 and 2002. The ABC Religion Report said the percentage of abusing clergy was previously understood to be around 1%.

Bishop Power, who was described as a "spokesperson" for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, made it clear that he is not a member of the Bishops' Professional Standards Committee and there could be "big picture" initiatives underway that he's not aware of.

He suggested that any local study is likely to be beneficial as long as the end result helps those who have been hurt.

"I'm sure that any study that can look into those sort of statistics will only be of help, and I suppose the prime concern would be to see that people who have already been hurt and offended against, that they be helped in the best possible way."

John Jay Report on US Clerical Sexual Abuse (ABC Radio Religion Report 10/3/04)

John Jay releases national study of sex abuse by Catholic priests (John Jay) | Text | US Bishops' website
Catholic Review Board
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference: Towards Healing
Catholic Church to establish office to evaluate abuse complaints (Catholic Communications NZ 10/3/04)
Churches share knowledge on addressing sexual abuse (Insights 10/3/04)
Developments in abuse scandal include church suit against insurer (Catholic News Service 9/3/04)

11 Mar 2004