The Catholic church is the most respected institution globally. However, it is no stranger to different scandals and allegations of abuse. While accusations have gone as far back as the 1950s, it was only in the early 2000s that it became a major global story.
As countless victims started to speak up publicly against the church, it was found that little boys comprised most of the victims from the hundreds of thousands of clergy abuse cases in the past five decades. In fact, by the 20th century, mistreatment was considered endemic in Catholic schools and orphanages in Ireland.
Churches, sports clubs, and schools in Australia were also found guilty of neglect and abuse to over 500,000 people from 1930 to 1970. Indeed, with all the efforts of secrecy to protect the clergy, it is important to shed light on this matter and give justice to the many victims waiting for compensation.
Clergy Abuse Cases In Australia
Australia is among the many countries that have been striving to address the issue of child abuse publicly. To help the many victims, they have formed a Royal Commission, specifically tasked to investigate abuse in all institutional settings.
According to the report they submitted in 2017, at least 62% of the individuals who came forward to them all testified against the Catholic institution. This does not come as a shock, of course, due to the fact that Catholics ran a considerable number of schools and orphanages since the end of World War 2.
One of the most infamous clergy abuse cases in the country was when a high-ranking cardinal, George Pell, was convicted of abuse; this makes him the most senior Catholic cleric guilty of such crimes. Another instance of this issue being shed to light was during the conviction of Archbishop Philip Wilson, who resigned after being found to conceal the crimes of another priest.
This once-silent issue was so widespread that 90% of the perpetrators were discovered to be male and part of religious institutions. Even if victims tried to be vocal about their experiences, they would most likely be ignored, suppressed, or discouraged because of the taboo nature of the clergy abuse case.
Response Of The Church
During Pope Francis’ election in 2013, he promised to take decisive action against clerical abuse and cover-ups. For this purpose, a Vatican committee was set up. By 2010, the Vatican had also issued a law that allows bishops to report incidents of abuse to local police. Despite this, there is much work to do to help the people suffering from their traumatic childhood.
Abuse claims against clergy in Australia lead to the creation of many groups and organizations to support victims. These entities include the Australian Catholic Redress Limited, Catholic Professional Standards Limited, an Implementation Advisory Group, among many more.
Moreover, since the revelation, many religious institutions have acknowledged how many children suffered under their care. Some even admitted to knowing about the crimes but chose to look the other way to shield their reputations from accountability.
Fortunately, there have been moves made by these institutions to reform their institutional culture and leadership. As a matter of fact, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia have both accepted 98% of recommendations from the Royal Commission that related to the Church.
According to Child Rights International Network, it takes an average of 24 years before survivors come forward to authorities to report their abuse. Indeed, it can truly be difficult to speak out against someone from the clergy; there are different power dynamics at play, and feelings of self-blame and shame tend to make one doubt their experience.
In addition, these perpetrators often groomed their victims at a young age, making them believe that they “allowed” things to happen to them. On the other hand, during instances when they do disclose information to the institution, they were either given ineffective actions or were flat out ignored.
Thankfully, Australia has removed all time limits for the survivors to bring legal action for their suffering. With the new laws, it is now possible for these individuals to take their complaints to civil courts for compensation. The Royal Commission has also played a vital role by compelling witnesses and recommending persecutions.
For many of these people, having experienced abuse at a very young age has changed their lives for the worse. Thus, the opportunity to finally speak up and seek retribution is something they have long been waiting for.
The dark history of Catholic churches has victimized many Australians for decades. Finally, as more people have gained the courage to make claims against the institution, abuse compensations have slowly been awarded to survivors.
However, it is not easy to disclose one’s experience against the clergy. As such, it is important for them to know their rights and receive legal help from people who understand and can handle their clergy abuse cases with utmost compassion and sensitivity.