Finally, it seems that a significant national inquiry into what appears to be widespread abuse within the clergy is near. Calls New South Wales has just announced an inquiry and Victoria has already set aside twelve months for an inquiry of their own. But these state-based inquiries are too limited in scope and there is little doubt that the problem crosses state borders. There has been so much focus too on the Catholic Church, the main source of such horrendous allegations, but a broader approach in that sense too is necessary.
Both the New South Wales and Victorian inquiries are incredibly limited. In the case of NSW, announced last week after a Lateline interview with a state police officer, the investigation will be limited to the allegations made by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox during an interview on the ABC news program. The events in question are limited to a specific region in the state and surround an alleged police cover-up of very disturbing incidents.
In the case of Victoria, their inquiry is wider in scope, but far from a powerful royal commission. Victoria’s sex abuse is being investigated by a parliamentary inquiry but is not limited in scope like the New South Wales’ iteration will be.
The parliamentary inquiry in Victoria covers abuse in all religious and non-government organisations, not just the Catholic Church or a specific region within the state. However, like the newly announced investigation in NSW, the committee inquiring into these matters does not have the extensive power that a royal commission commands.
There really now, more than ever, is a need for a full royal commission into child abuse and it must be a national one. We have passed the point of no return. There is not one option left to deal with a large number of alleged indiscretions except for holding a royal commission.
For some time now those calls have been met with resistance despite a significant number of cases coming to light where there was abuse, mostly within the Catholic Church, but also a wider array of religious and other institutions.
Most of that resistance has come from the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the main denomination at the centre of the bulk of the allegations that have been raised in the public domain of abuse and inaction.
Worse still, it is also alleged that there has been a systemic cover-up, the active burying of cases involving incredibly devious acts of sexual depravity and violence against Australian children. All for the maintenance of power.
It is incredibly sad, indeed ridiculous and very concerning that the church believes itself above the law. Child abuse, any abuse is a crime and as such there should be absolutely no tolerance of reports that it is occurring. It absolutely beggars belief that anyone would not report alleged indecency, in favour of dealing with it in-house. Going to police is the one and only option.
Australia’s politicians have been way too slow to act. We have known about a number of cases of abuse and inaction on the part of the church for years and yet, until this year, little had been done anywhere in the country.
It would appear, on the face of it, that our politicians fear the influence of not just the Catholic Church, but also the wider religious movement. But that fear is incredibly ill-founded and terribly misplaced.
Religious movements are no longer anywhere near as powerful as they were. They would like to think they are and the impression of ongoing power remains. The simple fact, however, is that they are not.
In any case, politicians should not fear any real or perceived influence that religion does or does not possess in Australia. The lives of Australian children are far more important than any political benefit. Power should not corrupt to the extent that sexual abuse is ignored by MP’s across the country. Sadly, it just might, at least until the political pressure to act against these allegations becomes too strong.
People are experiencing more hurt suffering in comparative silence. The vast majority who have had acts of sexual violence perpetrated against them would want some form of closure, some acknowledgement that their pain and suffering is real and needs to be dealt with by a proper judicial process, not forgotten about or buried within an organisation.
It is understandable the visceral anger and hatred directed at institutions and the individuals that represent them, for having failed in the basic duties of a citizen, organisationally and individually when it comes to the law. People do deserve much better treatment at the hands of those caring for and providing guidance to impressionable and vulnerable young minds.
Unfortunately, some of those understandably outraged by the actions of the Catholic Church and other religious organisations have called for the tax exempt status of these organisations to be revoked as some form of punishment,
Any kind of remedy must be civil or criminal and should not extend to taking away the tax-free status of religious organisations that still, despite their massive and unjustifiable failings in relation to protection of children within the church, do extensive and helpful charity work.
What is abundantly clear is that a wide-ranging and national inquiry is needed into abuse within the church. The states have either failed to do anything at all or have not gone anywhere near far enough in prosecuting this matter.
A royal commission must now happen and should certainly not be limited to the Catholic Church. All denominations must be examined in a broad inquiry without fear or favour.
Support for the inquiry needs to be across partisan lines. As of this afternoon all political parties, except for the ALP and most Independent MP’s have pledged support for an inquiry. A large and growing number of Labor MP’s have however voiced support for a royal commission.
It would appear that the momentum towards a national inquiry into sex abuse within the church is now inexorable and that can only be a good thing,
Sadly though, a lot of pain has been endured during the unnecessarily slow process.