Friday, May 29, 2009

Names blocked to authorities abroad

CATHOLIC Church authorities abroad, concerned that abusers uncovered by the Child Abuse Commission may also have worked in their countries, will not be able to obtain the true identities of the individuals protected by pseudonyms in the commission’s report.

Head of the Church in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, told media there yesterday he had representatives studying the report and said that the commission would be contacted to try to establish whether there were any connections with Australian dioceses or institutions.

Many Catholic religious orders have a presence in both Ireland and Australia and it was not uncommon for members to move, or be moved, between countries as part of their work or to avoid scandal where abuse allegations had been made.

The Catholic Church in Australia has faced criticism in recent years for failing to take seriously abuse victims who tried to complain to the authorities, and pressure has been mounting for a full-scale inquiry there.

Cardinal Pell was quoted yesterday as pledging to take action if the investigations here turned up anything that Australians should be concerned about.

"Our investigations have so far come up with nothing but we will follow our established principle and that is, in fairness to the victims, we’ll face up and do the best we can to confront anything that is presented to us."

But the commission said it was limited in the information it could share with overseas authorities because it remained tied by the rules of anonymity for complainants, abusers and other witnesses.

"We cannot name names. The only thing we can do is, if they wanted to pursue their own inquiry, we can advise them on how we went about it and the systems we put in place to run it," said a spokeswoman.

The commission has already been consulted by the Scottish government, which carried out its own inquiry into institutional child abuse in 2007.

That inquiry only examined the way institutions were run and how they complied with the laws of the time, and did not identify individual institutions or name witnesses.

Survivors’ groups had wanted a far more detailed investigation, along the lines of the Irish model, and the Scottish government is now working on a proposal for a "truth and reconciliation" type of body that would give victims a greater sense of justice.

A spokesman said the government was particularly interested in seeing how the parallel Residential Institutions Redress Board worked here.

The Irish inquiry has also prompted calls from survivors’ groups in South Africa for an investigation into religious-run institutions there.
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