FEDERAL Greens have backed calls for Australia to reconsider its diplomatic relationship with the Vatican after the Catholic Church refused to supply documents to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Greens MPs Rachel Siewert and
Scott Ludlum will question the Turnbull Government this week about what
it has done, if anything, in response to the refusal, and after
Catholics for Renewal president Peter Johnstone said calls for Australia
to break its diplomatic ties with the Vatican were “right on the
“I have no hesitation in arguing the royal commission
should say to the government that if the Catholic Church will not
cooperate in making major changes – and the Australian church can’t
change without the global church changing - then the government should
say to the Catholic Church it will reconsider its diplomatic recognition
of the Holy See,” Mr Johnstone said after giving evidence on February 8
at the 16th, and final, hearing into the church.
Australia’s diplomatic recognition of the Catholic Church had “handicapped” the commission, he said.
Siewert, who chaired the “Forgotten Children” Senate inquiry into
children brought to Australia and sent to church orphanages where there
were high levels of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, said she was
yet to be convinced the church culture had changed from thinking it was
above the law.
Its response to the royal commission request for
all documents on child sex abuse cases sent to the Vatican, to see how
the church had disciplined offender priests, showed a church that still
demonstrated that attitude.
“Culture is about how the church sees
itself. When the church talks about being a sovereign state because it
has diplomatic relations with Australia and other countries, it sees
itself as a nation that can set its own laws,” Ms Siewert said.
culture won’t change unless we take some action. I would encourage the
Australian Government to be proactive in looking at this issue and how
Australia should respond. I’d say there’d be a lot of community support
in considering this issue and making it clear to the church that there
was an expectation the church would cooperate with the royal
The Federal Government needed to openly discuss
how the community felt about senior Catholic churchmen in Australia
having diplomatic immunity because Australia announced in 1973 that it
had a diplomatic relationship with the Vatican, Ms Siewert said.
announcement was made by the then Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam.
“There’s been such a strong response to the royal commission. People have been horrified by what’s been exposed,” she said.
community was not happy when Cardinal George Pell did not return to
Australia to give evidence at the royal commission, after solemnly
pledging to commission chair Justice Peter McClellan that he would, Ms
In 2011 the Vatican recalled its ambassador to
Ireland after the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, launched an
unprecedented and blistering attack on the church in parliament,
following release of a devastating report into child sexual abuse
involving the church in Dublin.
The church claimed the move was in response to “excessive reactions” to the report.
A few months later the Irish government closed its Vatican embassy, saying it “yields no economic return”.