Saturday, March 31, 2012

Melbourne priests support inquiry

Senior Melbourne Catholic clergy, including the archbishop's adviser on sexual abuse issues, are backing a call for an independent inquiry into the handling of abuse complaints, reports The Age.

The adviser, Father Tony Kerin, said yesterday he had told Archbishop Denis Hart that an independent review would clear the air and should be held, although the cost to the Church would be high.

''This is really a crunch issue for the Church. If we are to be a Church, we need to minister to the victims and do it much better,'' said Fr Kerin, who is the Episcopal Vicar for Justice and Peace.

He said an independent inquiry would clear the air but would come at a heavy cost to the church in terms of time, energy, and diverted attention.

Father Kerin said he thought an inquiry would uncover two or three problems from the past but would also track how the church had improved its efforts over time.

''My main concern as vicar for justice is to make sure that things don't happen now or in the future,'' he said.

According to Geelong priest Father Kevin Dillon, there is a groundswell of support among Melbourne's clergy for an independent inquiry. He said the abuse crisis was damaging the church and clergy morale.

''I suspect for the majority of priests it's all so ugly we just wish it wasn't there,'' he said.

Fr Dillon said many Melbourne priests believed a government-led inquiry would provide the best possible look at the church's Melbourne Response, the protocol for dealing with complaints of clergy abuse.