THE Catholic Church is a world organisation “struggling to come to terms with the safety of children and its responsibilities in that area”, two members of Pope Francis’s child protection commission told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
think the Pope does understand the seriousness of it and I think there
are many other leaders who do, but I think that the organisation, with
the leadership that it has, there are some people struggling to come to
terms with it,” psychiatrist and Pontifical Commission for the
Protection of Minors member Baroness Sheila Hollins told the royal
commission on Thursday.
Baroness Hollins and papal commission
member Bill Killgallon told the royal commission they were
under-resourced, under-staffed and had not seen evidence of
research-based decision-making in the global church on issues relating
to child sexual abuse.
“It seems to me that you’ve had a very
systematic, well thought out program and you’ve commissioned research
widely into some really important topics,” Mr Killgallon told the royal
commission at the 16th, and final, public hearing into the Catholic Church.
“We as a commission can follow that example.”
recent example of the church making decisions directly related to child
sexual abuse involved whether child sex offenders within religious
orders should be kept within communities or not, Mr Killgallon said.
far as I can see, there’s no evidence base for taking a decision on
that. There has been no research that I’m aware of as to whether sending
people – detaching them from the community or keeping them in community
– whether one works better than the other,” he said.
Commissioner Andrew Murray told Baroness Hollins he was "not yet
convinced” of the church’s ability to change the “culture of secrecy and
concealment” that led to a global child sexual abuse tragedy.
“Overcoming a culture like that is a massive enterprise,” Mr Murray said.
Hollins, whose career as a psychiatrist has concentrated on the sexual
abuse of adults and children with intellectual disabilities, agreed that
to change that kind of church culture was “really, really difficult”.
commission members believed “very strongly” that the church should pay
for its work and “we shouldn’t be raising money from outside or from
philanthropy, that we should be looking to the church to fund it”.
trying to work out what we need to have in place in order to be able to
have the influence that we need is quite difficult,” she said.
been trying to establish relationships and trying to understand how
things are done within what is essentially an Italian kind of
“When we see the organisation and the
competencies involved in the Australian royal commission, we don't have
that level of support.”
commission chair Justice Peter McClellan told the papal commission
members that “we see the work that you’re doing as a very important part
of the church’s response, which of course will assist the church to
perhaps come to terms with the recommendations we will make in due
“Insofar as this commission has identified… real change
will only occur, as we understand the process, if it’s coming from
Rome,” Justice McClellan said.
He asked Baroness Hollins why
the papal commission couldn’t “go to the Pope and say ‘We don’t have the
resources we need to effectively carry out our work’?”
Hollins replied: “I think that may well be something that we will be
wanting to feed back to him when we complete our review that we’re
undergoing at the moment. We’re looking at the future of the commission
at our next meeting.”