Church Acts on Abuse Fallout
By Louise Thrower
April 20, 2016
|CARING ROLE: Former Goulburn detective Matt Casey is heading up the Institute for Professional Standards and Safeguarding, aimed at protecting children under the Catholic Church's care. Archbishop Christopher Prowse created the body in the wake of a Royal Commission into instutional child sexual abuse. Photo: Louise Thrower|
ARCHBISHOP Christopher Prowse on Friday apologised for what had happened to "innocent men, their families and communities" at Brother William Standen's hands.
The Christian Brother has pleaded guilty to 17 charges of indecent assault and one act of indecency against boys aged 12-14 while he was a dormitory master at a Catholic School from 1978-81. He is awaiting sentence.
The Archbishop's apology followed Standen's sentencing hearing on Sydney on Friday.
While the Christian Brothers operate autonomously to the Archdiocese, the man appointed to head up a newly created protection body said the Archbishop felt impelled to act.
"His position is that the abuse occurred and there are people in the Archdiocese who were were either victims or were impacted by it," Matt Casey said.
"He has a pastoral and caring role and felt the need to reach out and assure these people he was thinking about them and he's prepared to do all he can to help them."
Mr Casey acknowledged that people were talking about the case and were unsure of what to say or to whom to turn.
"There is tremendous hurt within this," he said.
"The church is a place where people should be safe, where people should be able to trust those working within it that they and their children will be safe," he said.
"There's tremendous disappointment, hurt and anger at what has taken place.
"The breaches are egregious and horrendous. For the broader church and people who have committed their lives to spreading the word of God, to see that some have gone against everything that Jesus and the church are about is simply a horrendous breach of trust.
"There is no other way to describe it - it is wicked behaviour."
Mr Casey, an ex-Goulburn detective, is director of the newly created Institute for Professional Standards and Safeguarding, based in Canberra.
The Archbishop established the Institute last October following on from the Royal Commission Institutional responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
It is one of the first of its types in Australia and reflects the Archbishop's determination to put the issue at the "very top" of his agenda," Mr Casey says.
The aim is to develop training, policy, healing of victims and compliance surrounding child protection and safeguarding. It will encompass schools and all agencies, such as Catholic Care and Marymead, that operate within the Archdiocese.
It will also have the power to investigate reports of child sexual abuse and refer them on to police under manadatory reporting legislation.
"The Archbishop is looking for a collaborative and unified approach to child protection," Mr Casey said.
In the process, the Institute will work closely with teachers to develop a better understanding.
Mr Casey said the Institute was in its infancy but had taken ample advice from the Maitland/Newcastle Archdiocese, which had developed a similar program in the wake of abuse cases, and the NSW Ombudsman.
For the former detective, the role combines lifelong skills.
Mr Casey spent 28 years in the NSW Police Force.
He headed up the School of Investigation and Intelligence at the NSW Police Academy and has extensive experience in investigating child abuse cases. Mr Casey retired in 1999, subsequently worked with Goulburn Family Support, trained as a counsellor and dealt closely with victims of child abuse.
In 2008 he joined the Archdiocese in the area of faith education but the then Archbishop Mark Coleridge asked him to take on child protection, and later, professional standards. The recommendation to form the Institute arose from a broader review and recognition that "more work needed to be done."
Mr Casey is joined by Jane Cronin as manager.
She is a teacher, a former military lawyer in the US Air Force and worked with the US Attorney General. Ms Cronin has a strong background in prosecuting child abuse cases.
Mr Casey said the approach to investigations had changed dramatically over the years, especially since the 1980s when police didn't see child abuse as "a real crime".
"At the Institute people will bring matters of historical abuse to us and we will take them at face value," he said.
"That doesn't mean we won't check them out. We will work with our and their lawyer to decide whether compensation is to be paid and work on a pastoral response."
In cases where the accused is still alive, the Institute will also report it to police, as they are obliged to do.
Mr Casey said in NSW and soon in the ACT, any child abuse complaint made to agencies must also be reported to the NSW Ombudsman. The Institute will undertake an investigation, which the Ombudsman's office oversees.
Thanks to the Archbishop's lobbying of the ACT Chief Minister, the reportable conduct scheme was taken to a recent COAG meeting in Canberra.
It won universal support and agreement to roll it out across Australia.
Mr Casey said while the community baulked at agencies investigating themselves, this system guaranteed the Ombudsman's involvement the whole way through.
"It is a totally transparent process," he said.
". . . If you create a culture that is by nature protective of children, you must be transparent about why things are being done.
"We try to be transparent and we're very happy with the standard of investigation we're conducting and we value the Ombudsman's oversight."
The Institute has handled several complaints since starting, none related to Goulburn. Several historical cases have been reviewed and an overall report prepared for the Royal Commission.
In addition, the Catholic Church is proposing a national oversight body that regularly audits professional standards in the 32 dioceses in Australia and organisations that operate under their umbrella.
"Looking to the future, we want to develop a culture of safeguarding in the archdiocese," Mr Casey said.
"As a secondary aim, we want to provide absolute support for anyone impacted by child abuse or any other type of abuse."
Anyone wishing to contact the Institute can do so through Mr Casey on 0411 09 6173 or Jane Cronan on 0448 829 410.