"I've Seen the Anguish': Wa Archbishop Addresses Sex Abuse Findings
By Hannah Barry
December 15, 2017
|Timothy John Costelloe SDB, an Australian metropolitan bishop, is the ninth Roman Catholic Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Perth, Western Australia. Photo: Darbs Darby (Andrew Darby)|
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe says the Catholic Church in WA "must act" in order to address concerns of child sex abuse within its institutions after the Royal Commission handed down its final report on Friday.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its report to the Governor General of Australia and made 198 recommendations aimed at better protecting children from sexual abuse in Australia.
Archbishop Costelloe told Radio 6PR it was to his "great shame and horror" the Catholic Church featured heavily in the investigations.
"Speaking for myself, the main feeling that I have this morning is one of enormous gratitude to the Royal Commission," he said.
"This story which has been front and centre for nearly five years is a story of national shame and of national disgrace.
"The Church has got a long way to go. We've been a major player in a bad sense."
The New Norcia diocese and Benedictine community had the highest number of alleged child sex offenders in the West Australian branch of the Catholic Church between 1950 and 2010, with a number of religious leaders called to face charges in WA courts last year.
Just four months ago, a Bunbury man filed a writ against the Catholic Diocese of Bunbury in the New South Wales Supreme Court for alleged instances of sexual abuse in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Alan Rowe told the Bunbury Mail he first approached the Catholic Church seeking an apology for alleged sexual abuse by a priest in Bunbury twenty years ago.
While the priest accused of the abuse continues to deny the allegations, he retired from the church to live in Ireland a month after the encounter and Mr Rowe was offered a $15,000 ex gratia payment.
Archbishop Costelloe acknowledged abuse had occurred at the hands of WA's Catholic Church, and its current leaders were going to look at the recommendations with "great honesty, great humility and great openness".
"The bottom line is, we've got to act," he said.
"We have been caught up in this terrible tragedy and we've got to make sure that we do everything we can to [ensure], in our own Catholic institutions and settings, that sexual abuse of children becomes a thing of the past.
"What I can guarantee is we in the Archdiocese of Perth, and that is the place that I'm responsible for, are doing everything we can – but are always open to further suggestions and further improvements to make Catholic settings, now, the safest place for children to be.
"This hasn't been the case in the past."
The Catholic Archdiocese of Perth has recently rolled out its new Safeguarding program which aims to educate the Catholic community on child protection and protective behaviours, and establishes two Safeguarding officers within Perth's metropolitan and rural parishes.
Archbishop Costelloe was one of the five archbishops who appeared at the final hearing of the RC into the Catholic Church.
|Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson and Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe appeared before the Royal Commission in February 2017. Photo: Louise Kennerley|
He was joined by the archbishops of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and committed their parishes to "a national redress" scheme.
"In my capacity as archbishop I've sat down with numbers of survivors now and listened to their stories.
"I've seen the anguish and the despair.
"My hope is that the Royal Commission and the process we've all been through and what must now come from it, will be able to help people move forward.
"I think each individual person has their own story and life experience, and for some people it's going to be extremely difficult to put their lives back together."