Catholic Church ‘a cesspit’ of lack of accountability, says abuse survivor

By Tessa Akerman
December 16, 2017

The Catholic Church ‘is just protecting (its) powerbase’, says abuse victim Stephen Wood.
Photo by Aaron Francis

Stephen Wood finds it hard to believe the church that harboured his childhood abusers for decades will willingly accept the royal commission’s recommendations to protect other children.

Mr Wood, who was abused by notorious pedophile priest ­Gerald Ridsdale and two Christian Brothers while a child in a Balla­rat school, yesterday said the Catholic Church had a poor history of child safety and would likely not adopt all the recommendations. “It’s a cesspit of lack of ­accountability,” he said.

“It’s really just protecting their powerbase.”

Mr Wood, a spokesman for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the church saw itself as “sacrosanct” and sought to protect religious dogma such as canon law, which was not included in the Bible.

“These are only man-made rules and traditions,” he said. “If this was a non-religious organisation, it would be shut down.”

The royal commission looked at the experiences of 6875 abuse survivors. The majority of survivors, 64.3 per cent, were male and more than half were aged between 10 and 14 when they were first sexually abused.

The average duration of child sexual abuse experienced in institutions was 2.2 years, 36.3 per cent of survivors said they were abused by multiple perpetrators and 93.8 per cent of survivors said they were abused by a male.

Victims’ advocate Chrissie Foster said the recommen­dations had to be implemented despite opposition. “This canon law is not a law, it’s like a football club’s rules,” she said.

“This is the forcing on them, our civil law changing them ­because they won’t.”

Ms Foster and her late ­husband, Anthony, played a key role in raising awareness of child sex abuse by clergy after two of their daughters were abused by local priest Kevin O’Donnell.

Yeshiva abuse survivor Manny Waks said the royal commission had brought child sexual abuse into the open. “From my perspective, the ­Jewish community has had a monumental shift in the way ­issues of child abuse are ­addressed. Reports and findings and revelations … out of the royal commission really did change attitudes in the community.”


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