Bendigo's Catholic community responds to inquiry

BENDIGO’S Catholic community is watching with interest for new developments in relation to the royal commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse.

Australia’s most senior Catholic Cardinal George Pell yesterday said the royal commission would help determine whether reports about child abuse in the church had been a “significant exaggeration”.

Bishop of Sandhurst Les Tomlinson was at a conference in Shepparton yesterday but his assistant said he did not want to make any comments on the royal commission.

She said it was a national issue that required a national approach and instead forwarded to the Bendigo Advertiser a statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

Monsignor Frank Marriott was also reluctant to comment on the issue and said he would await further instruction from the church.

According to the statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Australian bishops support the royal commission.

“This is a serious issue not just for the Catholic Church but for the whole community,” it read.

“As Catholic bishops and as individuals we share the feelings of horror and outrage which all decent people feel when they read the reports of sexual abuse and allegations of cover-ups. 

“Over the past 20 years, there have been major developments in the way the church responds to victims, deals with perpetrators and puts in place preventive measures. 

“In addition, there is a much greater general awareness of the issue of paedophilia in the broader community.”

The statement pointed out that the sexual abuse of children was not confined to the Catholic Church.

“Tragically, it occurs in families, churches, community groups, schools and other organisations,” it read.

“We believe a royal commission will enable an examination of the issues associated with child abuse nationally, and identify measures for better preventing and responding to child abuse in our society.”

The federal government announced yesterday that it would not put a time limit on the royal commission, despite concerns it could drag on for a decade. The commission will cover all religious institutions, state-based organisations, schools and not-for-profit groups such as scouts and sporting clubs.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the inquiry on Monday, following fresh allegations that the Catholic Church and police covered up abuse in the Hunter region of NSW.

But Cardinal Pell hopes the wide-ranging royal commission will actually stop a “smear campaign” against his church.

Cardinal Pell questioned whether victims were helped by “continuing furore in the press”.

He also asked if the police had the resources to deal with current abuse as well as historical cases.

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