Statement from Most Rev. Tim Harris
Catholic Bishop of Townsville
Regarding the response to the Royal Commission
into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Today Archbishop Mark Coleridge on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference and Sr Monica Cavanagh on behalf of Catholic Religious Australia released the official response to the Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Catholic Church has heard clearly these recommendations and thanks the Royal Commission for its leadership in bringing us to where we are today.
Clearly the Church is at a crossroads in terms of confronting the horror of child sexual abuse. There have been catastrophic failures on our part in this regard and there can be no turning back. We learned that we have much to do to restore the trust of those we have let down – most significantly, those who were abused and their families and supporters.
As a relatively new Bishop I find myself “guilty by association” and I publicly state my determination to put past wrongs right and make decisions that create safe environments for our most vulnerable. Our safeguarding coordinator has already worked extensively with me to set up processes and procedures in this regard.
In terms of the recommendations I am relieved that the Bishops have transparently responded to all the recommendations and referred some to the Holy See which have universal ramifications and therefore cannot be decided by a local Bishop alone. Other recommendations however can be decided locally, and we are in the process of making the necessary changes.
In fact, 98 % of the recommendations have either been accepted, accepted in principle or supported. The Seal of Confession however must not be broken so we have not accepted that. The Seal of Confession and child safety are not mutually exclusive.
I pray for the Australian Church that we can appropriately deal with issues that confront us in a way that people are given the confidence they deserve and indeed are entitled to at a time when there is little confidence in those of us who profess the Christian Faith and who, like myself, exercise positions of leadership.
Jesus Christ loved children. We have not only betrayed children and their families, but Christ himself. May our response to the Royal Commission recommendations be another clear signal that we have seen and heard and are doing something about it.
Most Reverend Timothy Harris D.D.
Bishop of Townsville
The Truth, Justice and Healing Council reports can be found at www.tjhcouncil.org.au