Extent of Catholic child abuse revealed

pope-francisAustralia’s most senior Catholic leaders will have to explain why widespread child sexual abuse continued over decades while convincing a royal commission the church is acting to ensure it is not repeated.

Six of Australia’s seven Catholic archbishops and the leaders of its religious orders have been told to appear before the child abuse royal commission’s 15th and final public hearing focused on the church, beginning in Sydney on Monday.

World-first data revealing the shocking extent of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Australia will be released on Monday.

The church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council chief executive Francis Sullivan has warned the data will reveal a horrific picture of the extent of claims of abuse by priests and brothers whose responsibility was to protect and care for children.

The data covers reports made to the church and will therefore still not reveal the full extent of the abuse, given many victims never come forward.

The provincial leaders of the Christian Brothers, Marist Brothers, Jesuits, Salesian and St John of God orders will testify, along with several bishops, Catholic education officials, academics and experts.

Many of the archbishops and Catholic leaders have already appeared before the commission.

Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous is the only archbishop not listed as a witness.

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, believed to be the most senior Catholic official in the world to face a charge of concealing child sex abuse, will participate in a panel with other archbishops.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, said the leaders will explain what the church has been doing to change the old culture that allowed abuse to continue and to put in place new policies and structures to safeguard children.

The hearing, set down for three weeks and one day, will involve panel discussions about issues including the church’s structure, the screening and training of priests, canon law and the sacrament of confession.

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