Catholic Leader Says Not ‘Remotely Enough’ Supervision
To Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
Sydney archbishop Anthony Fisher says he can’t be assured priests are ‘not misbehaving again’ and struggles with financially supporting abusers
An Article by the Australian Associated Press
Sydney’s Catholic archbishop says he can’t pretend there is remotely enough supervision of abusive priests to be certain they won’t sexually assault children again.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher said on Friday the church financially supports known abusers and tries to find out where they live when they want nothing more to do with the institution.
“I can’t pretend we have remotely sufficient supervision for me to be assured that they are not misbehaving again,” he told the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Sydney. “I have puzzled about it this now for several years.” Fisher said he often struggled with the question of whether the church should support abusers. He said some people would think the church was trying to wash its hands of the problem if it didn’t assist them.
The counsel assisting the royal commission Gail Furness, SC, said many diocesan priests wouldn’t have any assets and would be dependant on the taxpayer without the church’s help. “On the other hand, others would say we don’t like that you are continuing to support these guys anyway,” Archbishop Fisher said. “It is a situation of we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”
Abuse survivor Gabrielle Short, who yelled and walked out of the hearing during the archbishop’s evidence, said the church was funding abusers rather than supporting victims.“I’m thinking of all my survivor friends who are living in rooming houses and caravans and [who have] got nothing,” she said. “The church should be putting the money into … improving the quality of life of survivors – not the perpetrators.”
At one point during the hearing the commissioner Andrew Murray reminded the room of the dark nature of what was being discussed.
“We have been told in private sessions that at the moments of abuse, that the child at the time — because of what they had been taught — thought they were being abused by the representative of God, so it has immense and immediate meaning with respect to child sex abuse,” said Mr Murray. “That’s about the most horrible thing I could ever hear.
It’s just awful that people could behave like that,” replied Adelaide archbishop Philip Wilson. Mr Murray said: “We’ve heard that many times.”
Data released by the royal commission revealed 4,444 people made allegations of abuse to Australian Catholic authorities between 1980 and 2015. The Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, said the number of known abusers in his archdiocese was in the high 20s and that he had hired a retired police officer to monitor priests.The three-week royal commission hearing has been in part investigating the church’s child-safe policies and procedures. The archbishops of Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney have given evidence.