Responding the sins of the past, and working to build a culture of safety
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.” (1Cor 12:26) With these words from St Paul, Pope
Francis overnight has written a letter
to us all, the People of God. In the letter he expresses his own
heart concerning the “culture of death” that is clerical sexual abuse and the ecclesial cover-up that
often has accompanied it, inflicting deep wounds of disgust, bewilderment, shame, and
disheartenment. As the Holy Father says:
“These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering
endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience
perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep
wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and
in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike… The pain of the victims and their
families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the
protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”
I associate myself with these words, and the whole content of Pope’s Francis’ letter.
In the same month, the Catholic Church in Australia responded
to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses
to Child Sexual Abuse.
The living out of the commitment made in these various documents - to solidarity with victims and survivors, to a just and compassionate response, and to prevention of abuse and of cover ups - is a challenge to us all, and will be a touchstone of the integrity of the Church in Australia.