By Matthew Lau
Leaders of the Catholic Church are in full support of the Australian Prime Minister in light of this week’s heartfelt national apology to thousands of victims of institutional child sexual abuse.
Scott Morrison’s sincere apology was made in Parliament House, Canberra on 22 October where he vowed improvements will be made and children will be heard.
“An apology without action is just a piece of paper,” Mr Morrison expressed solemnly.
“Today we commit to taking action to build awareness in our community and promote children’s safety across Australia. We commit to ensuring that all our institutions are child safe.”
Key personnel of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) said they are recommitted to working with the community to eliminate the scourge of child sexual abuse.
ACBC President Archbishop Mark Coleridge said abuse perpetrated by priests, brothers, sisters, and lay people was “an utter betrayal of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it should never have happened”.
He said the Catholic Church acknowledges that the apology was for survivors and their supporters, not for representatives of institutions.
“[This is] a significant moment in our ongoing efforts to make Australia safe for all children and young people,” the Archbishop of Brisbane noted.
The earnest Mr Morrison began his lengthy address to parliament confronting “the lost screams of our children”, and later repeated the apology in the Great Hall of Parliament House in the presence of advocates, victims and their supporters.
“For too many years, our eyes and hearts were closed to the truths that we were told by children,” the Prime Minister said.
“That too many years, government institutions refused to acknowledge the darkness that lay within our community.”
Children deserve care and protection, he added, but instead a shocking number suffered appalling physical and mental abuse and sexual crimes.
“As fellow Australians, we apologise for this gross betrayal of trust, at the fact that organisations with our children – schools, religious organisations, governments, orphanages, sports and social clubs, charities – were left unchecked.
“Today we say we are sorry. As we say sorry, we also say we believe you,” Mr Morrison pronounced.
“We are sorry the perpetrators of abuse were relocated and shielded, rather than held to account. That records have been withheld and destroyed, and accountability avoided.
“We are sorry that the justice and child welfare systems that should have protected you were, at times, used to perpetrate yet more injustices against you,” he continued.
“We apologise for the lifelong impact is this abuse has had on your health, your relationships, and your ability to live life to its full potential.”
Prime Minister Morrison extended his apology to the victims’ children, parents, siblings, families, friends, and supporters.
“Because of our action, too many victims are no longer with us to hear this apology. They did not live to see the justice they deserved,” he lamented.
Mr Morrison’s candid apology was followed by an address from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who was in complete agreeance with the Prime Minister on the heinous matter.
“It was never your fault, it is not your fault, and I apologise for the fact that you were not believed. I am so, so sorry,” Mr Shorten said.
CRA President Sr Monica Cavanagh RSJ said the Catholic bishops and religious leaders of Australia chose to renew their profound and deepest apology to all victims and survivors of abuse and to their families, friends and supporters, who have shared their suffering.
“The National Apology [on Monday], and the apologies made by institutions during the life of the Royal Commission and since, have been an important validation of the courage of survivors of abuse in seeking truth, justice and healing.
“We think first of them at this time,” Sr Cavanagh stated.
The Federal Government has accepted 104 of the 122 recommendations handed down by the Royal Commission, with the other 18 being closely examined in consultation with states and territories.
For more information about the national apology, visit: www.nationalapologyconsultation.gov.au