In a statement appearing on the Adelaide Archdiocese’s website, Vicar General Fr Philip Marshall said throughout the five years of the Royal Commission there had been stories of “extraordinary courage and resilience” as survivors relieved their own experiences.
“We have heard shocking accounts of abuse, and testimonies of inadequate responses. It is only through our listening to the personal stories of survivors that we have come to understand what so many other children have been through,” he wrote.
“Listening to those stories is heartbreaking. They are stories of betrayed trust, of hopelessness about one’s value and future, and despair at the disbelief or indifferent response of those with responsibility in the Church and other institutions.
“To express our deep sorrow for all of this is essential, and yet not nearly enough.”
Fr Marshall said many had been so profoundly hurt that they would not be able to find a way to trust the Church again.
“For others who seek a return to the faith which once nurtured them we have a responsibility to open our hearts in reconciling embrace.”
Fr Marshall said the Archdiocese will continue to be committed to develop practices and culture that create a community for children and vulnerable people “to be safe and at the centre of everything we do”.
“Our deep and profound sorrow for all who have been hurt by Ministers and employees of the church will be backed by a concrete and measurable transformation to our practice and culture that will express our firm commitment to develop a thoroughly transformed Church into our future.”
The 17-volume final report from the Commission included more than 400 recommendations, many of which will have a significant impact on the way the Catholic Church operates in Australia.
The Federal Government has promised to establish a taskforce to consider, coordinate and track the progress of the recommendations while State Governments have been given six months to respond to the Commission’s recommendations.
President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, said the report highlighted how many different institutions, including the Catholic Church, have historically failed children.
“This is a shameful past, in which a prevailing culture of secrecy and self-protection led to unnecessary suffering for many victims and their families,” Archbishop Hart said.
“Once again I reiterate my unconditional apology for this suffering and a commitment to ensuring justice for those affected.”
Sister Ruth Durick OSU, president of Catholic Religious Australia, said religious orders across Australia were committed to continuing the work of recent years to ensure a future in which the safety and protection of children and vulnerable adults is paramount.
“We will be taking very seriously the Royal Commission’s report and have commissioned an initial assessment of its findings by the Truth, Justice and Healing Council,” she said.
TJHC’s CEO Francis Sullivan said the report would be provided to Church leadership early next year.
“While there have been many changes over the past 20 years to the way in which the Catholic Church responds to the survivors of child sexual abuse, there is still much to be done,” he said.
“The work of rebuilding trust and confidence in the Catholic Church will be hard and will take many years. This report and its findings provide, at the very least, a way in which this can be achieved. It is essential that every element of the Catholic Church in Australia commits to the serious business ahead.”
To read the full statement by Vicar General Fr Philip Marshall, click here.
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