At a media conference in Sydney today (Friday August 31), a joint response of Catholic Religious (CRA) Australia and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) was released, along with the four volumes of the Truth Justice and Healing Council’s final report.
All but one recommendation relating to the seal of confession was rejected while a few were listed as requiring further consideration or noted because of the need to confer with the Holy See.
CRA president, Sister Monica Cavanagh rsj said the Royal Commission was an “important and necessary period for the Australian community” and expressed gratitude to the survivors “whose courage in coming forward and telling their stories will mean that the Church and society will be safer in the future”.
“The process is already under way to reform the Church’s practices to ensure that safeguarding is integral in all that we do as part of our ministry and outreach in the community,” Sr Monica said.
“Making the Church a safer place for our children and vulnerable persons is at the heart of our commitment to mission.”
Archbishop Coleridge said many changes had been made since the horrific reality of child sexual abuse became known, but they were sometimes too slow and too timid.
“Too many priests, brothers, sisters and lay people in Australia failed in their duty to protect and honour the dignity of all…many bishops failed to listen, failed to believe and failed to act,” he said.
“The bishops and leaders of religious orders pledge today: Never again.
“There will be no cover up. There will be no transferring of people accused of abuse. There will be no placing the reputation of the Church above the safety of children.”
Rather than doing the “bare minimum” in responding to the Royal Commission’s important recommendations, Sr Monica said “today is about telling parents and telling the community that the Church has learned, it is changing and it will continue to change”.
“Changing the culture of our Church to be answerable and open is part of the action that needs to occur,” she said.
In the preamble of the joint response, Sr Monica and Archbishop Coleridge say Recommendation 7.4, which refers to the seal of the Sacrament of Penance, could not be accepteds because it is “contrary to our faith and inimical to religious liberty”.
“We are committed to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable people while maintaining the seal,” they said. “We do not see safeguarding and the seal as mutually exclusive.”
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