Commission ends culture of silence

FEW critics of the way churches and other institutions handled complaints of sexual abuse of children in the past would argue that protective measures have not improved dramatically, but that does not mean those who turned a blind eye - or worse - should not be held to account now.

With the royal commission into the sexual abuse of children barely announced, it is already clear that at the end of what will be a very long process some of our religious institutions will be forced to change their attitudes to the laws of a secular state.

They will be required to adhere to the same laws  that require schools, individual teachers, medical practitioners and others to report suspected sexual assaults against children.

The Catholic Church and Catholic schools are certainly not the only institutions to be embroiled in this type of crime. However, this church, in NSW at least, is out of step in maintaining the confessional must remain exempt from any legal requirement to report a suspected crime.

If the majority of Catholics agree with the position of Archbishop George Pell now, it is doubtful they will by the time the royal commission has run its course.

Sadly, Australians are destined to hear hundreds of accounts not only of abuse at the hands of priests and teachers from several faiths, but of the culture of silence that condoned almost any action to avoid a scandal. This often meant suspect priests and teachers from religious and secular schools were simply moved on - to another diocese, another town or another state.

This is what Australians will not tolerate, that people in positions of power who could have acted to protect the powerless instead acted to protect perpetrators or their own institutions.

The proceedings of the royal commission will show there is no room for special treatment before the law for any institution or individual.

The stories of Individual victims will reveal it is simply not worth the risk.


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