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Archbishop's Letter speaks of The Royal Commission


A Letter from the Archbishop of Perth, December 2013


In the coming weeks the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will turn its attention specifically to the Catholic Church and particularly to the Church's Towards Healing programme through which people can bring complaints of child sexual abuse to the Church.

Terrible stories of abuse of children and young people by Catholic priests, religious and other Church workers, will be revealed or, in some cases, revisited. This will be distressing primarily for the survivors of sexual abuse themselves and for those who love and care about them.
It is time for the Church to recognise in shame that so many people have suffered, and continue to suffer. We acknowledge that this terrible betrayal has at times been compounded by our leaders who failed to recognise the presence of this evil in our midst and respond promptly with decisiveness and courage.

As Archbishop, I would like to say that:

- I offer my sincere and unreserved apology to all those affected by this terrible abuse;
- I apologise to your families, loved ones and friends who have suffered with you and alongside you;
- I apologise to the wider community for our failure to live up to the high ideals to which we as Church aspire.

There have been too many failures, too many betrayals, and too many damaged lives. The entire Catholic Church in Australia is united in its determination to seize the opportunity the Royal Commission affords us to confront the awful reality of sexual abuse of children and spare no effort in our attempts to eradicate it from our Church. Our challenges are many in this area and we are determined to do all we can to confront them and to bring about all necessary change. The final report and recommendations of the Royal Commission may be some years away. We cannot simply sit back and wait; we must all take whatever action we can now.

Our Professional Standards Office seeks to provide a compassionate, sensitive, professional and objective response to anyone who wishes to bring forward a complaint of child sexual abuse. We constantly remind people that child sexual abuse is a serious crime – and an horrendous sin. We advise people to take their complaint to the police and will assist them in doing so. The police are in the best position to investigate any allegations of criminal sexual abuse.

Our obligation as the Church is to do all we can to make sure that such abuse does not happen again. Those found guilty of child sexual abuse are removed from ministry and never allowed to work with children again. Perth clergy must have a current Working With Children clearance to have any contact with children. For those transferred from overseas, formal letters of clearance are required from those responsible for them in their place of origin.

All priests-in-training are required to undergo professional psychological assessment to determine their suitability for priestly ministry. Formation programmes are designed to deepen their own self-awareness and to help them to mature emotionally and spiritually. Ongoing formation is provided for present clergy in the area of Professional Standards with strong emphasis on the Church's Integrity in Ministry guidelines. Discussions are also underway to appoint and train Child Safeguarding Officers across the Archdiocese.
Only by a determined and collaborative effort on the part of every member of the Church will we be able to bring some healing and hope first

and foremost to the survivors of sexual abuse, but also to a deeply wounded Church community. There is no room for complacency and we recognize that there is still much to be done.

In these challenging times may we draw strength from the courage of those who have enabled us to confront our dreadful failures, and from the determination of the Church to be a place of true repentance and conversion for our sins.

Please join me in committing ourselves as the Catholic community to working together to make sure that the opportunities offered to us by the Royal Commission are not wasted but seized with openness, enthusiasm and determination.

Each time we celebrate the Eucharist we ask that the Lord "look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom". This promise is for all. May it be our prayer in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Yours sincerely in Christ,
+Timothy Costelloe SDB
Archbishop of Perth


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