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Church reveals "shocking" child abuse figures

The Catholic Church in the Australian state of Victoria has admitted to hundreds of abuse cases, but commentators say the real figure could be thousands.

  • Jonathan Pearlman
  • Australia
  • September 24, 2012
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The Catholic Church in the Australian state of Victoria has revealed its clergy were responsible for more than 600 "shameful and shocking" cases of child sexual abuse dating back to the 1930s.

The Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, said the figures were "horrific” - though campaigners said the number of victims could be as high as 10,000.

The church has revealed to a parliamentary inquiry that its complaints department has upheld 618 complaints of abuse in the past sixteen years. The inquiry was announced after it emerged that 40 victims in the state had committed suicide.

Though only 13 of the cases occurred since 1990, the church admitted it was “ashamed” at its slow response to complaints dating back decades.

“We were very slow to take victims seriously, to listen to what they said and what had happened to them, to believe their accounts,” said the church’s spokesman, Father Shane Mackinlay.

“Our submission [faces] the truth of those sort of numbers and the horrific extent and the horrific consequences for each of the victims represented by the numbers... Where there was absolutely dramatic and appalling rates of abuse in the 1970s and 1980s, that's dropped off extraordinarily.”

However, experts said the number of the church’s victims could number in the thousands because only a small fraction of those sexually abused are believed to report the crime.

“It can take the victims or survivors decades, if ever, to report,” said Judy Courtin, who is researching abuse in the Catholic Church. “It's interesting that it has taken the threat of a parliamentary inquiry ... for the Church to finally come up with the stats.”

Australia’s Catholic Church has struggled to come to grips with continuing revelations about widespread sexual abuse and cover-ups by its clergy. In the largest state of New South Wales, the church is conducting an internal inquiry but the government has resisted calls for a royal commission.

The Victorian church's submission was not released in full and has prompted calls for a broader inquiry into its history of abuses and responses.

During a visit to Australia in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI apologised for the suffering of victims by Australian clergy and called for those responsible “for these evil deeds” to be brought to justice.

Full Story: Australian Roman Catholic Church admits child sex abuse

Source: The Telegraph
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