This week, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced that a Royal Commission will be established into the sexual abuse of children across Australia. Though terms of reference are yet to be announced, this Royal Commission will be welcomed by all who are concerned for the safety of our children, and for the healing of past victims.
Child sexual abuse is an evil that society has been afraid to face. Mrs Hetty Johnston, the founder of the Braveheart organisation, reports that one in five, or 59,000, Australian children experience some form of sexual abuse each year. Currently, the West Australian police report that they are investigating 184 cases from state institutions alone.
It is a matter of deep pain to find that children have suffered abuse also within the Church. It is hard to understand, for example, how over the past 70 years, there could have been more than 600 cases in Australia’s largest diocese, the Archdiocese of Melbourne. The same is true of the few cases in the long history of this Diocese.
This behavior will be beyond the comprehension of the tens of thousands of priests who have served God and people faithfully over the decades. It remains incomprehensible and bewildering for us all today.
The Royal Commission hopefully will do much good. If its terms of reference aim to discover the total truth about the problem, it should
Some have suggested that the Royal Commission should be restricted to the Catholic Church. However, this would not be acceptable to anyone whose real concern is the well being of children and of past victims.
Over the coming period of the Royal Commission, there are a number of things we need to do as Catholics.
The hearings of the Royal Commission, and the tendency of many media to sensationalise rather than report news fully, mean that the coming period will be painful for victims. Past hurts will be reopened, painful memories stirred and stresses will lead to pressures on marriages, family lives and other relationships.
I ask all Catholics in our Diocese to pray each day from now on for victims of sexual abuse. Pray that they be given strength and guidance, as well as healing and comfort.
I ask priests also to make the victims of sexual abuse the intention of one of their Masses each week, including victims of sex abuse in the Church.
Second, if we know of victims of sex abuse, let us do what we can to show them understanding and support. While no one - even other victims - can appreciate fully the suffering of an individual victim, it is important to be with and encourage them.
Third, it is important to keep before people the Towards Healing process. The word ‘towards’ highlights how healing is a long process, but the Church seeks to contribute towards this.
From media reports, one could be excused for imagining that most sexual abuse occurs within the Catholic Church. It is interesting to note, for example, television pictures on some stations were exclusively of Catholic churches even though the Royal Commission is concerned with all Churches, government and non-government schools, government care institutions and hostels and non-profit organisations. The Australian navy is the subject already of another inquiry into child sexual abuse at HMAS Leeuwin.
Media also report historical cases as though they are recent, and refer repeatedly to the same cases. This leaves an exaggerated impression of the facts.
Given the all too often selective reporting by media, it is important for us to keep the following points in mind:
The other selective reporting of abuse cases, and the moving of priests, in the Church leave people with the impression that historical cases are recent. Also, the failure to report adequately on the prevention steps the Church has taken have left the impression that nothing has changed.
It is important to recognise that there has been change. Some are critical of the Church’s 1996 regulations, even though they have been the subject of independent legal reviews in 1999 - 2000 and 2008 - 2009. Constructive criticism is always welcome.
Service of the poor, those in need, the sick and others has been part of the mission of the Church since Christ founded it. Countless, Catholic priests, religious and laity have served others selflessly for two thousand years.
This continues today through diocesan and parish institutions and organisations. Many volunteer their time and energy, and others contribute financially.
The number of people needing help continues to grow in our society. In Bunbury, for example, there has been an increase over the past year alone of more than 30% of people needing support.
Let no one lessen their involvement in Church work for those in need because of embarrassment as a result of the Royal Commission.
Jesus said that his followers would be recognised by their love for one another [John 13:35]. Let us love and care for each other during the coming period of investigation, which no doubt will be difficult for us all at times.
Let us talk freely about whatever is reported and share our feelings. Why should any of us behave as though we have done anything wrong?
Finally, please support our priests. They have given their lives to serve people for love of Christ. It would be unfair if they were to suffer because of the crimes of a minority. Please encourage and appreciate them.
God bless you all
Most Rev Gerard J Holohan
Bishop of Bunbury
15th November 2012
How others see us is a common concern. We try in various ways to make a good impression. We try to present ‘our good side’ through words and behavior.
These days, it is all too easy to lose touch with ourselves. Daily life seems to be getting faster; economic and social pressures seem to be greater; demands seem to be on the increase.
In the current debate about the legal definition of marriage, questions have been raised about Catholic teaching on homosexuality. There seems to be considerable confusion.
Everyone has loved ones – family members and friends - who have died. November is the month when Catholics show love for their loved ones by praying for their eternal rest.
Why do we do this? Because God has revealed that our prayers help those who have died. Let us recall Christian teaching about death.
I write to you again about the protection of our young people from internet porn intruding into their homes against their parents’ wishes. Currently, there is a battle between the Commonwealth Government and most pornographic Internet Services Providers (ISPs) over this matter.
REVISIONING CATHOLIC SCHOOLS IN AN EDUCATION REVOLUTION
- Directors of Catholic Education Conference -
Bishop Gerard Holohan
(Sydney, 23 April 2009)
I begin my comments by expressing thanks to you, the leaders of our Australian Catholic school system, for all that you are doing for our young people in Catholic schools. We live in challenging times, given the curriculum, funding and other challenges being faced at present – times that are particularly difficult for you. Thank you for your efforts to guide the schools in your dioceses, always having in view their distinctive mission in the Australian community.
Over the past two thousand years, the Mass has been the most powerful means of drawing upon the power of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for the needs of people’s lives. The greatest means he left us to do so is the Eucharist. But to draw on this power, believers need to prepare themselves for the basic experiences Jesus offers through the Eucharist, which he instituted at the Last Supper.
On Pentecost Sunday, two minor changes will be introduced into the celebration of the Mass across Australia. These changes are the result of the review of the ritual of the Mass undertaken at the direction of Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI.