Article from The Guardian.
Church says standards body will mean better accountability, consistency and public transparency on its dealing with children
The Catholic church says it has made a seismic shift in holding its leaders accountable for protecting Australian children after decades of abuse by hundreds of pedophiles.
The church says its new national professional standards body will ensure consistency across its autonomous dioceses and orders.
Each bishop and religious leader will sign a contract agreeing to abide by the standards and be monitored, audited and subject to public reporting, the church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council chief executive, Francis Sullivan, said.
“It is quite a seismic shift for the Catholic church in holdings leaders to account,” Sullivan said. “It is necessary in order to achieve consistency for survivors.
“It is the biggest learning we’ve had over this whole time – that what the church had previously put in place was rather toothless.”
Sullivan said Catholic Professional Standards Ltd would mean better accountability, consistency and public transparency on how the church was abiding by best-practice standards in child protection.
The company was announced in November, before the child sexual abuse royal commission’s three-week final hearing into the Catholic church currently under way in Sydney.
Sullivan, TJHC chair Neville Owen and Brisbane archbishop Mark Coleridge will appear before the inquiry on Monday to explain the rationale behind the move.
The company will not have the power to force any church authority to change the way it operates or sanction those who fail to comply with the new standards but Coleridge has said its public reporting of any failures would amount to a naming and shaming.
The Australian church’s most senior leaders will be grilled by the child sex abuse royal commission this week about what they are doing to protect children and address past failures.
All seven archbishops, the provincial leaders of religious orders and a number of regional bishops will give evidence. Some have appeared before previous hearings.
A total of 1880 priests, religious brothers and sisters and lay people have been identified as alleged perpetrators in abuse claims made to the church by 4,445 people.
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