The Royal Commission is exposing the Catholic Church's cover-ups

By a Broken Rites researcher

Australia's national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is investigating how various organisations have handled (or mis-handled) allegations about these crimes. At first, the Commission issued a public invitation for victims to contact it. Many of these victims told the Commission (by telephone or in writing or in a private interview) how they were assaulted in Catholic Church situations — and how the abuse was covered up the church authorities. From these private submissions, the Commission has chosen some case studies which are examined in detail in a public hearing.

In a previous public hearing, the Commission has examined the Catholic Church's controversial "Towards Healing" system (devised by the church's lawyers and public relations consultants), under which the church is allowed to "investigate" itself. The Commission heard the traumatic experiences of several victims who came through the Towards Healing system. These victims demonstrated that the purpose of "Towards Healing" is primarily to help the church (and to protect its assets), rather than to help the victims. For example, one victim (Joan) told the Commission that, after going through "Towards Healing", she felt re-victimised. To see the full story of Joan, click HERE.

Progress so far

The Royal Commission has received many thousands of phone calls, letters and emails.

The Commission has also held more than 6,000 private interviews throughout Australia. The private sessions form the basis for case studies which are then examined at public hearings. The Royal Commission has referred certain matters to authorities, including police, for further action.

Some background about the Royal Commission

For twenty years, from 1993, Broken Rites Australia has been seeking a national Royal Commission to investigate how religious organisations have covered up the problem of child-sex abuse. At last, in late 2012, the Federal Government decided to establish such a Royal Commission, which began its work in early 2013. The Commission's task is eventually to write a report to the Federal Government, recommending how Australia can protect children better from such crimes in the future.

Several developments prompted the federal government to appoint this Royal Commission:

  1. On 2 July 2012, with help from Broken Rites, the Australian television program "Four Corners" revealed that, for thirty years, the Catholic Church authorities covered up certain allegations about a New South Wales priest, John Joseph Farrell (sometimes referred to in the media, for legal reasons, as "Father F"). In particular, the church failed to advise any of Father Farrell's child-victims about how and where to report his crimes to the Sex Crime Squad of the New South Wales police.
  2. Following twenty years of research by Broken Rites, the Victorian Parliament appointed a committee of six parliamentarians to conduct a 12-months parliamentary inquiry (but not a Royal Commission) in 2012 and 2013 into how religious organisations within Victoria have handled (or mis-handled) cases of child sexual abuse. The Victoria Police stated (in a submission to the inquiry) that child-sex crimes have been concealed by the Catholic Church systematically. For example (the submission said), the Melbourne diocese (the one covering the Melbourne-Geelong area) admitted having dealt with a large number of the church's child-sex victims but the church had not reported any of these crimes to the Victoria Police sex-crimes squad.
  3. In the Newcastle region in New  South Wales, a number of Catholic Church victims (one by one) have broken the silence about their abuse. These victims were aided by Broken Rites Australia and by an investigative journalist (Joanne McCarthy of the Newcastle Herald daily newspaper). These Newcastle-region revelations forced the NSW government to appoint a Special Commission of Inquiry into two Catholic priests, although the government confined this inquiry to the Newcastle region, not the whole state.
  4. Thus, the Australian federal government finally established a national Royal Commission to investigate the issue of child abuse in religious and other organisations more generally. The commission is focussing on the manner in which these organisations have handled (or covered up) the problem of child sexual abuse. The commission is an opportunity for victims to reveal how they feel re-victimised after going through the Catholic Church's "Towards Healing" process.

Further information

To see the Royal Commission's website, click HERE.

To see Frequently Asked Questions about the Commission, click HERE.

The Commission's website gives an email address, where you can register your wish to provide information.

If you are in Australia, you can phone the commission on 1800 099 340. This is a toll-free number. Calls from a mobile or pay telephone will attract additional charges. The Royal Commission operates Monday to Friday (excluding national public holidays) between 8am and 8pm Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Callers from overseas: +61 2 8815 2319.

Listening to victims

The Commissioners have been travelling around Australia to hold private interviews with victims. For example, Catholic victims can tell the Commissioners about how their case was handled (or mis-handled) by the Catholic Church's "Towards Healing" process.

The Commissions are holding occasional public hearings on specific topics, and the Commission's website gives the date of these.

To see an example of a public hearing at the Royal Commission, click HERE.

Free legal advice

Australia has an independent not-for-profit service, called "Knowmore", giving free legal advice to people who are considering telling their story to this Royal Commission. "Knowmore" can advise victims about how to tell their story to the Royal Commission.

The phone number for "Knowmore" is  1800 605 762.

Talking to the detectives

As well as speaking to the Royal Commissioners, any victim should also have a chat with detectives in the state police services. Broken Rites can advise any victim about where to arrange for a specialist police interview. Too often, a victim presumes (incorrectly) that he  or she is the only victim of a particular perpetrator. However, sometimes, the detectives might already know of other victims. With more evidence, the detectives can eventually arrest and charge any child-molester but only if the victims have talked to the detectives. A victim's name is never published.