CATHOLIC clergy in Australia should be held accountable for any abuse they may have perpetrated towards young people, according to outspoken priest Father Bob Maguire.
Speaking in support of a parliamentary inquiry into clergy and other sexual abuse during a visit to Ballarat, Fr Bob said the Catholic Church should be ashamed of the scandal which has rocked the organisation.
He said it was imperative that every institution should “be open, transparent and questioned” for acts they may or may not have committed.
“It’s the kind of thing that should be expected by any institution, civil or religious ... especially when you can see so much turmoil in a natural resource, and that is the hearts and minds of our children which surely was a reaction of their abuse as children whether sexual or emotional,” Fr Bob said.
“This is a secular state and a secular state is entitled to ask questions and expect answers ... as long as it is done in a spirit of respect and reverence.”
Fr Bob’s comments come after Premier Ted Baillieu and Attorney-General Robert Clark announced a parliamentary inquiry into sexual abuse by religious clergy and other organisations in Victoria in April.
The activities of clergy in the Ballarat region are expected to feature strongly in the inquiry, with evidence related to assaults committed by convicted Christian Brother Robert Charles Best and other clergy at St Alipius Christian Brothers school in the 1960s and 1970s to be heard.
“The church in Ballarat has a broken heart because of all the troubles,” Fr Bob said.
“Terrible things have happened to them (the children) and I’m waiting for the day when someone will ask me where I was when all this was happening. Our church, especially the Roman Church, has grown up with a complex because we believe we are the successors of the Roman Inquiry and we’re not to be questioned and that is just not acceptable in the new world. We can’t go on kicking and screaming while we’re questioned. People will think we are guilty. We should be ashamed that we got to where we are.”
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart and Ballarat Bishop Peter Connors have both previously said the church would co-operate with any independent child sex abuse inquiry.
Commission of Inquiry Now spokesperson Bryan Keon-Cohen QC echoed Fr Bob’s comments, saying a church, like any other institution, must be held to account.
“It is unacceptable for any institution, including the Roman Catholic Church, to be unaccountable to civil law and the standards or values of a civil society,” he said.