Bishop McKenna's Message to the People of the Diocese on the Royal Commission
Dear Friends in Christ,
This week, the Prime Minister announced that there would be a Royal Commission into the sexual abuse of minors in Australian institutions.
Our first concern should be that the inquiry is conducted in a way that is respectful and compassionate towards those who have suffered, both directly and indirectly, as a result of these evil acts.
We cannot expect the Royal Commission to solve the whole problem of child abuse in our society. Most of it happens outside institutions and is driven by dark forces in human hearts that no court, only God, can defeat. However, a well conducted Royal Commission could do a great service. It will succeed to the extent that it can separate truth from lies and pursue justice without creating new injustices.Those who will take on this onerous task deserve our cooperation and our prayers.
In the Catholic Church, we already know that some of these offenders have been our own clergy and religious. They not only abused positions of trust, but also betrayed their sacred commitments. In addition to devastating emotional wounds, they have inflicted grave spiritual damage as well.
It is already a matter of sorry record that, in the past, some church leaders dealt poorly with these incidents when they came to their attention. We cannot undo those mistakes, but we can face up to them honestly and change our ways. In other words, as Christians, we are committed to repentance and reform. Contrary to the impression left by some media coverage, this work began in the Catholic Church long before the Royal Commission was called for. It will continue.
Blessed John Paul II said, “The recognition of past wrongs serves to reawaken our consciences to the compromises of the present, opening the way to conversion for everyone.” Perhaps it is no coincidence, but providential, that we face these questions in the Year of Grace. We asked God to show us how to become the Church he wants us to be. The path of purification is not always easy but, in Christ, it leads to life.
God, in whom justice and mercy meet, who knows the secrets of human hearts, is stronger than evil, stronger than death. "Where sin abounded," wrote St Paul, "Grace abounded all the more." May the grace of God give us the wisdom to know what is right and the courage to do it.
Bishop of Bathurst
NSW Catholic Professional Standards Office toll free number: 1300 369 977