Victorian Catholic Church says sorry over child sex abuse
21st August 2012
Updated 21st August 2012
VICTORIA'S most senior Catholics have apologised for the sexual abuse of children under the church's care.
Church leaders also said they will continue to take decisive action to protect children.
In a letter to parishioners, the church says it is "deeply sorry" for the suffering and trauma endured by children and the betrayal of trust.
The letter acknowledges that the impact of abuse on children and their families "can be devastating and lasting".
It also acknowledges the abuse and suffering is a matter of continuing shame for Catholics.
The letter, which is a statement on the Victorian parliamentary inquiry on child abuse, is signed by Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, Diocese of Ballarat Bishop Peter Connors, Diocese of Sale Bishop Christopher Prowse and Diocese of Sandhurst Bishop Leslie Tomlinson.
The president of Catholic Religious Australia, Sister Annette Cunliffe and the organisation's Victorian president, Sister Helen Toohey, also signed the letter.
"The suffering and trauma endured by some children who have been in the church's care, and the effect on their family members, is a matter of continuing shame and dismay to all Catholics," the letter says.
"Let us be very clear. The sexual abuse of a child was, is and always will be a crime, and is contrary to all we believe in.
"We know that parents especially feel an intense betrayal of trust, that even one child could have been so grievously hurt by people whose call it is to serve others.
"The church has apologised for these failures. Today we renew this apology to victims and their families. We are deeply sorry."
The letter says the church will co-operate with a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse in religious and other organisations.
"We promise you that we will act on our apology by continuing to take decisive action to protect our children and to respond when abuse has occurred," it says.
In a statement, Archbishop Hart said the letter spoke of the difficult time ahead for victims and the need to learn from past failures.
"Mistakes were made and we apologise to victims and their families for these failures," he said.
"The church has learnt from these failures and our response has changed.
"We are focused on the needs of those who have been abused and have taken action to prevent future abuse."