Catholic sex abuse inquiry on hold
The state government has put on hold a public inquiry into sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, hoping some key questions can be addressed by another current inquiry into protecting vulnerable children.
State Attorney-General Robert Clark has received at least five different calls in the past two months for an independent inquiry into the church's handling of abuse complaints.
A spokesman said yesterday the government would defer a decision until the report of the Protecting Victoria's Vulnerable Children Inquiry, due on January 27.
Whether mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse should be extended to clergy and church workers.
Whether the Working with Children Act 2005 should also be extended.
Whether there were "doctrines or practices in churches or religious entities in Victoria which operate to deflect or discourage reporting child abuse to secular authorities".
The spokesman said the government would await that inquiry's findings and recommendations before deciding whether there should be any further inquiry.
The five requests of which The Age is aware in the past few week come from diverse sources:
Sydney University law professor Patrick Parkinson, a leading child protection expert, called for an inquiry into the Salesians' handling of child-sex cases.
A group of more than 30 victims called for an inquiry into the Melbourne Archdiocese's complaints system.
Lawyer Vivian Waller sought an investigation into clergy abuse in Ballarat that led to at least 26 suicides.
The Care Leavers Network of Australia requested an inquiry into abuse of wards of state in homes run by the state, church and charities.
Victorian Labor MP Anne Barker has called for an inquiry similar to the one by the Irish government.
Professor Parkinson said yesterday the decision was disappointing. "There are huge issues which need to be addressed, and the Catholic Church needs to clear the air for its own sake," he said.
"As the Irish have shown and the South Africans with their Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it's better to bring things into the open. And there's an awful lot to bring out."
Ms Waller, who is representing 35 men in a class action against the Christian Brothers, said the decision was a good start, but it was important to take a historical look back at least 30 years.
"People are still suffering today from the long-term effects of abuse and families are suffering through suicide and substance abuse."
Jim Boyle, a spokesman for the Melbourne Collective of 30 victims, said it was important to look at the three issues Mr Cummins would consider, but was nowhere near as thorough an inquiry as was needed.
"There are far more issues involved, including situations where it appears people with evidence of known crimes have been deterred from going to the police," he said.