VIC clergy child sex inquiry welcomed
17th April 2012
Chrissie Foster branded it a wonderful day.
After years of secrecy and cover-ups of child sex abuse by the Catholic Church, she is hopeful a Victorian parliamentary inquiry will expose the full extent of abuse suffered by children.
Ms Foster's daughter died of a medication overdose after being abused by a priest, the late Father Kevin O'Donnell.
She said an inquiry was a step in the right direction.
"We've been on this for 16 years," she said.
"This is a wonderful day to see the government stepping in to make something happen, that the church will be held accountable for what it's done in the past to children.
"These are our children and my daughter is dead because of what Father Kevin O'Donnell did to her and he was moved on.
"They knew about him in 1946, 1958, 1984 and still he was left there."
Ms Foster said the church must be made accountable for failing to deal adequately with complaints, assuring parents the problem was solved when often they just moved the offender on in secret.
"They never laicised any of them, they never picked up the phone and rang the police, they just move them on," she said.
"I mean what organisation can do that and get away with it? They need to face up to what they've done."
But her husband Anthony Foster said there were several deficiencies with the inquiry's terms of reference, which he hoped would be addressed to allow a full and proper investigation.
Lawyer Vivian Waller, who represents 45 victims who are suing the church, said a royal commission or judicial inquiry would have been better.
But she hoped a parliamentary inquiry would be comprehensive enough and that the archdiocese of Melbourne would be forced to reveal the number of complaints and how it's handled them.
Wayne Chamley, from Broken Rites which helps church-related abuse victims, was disappointed the government had not set up a royal commission.
"It's very disappointing that a parliamentary inquiry is not going to have the teeth to get right to the bottom of what has been going on for the last 40 years at least," Mr Chamley told reporters.
The group believes investigations have at times been compromised, including due to a lack of police resources.
"The St John of God order had a minimum of 12 active pedophiles operating for 25 years. Not a single person has ever been charged," Mr Chamley said.
Cathy Kezelman, president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse, said a broad inquiry was needed and for too long society institutions such as the Catholic Church perpetuated cover-ups, leading to more victims and deaths.
Other victims groups described it as a step forward and long overdue.