The Catholic Church has had its fair share of scandals, but this is a doozy.
The Archdiocese of Melbourne in Australia has reportedly failed to deal with child sexual abuse allegations for several years, ultimately leading to “catastrophic human consequences,” according to the Royal Commission looking into the topic.
The Melbourne Church showed a “prevailing culture of secrecy” supported by former Archbishop Frank Little, who died in 2008, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse said.
“Complaints were dealt with in a way that sought to protect the Archdiocese from scandal and liability and prioritised the interests of the Church over those of the victims.”
The last thing you should be thinking about when someone accuses a member of your organization of sexual misconduct with a child is your reputation and “scandal.” That is an opportunity for the Church to live up to its claim of divinely inspired ethics by finding out the truth and making sure any guilty parties don’t have access to children. Their first thought should be about how to protect these kids.
The Commission found that Little, who led the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 22 years, “dismissed or ignored serious allegations of child sexual abuse against a number of priests.” He didn’t investigate them or report them to the police.
The commission also found Little moved offending priests to other parishes where they continued to offend.
The investigation and subsequent report come in the wake of allegations against Father Peter Searson, a reported pedophile priest who was accused of numerous counts of sexual abuse, as well as some other disturbing behaviors, including killing a bird with a screwdriver in front of children.
Searson’s abuse was particularly pervasive and included the rape of multiple children. In 1982 he brought a handgun to Our Lady of Carmel parish school in Sunbury, Victoria, and threatened children with it. He also tortured animals in front of children, the commission heard.
“The case of Father Searson is remarkable in terms of the volume of complaints against him and the number of church personnel to whom they were made,” the report found. “This was not a story of serious but isolated allegations being reported only to the archbishop or vicar general. Rather, Father Searson enjoyed a level of infamy within the parish and … within other parts of the archdiocese.”
Unfortunately, Searson never faced any charges for these horrific crimes. He died in 2009. Little, who appointed Searson and failed to address the problem and protect the children in his care, is also dead.
This report is thorough and honest, and I believe those who commissioned it had good intentions, but this information is being revealed after the deaths of those who are responsible for raping children and ruining their lives. Had the crimes been investigated in a timely fashion, maybe these pedophile criminals wouldn’t have escaped the justice system.
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