Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart says senior figures in the Catholic Church made indefensible mistakes in response to sexual abuse claims.
Archbishop Hart said the church acknowledged the failings of the past, as highlighted in a Victorian parliamentary report handed down on Wednesday.
“The committee’s report is rightly called Betrayal of Trust,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
“It is the worst betrayal of trust in my lifetime.
“I fully acknowledge that leaders in the church made mistakes – these are indefensible.”
Archbishop Hart said the church had made significant progress since 1996, when it set up the national Towards Healing protocol and the Melbourne Response to handle abuse complaints.
He said the church would back recommended changes to the law to make concealing or failing to report child abuse a crime.
However, he said the church’s confessional seal would remain sacrosanct.
Archbishop Hart said he accepted findings that senior church figures had concealed child abuse.
“I have to accept that church leaders in the past concealed crimes and caused other children to be offended against,” he said.
Archbishop Hart offered the church’s apologies to victims of child abuse.
“On behalf of the Catholic Church in Victoria I apologise again for these failures to the victims, to their families, to the community,” he said.