More than 20 per cent of the members of some Catholic religious orders — including Marist Brothers and Christian Brothers — were allegedly involved in child sexual abuse, a royal commission hearing in Sydney has been told.
Nearly 2000 Catholic Church figures, including priests, religious brothers and sisters, and employees, were identified as alleged perpetrators in a report released by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The hearing is examining the current policies and procedures of the church’s authorities in Australia relating to child protection and child safety standards, as well as their response to allegations of abuse.
In her opening address, Gail Furness SC said a survey revealed 4444 alleged incidents of abuse between January 1980 and February 2015 were made to Catholic Church authorities.
The data was damning for religious institutions, and particularly the Catholic Church.
It showed that 7 per cent of Catholic priests in Australia since 1950 had allegedly abused children.
Ms Furness said 60 per cent of survivors attending private royal commission sessions reported sexual abuse at faith-based institutions.
Of those, almost two-thirds reported abuse in Catholic institutions.
“Of the 1880 identified alleged perpetrators, 597 or 32 per cent were religious brothers, 572 or 30 per cent were priests, 543 or 29 per cent were lay people and 96 or 5 per cent were religious sisters,” she said.
“Of the alleged perpetrators 90 per cent were male and 10 per cent were female.”
The average age of the victims at the time they were allegedly abused was 10 for girls and 11 for boys.
Religious orders were in the firing line with the data suggesting that between 1950 and 2010, more than 20 per cent of Marist Brothers, Salesians of the Don Bosco and Christian Brothers had allegations of child sexual abuse against them.
For the St John of God Brothers, that number was 40.4 per cent.
It is the first time the data has been released.
Archbishops to be grilled in Sydney
The archbishops of Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra-Goulburn have congregated in Sydney to give evidence as part of the three-week public hearing.
Questions are expected to focus on the extent of child abuse over almost seven decades and what church leaders are doing to protect children.
This is the 50th public hearing of the four-year-long royal commission and it is the 16th dealing with abuse in the Catholic Church.
The royal commission has investigated how institutions across the country, including schools, churches, sports clubs and government organisations, have responded to allegations and instances of abuse.
Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge was one of a number of Catholic Church leaders to warn parishioners across the country about the nature of the evidence that would be presented at the hearings.
Yesterday, he told the ABC the royal commission had been a “gift” for the church.
“We have changed procedures, we have changed protocols, but if we don’t really change the culture at that deeper level, the problem could re-emerge in the future,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
It’s difficult to shift culture, but if the royal commission can’t help us do that then I’m not sure what can.”
In a video message played in more than 200 dioceses across the weekend, the 68-year old Archbishop said there would be “grim moments and some shocks”.