A senior lawyer has warned that the Catholic Church will not win back public trust and confidence until its current “tainted” leaders have gone.
Patrick Parkinson, who reviewed the church’s Towards Healing protocol for dealing with victims of sexual abuse, has previously described allegations of the church’s cover-up of sexual abuse as amounting to organised criminality.
In a speech on Thursday night, the University of Sydney lawyer, a non-Catholic, declared there were still some rotten apples among the church’s hierarchy.
“There are those still apparently who fail to understand their civic duty as citizens of this country to cooperate with the police,” he said.
“There are those I have met whose greatest concern would appear to be to protect their organisation from scandal rather than children in their care.
“There are those who would aspire now to tough out the parliamentary inquiry in Victoria, to tough out the Hunter Valley-Newcastle inquiry, to tough out the royal commission.”
Speaking at the annual Smith lecture in Sydney, Professor Parkinson said that while no denomination was free from reproach, the Catholic Church had abused far more children than any other.
“The church needs to find a way to remove its rotten apples from leadership and influence,” he said.
Professor Parkinson had earlier withdrawn support from the Towards Healing protocol.
He warns the Catholic Church will not win back trust until its “tainted” leaders, who he would not name, have gone.
“In reality, trust will not be restored, the church will not be able to move on unless and until there is a baton change, those whose careers have been tainted by poor handling of issues of child sexual abuse in the past, until they pass on the baton to another generation, a generation untainted by what has gone on,” he said.
“Until that happens I don’t believe the church can recover the trust and respect of the Australian community.”
The academic described the widespread sexual abuse of Australian children as a story of shocking moral failure.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in Victoria has acknowledged it has received a flood of new child abuse complaints over the past 12 months.
It says, however, that most of the nearly 100 cases relate to abuse alleged to have occurred decades ago.
Nevertheless, the church has removed one serving priest from his parish after a complaint against him was upheld.
Watch Frances Bell’s report here: