JESUS came among us as a child.
He later held up the beautiful openness and trust of a child as the model for believers, ‘to such as these ... the kingdom of heaven belongs’.
And he identifies himself with children, ‘anyone who welcomes a little child like this ... welcomes me’.
It is a source of the greatest imaginable shame to the Christian churches, and to my Catholic Church in particular, that our priests and religious, our teachers and people, have been so deeply implicated in the crimes and cover-ups the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has exposed and studied.
We should have been better than that.
In the coming months and years the Church will deeply consider all the findings and recommendations of the royal commission.
We will try to learn all that it has to teach us.
Deeply conscious that when we have betrayed children, we have betrayed Christ himself, we will be doubly motivated to improve where we can on the changes that we have been making over the last 20 years in child protection and recognition of survivors.
Again, it is a resolution appropriate to the Christmas season.
Finally, we know that most Australians will celebrate Christmas in one form or another.
In that context it seems right to recall the remarks of Justice Peter McClellan, the chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse at the final sitting of the commission.
“The royal commission has been concerned with the sexual abuse of children within institutions.
“It is important to remember that, notwithstanding the problems we have identified, the number of children who are sexually abused in familial or other circumstances far exceeds those who are abused in institutions.
“The sexual abuse of any child is intolerable in a civilised society.
“It is the responsibility of our entire community to acknowledge that children are being abused. We must each resolve that we should do what we can to protect them.”
And so I would ask all those who celebrate Christmas this year, but especially those who share the Christian hope founded upon Christmas, to make, with their families, that resolution of which the royal commissioner speaks: no more abuse, no more cover-ups, no more blaming or alienating of those who were abused.
We can all be part of building that better humanity which the celebration of Christmas has long taught us to believe in and work for.
This is a particularly hopeful Christmas. I wish all of its joys to you and those precious to you.
Zimmerman Services was set up in 2005 in order to ensure the ongoing safety of all children and vulnerable adults who are in any way associated with the Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
Also, Zimmerman Services’ healing and support team are available to support anyone who has been affected by child sexual abuse within the Church, whether the abuse was done to you or to a family member or someone you care about. For assistance, the healing and support service can be contacted by phoning 4979 1390 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.