WITH criminal proceedings now officially out of the way, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released three crucial documents yesterday.
They were Case Study 43 into the Catholic Church authorities in Maitland-Newcastle, an unredacted report of Case Study 42 into the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, and an unredacted version of Chapter 16 of the commission's 17-chapter final report, examining "what we learned about institutional responses to child sexual abuse in religious institutions".
All three make for damning reading.
A link to the three reports on the royal commission website is here.
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The two Hunter Region volumes provide a detailed account of the criminal horrors - depravity is not too strong a word - that were allowed to continue almost unchecked for decades despite those in charge of both dioceses being aware of the wolves that were preying on the young among their flock.
Here and elsewhere, churchmen - and with the exception of nuns, sisters and some lay authorities they were all men - ruled the religious roost with the supposed authorisation of their God, while many of them wallowed in a despicable sin their Holy book warned them against.
At a local level, both the Catholic and Anglican bishops have apologised at length for the failings of their organisations.
. . . over the six decades from 1950 to 2010, some 1265 Catholic priests and religious were the subject of a child sexual abuse claim. These numbers are shocking. They are tragic and they are indefensible.Royal Commission Final Report, Chapter 16, Book 1: Religious Institutions
But a prayer from the Vatican last year on the eve of an abuse summit, in which Pope Francis compared the church's critics to the Devil's "friends, cousins and relatives", raised understandable doubts as to whether the Catholic church, at least, was capable of the necessary change.
It was an arrow fired very much in the wrong direction.
The Christian faith was for centuries the centrepiece of the Western world, but the royal commission and similar inquiries in other countries have shaken some already weakened denominational foundations.
The church encouraged the faithful to confess their sins, and genuflect before the altar.
Now, faced with incontrovertible evidence of systemic abuse and cover-up, it's the high priests of Christianity who must beg forgiveness, both to the secular world they once set themselves above, and the remaining faithful whose beliefs have been shaken, if not evaporated.
The crimes, as the churches claim, may now be mostly historical, but the pain, the consequences, and the long lists of victims who found life too painful to continue, are real and present.
The ramifications will continue to echo.
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