AS well as fronting the Royal Commission this week, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge has spent time speaking extensively to journalists about child abuse and the Church.
Speaking to the ABC’s Radio National Breakfast, Archbishop Coleridge told presenter Fran Kelly, the Church was doing all it could to change the culture of the past to protect the children of today.
“The data is absolutely horrific,” Archbishop Coleridge said, following the release of Royal Commission figures revealing the extent of priest abuse.
“Sitting in the hearing room … listening to the litany of horror had an extraordinary impact. And it did on all of us.
“I for one never imagined the scale of the problem in years past. The data is there for all to see now.
“There is almost certainly more out there that has not come to light.
“I have long abandoned any suggestion of it being only bad apples, and I have said for years in fact now that we are dealing with something that is cultural and systemic.
“I began a journey on all this stuff from the mid 80s. Certainly back in those early days it struck me as being a weird exception and very much a case of bad or mad apples.”
Archbishop Coleridge said he had gone on “a journey of discovery … and it’s been painful and it’s far from over”.
“So I will be the first to say … this is not an exception it is something that relates to the culture. And that is why I say we’ve got to change procedures and protocols, and we’ve begun that … but if that doesn’t lead to cultural change then the likelihood is we won’t really grasp the nettle,” he said.
“And this is one of the things the Royal Commission is going to address in these three weeks – what were the cultural factors that led to the particular modulations of abuse and its mishandling in the Catholic Church.”
Archbishop Coleridge singled out clericalism – ministry in the church that is geared not to service but to power over other people – as being at the heart of cultural factors.
“And in many ways when we talk about sexual abuse it is abuse of power,” he said.
On the question of whether Catholic schools are now safe, Archbishop Coleridge said: “Giving the measures we have put in place, intend putting in place and will put in place, I think I can say our communities are safe.
“Were they in the past? Patently not,” he said.
Catholic dad watches Royal Commission in tears
Brisbane Catholics closely following the Royal Commission say they cried as the extent of abuse was revealed, and it’s time to renew faith.
Watching the coverage on television, Lota grandfather Chris Bunting said he was touched by the heartfelt response from Truth Justice and Healing Commission’s chief executive officer Francis Sullivan.
Mr Bunting, who has nine grown children all who attended Catholic schools, and 27 grandchildren, said he looked to the Bible for discernment.
“St Peter cried when he denied Christ in front of the servant girl. Jesus looked at him and proceeded to His death for the forgiveness of all our sins,” Mr Bunting said.
“We note the courage of Francis Sullivan who replied with tears on behalf of the Church.
“We too cry in communion with the whole Church in this shameful moment; and for our own moments when we too denied Him; and for the Church’s grave mistakes in this matter.
“But Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and calls us to follow Him in faith believing that all the faithful of the Church will be raised up as well.”