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Francis Sullivan: Sexual abuse survivors ‘need real recognition and decent treatment’

Francis Sullivan

Greater support: Outgoing Truth, Justice and Healing Council executive chief officer Francis Sullivan says survivors and their families need a better deal out of the Catholic Church. Photo: Mark Bowling.

THE Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council has completed its work, and the former chief executive officer Francis Sullivan said before all else, survivors and their families needed to get a better deal out of the Church.

“The past five years have been a searing experience for most people inside the Catholic Church as they have for the many thousands of survivors who have told their stories of abuse,” Mr Sullivan said.

Mr Sullivan has guided the TJHC since 2013, co-ordinating the Church’s response to the child sexual abuse Royal Commission.

“This scandal has been a real wake-up call for me and I hope for my Church,” he said in a final blog on the TJHC website.

“Do we get it yet? I think the jury is still out.

“What will it take for survivors and their families to believe that we do ‘get it’? Some days I am at a loss to really know.

“What I do know at least is that actions do speak louder than words.”

Mr Sullivan told The Catholic Leader in January this year  “there needs to be reform, renewal and refreshment in the Church”.

As he completed his work, the message for change had not faltered.

“What is clearer to me these days is that the leadership of the Church has never been more aware of the crisis the Church faces and never more aware of what needs to be done to rebuild faith and trust that is at an all-time low,” he said.

“So many leaders tell me that they want to reconcile with survivors and restore their trust in the Church.

“The test of that resolve will be in how the impetus of the Royal Commission brings change within our Church.

“The Royal Commission gave a potent voice to survivors.

“In doing so it placed a mirror in front of our Church.

“This needs to be grasped as ‘a creative disruptor’ to renew, reinvigorate and regenerate the essence of being Church.

“Before all else, survivors and their families need to get a better deal out of the Church.

“They need real recognition and decent treatment.

“Rather than struggling for a fair go they should feel overwhelmed by a generous and lasting response.”

Mr Sullivan’s final TJHC blog post coincided with a Queensland Government announcement that it would pay $550 million to the national redress scheme to provide compensation for survivors of sexual abuse in government-run institutions.

“Although no amount of money can return a lost childhood it is important that we acknowledge what these victims have been through,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said, announcing the Queensland commitment on April 30.

Opting in to the national redress scheme was the key recommendation of the Royal Commission.

New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT have already agreed to join the scheme.

The Catholic Church has committed to join, but has been waiting for the state governments to opt in.

As many as 10,000 Queenslanders are expected to be eligible: 5000 abused in government institutions and another 5000 in non-government institutions, including churches and other organisations.

All enquiries that would have previously come to the TJHC regarding the Royal Commission and the Catholic Church should now be directed to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on (02) 6201 9859.

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