The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had its final sitting day on December 14. The Royal Commission was initiated by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in November, 20121 in the face of enormous criticism, especially from the religious nutters in the Murdoch press.
Paul Kelly stated: “The dismal, populist and doomed quality of Australian governance has been on display this week with Julia Gillard announcing an in-principle royal commission into child sexual abuse, a panicked Tony Abbott falling into line and an ignorant media offering cheer upon cheer. Rarely has an Australian government embarked on such a sensitive and vast project in profound ignorance of what it was doing, with virtually no serious policy consideration and driven entirely by politics.”2 Of course, most of this is just drivel. The policy which Kelly seems to think Gillard didn’t have was to enquire into the decades long problem and the cover-up. Indeed, it has uncovered such egregious and disgraceful abuse and the systemic covering up of that abuse in churches and several other organisations.
The usually rabidly right-wing Miranda Devine, was almost conciliatory in her opinion piece, stating: “It’s hard to separate the royal commission into child sexual abuse from politics and anti-Catholic agendas, in the fetid atmosphere that currently exists in Canberra. The prime minister at least appears genuine in her decision to set up the inquiry, after serious allegations of paedophilia and cover-ups in the Catholic Church in NSW and Victoria”.3 This seeming paranoia about anti-Catholic agendas is typical of Devine. However, she does not seem to realise that the Catholic Church gives anyone with any sort of agenda, so much material with which to work.
Andrew Bolt, the foaming-at-the-mouth right-wing commentator, when commenting on Gillard’s point that it wasn’t directed at any one church seemed to blame the announcement for “a great onslaught of hate in the media directed at the Catholic Church – its traditions, its practices and its most effective advocate [Cardinal George Pell] in this country”4. Pell is now facing a committal hearing in March to see if he should stand trial for sexual abuse of children5. Bolt also strangely added “It is a pity that Tony Abbott seems too worried about being trapped politically as Captain Catholic to defend the church: ‘Opposition Leader Tony Abbott also said priests should tell police when they knew a child was being sexually abused’”4. How Bolt could construe Abbott’s statement as being a caving in politically is beyond me. Does he really believe that priests shouldn’t tell the police when they become aware of a crime? Indeed, he even states that considering breaking the seal of the confessional ‘is absurd’. Many people see it differently6.
The Royal Commission handled over 41,000 calls, 25,000 letters and e-mails and held over 8,000 private sessions. More importantly it made 2,559 referrals to police1. It has done a great service to this nation, as did Julia Gillard in setting it up. It now remains for the current government to deal with the recommendations from the commissioners. If they squib any of these they will be pilloried for it, because many people will be watching very, very closely. All the ‘Captain Catholics’ and others in parliament will have to jettison their fervent religiosity and sectarianism in favour of at least a modicum of delayed justice for those victims still alive. If they do not, then they are little better than those in the institutions who covered up these crimes perpetrated by their colleagues.