The Victorian Police aren’t mincing words when it comes to the culture of cover up inside the Catholic Church:
The Catholic Church and other religious groups hide accusations of abuse rather than expose suspected offenders, Victoria Police says.
In its submission to the state government’s inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations, Victoria Police says victims of sexual crime are too often being talked out of reporting the matters to police, while the suspected offenders are sent elsewhere.
It is concerned the Catholic Church, instead of encouraging sex abuse victims to go to the police, is providing a financial incentive to keep the matter within church walls, the submission says.
But the Catholic Church says many victims want their experiences to remain private and do not want their complaint reported to police.
In the last 15 years more than 30 religious leaders have been convicted of child sexual offences in Victoria.
Police said they have found recurring issues in dealing with religious organisations, with victims discouraged from reporting sexual crimes and suspected offenders moved to a different diocese or sent overseas.
They said the Catholic Church’s “Melbourne Response” – set up to assist victims – appeared to be a substitute for criminal justice.
“It has not referred a single complaint to Victorian police,” the submission said.
It said the assessors were not trained or resourced to conduct criminal investigations, there was no transparency or external right of review and they may be providing inappropriate or wrong advice to victims, who are not legally represented during the process.
The victims are told that to obtain an ex gratia payment they must agree to discharge the church from further liability and not to discuss or disclose the facts and circumstances around their complaints at the risk of being sued by the church.
The submission said there was an underlying culture within the Catholic Church, and other religions, to hide accusations of abuse rather than exposing suspected offenders.
“It is in the opinion of Victoria Police that such deliberate action should be criminalised,” the submission said.
I agree with the Victoria Police and they should criminalise the cover-ups as conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Holding the bishops to account might see a very rapid change in the way they conduct matters.