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Monday, 13 April 2015 12:21

TJHC consults on national entity

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tjhc logo150The creation of a new national Catholic Church entity that has responsibility for administering a set of standards for the safeguarding of children and vulnerable people was the topic of a forum held in Adelaide last month by the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.

Church personnel from Adelaide, Port Pire and Darwin dioceses, including Archbishop Philip Wilson and Bishop Eugene Hurley, participated in the consultation forum – one of eight being held across Australia by the TJHC prior to making recommendations to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC).

A green paper entitled Ensuring a Safe Church for Children and Vulnerable People proposes the establishment of a ‘company’ that would take over the responsibilities of the National Committee for Professional Standards. The committee oversees the Towards Healing process set up by the ACBC and Catholic Religious Australia in 1996 to respond to abuse complaints within Church institutions.

The green paper provides a model of governance for the future and a way of supervising standards and auditing their application. The final structure will be informed by the consultations and the views of the church leadership.

Participants at the forum talked about their experience and what they believe is needed to make Church institutions safe places for children and vulnerable people.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has considered the operation of Towards Healing in a number of cases and is progressively releasing its findings.

However, Francis Sullivan, CEO of the TJHC, said it had become clear during the Royal Commission process that the commissioners expected organisations like the Church to begin to review their systems now.

“The usual process is to wait until the Royal Commission is over and see what the Government does in response,” he told the forum participants.

“It’s important for us to be proactive and demonstrate to not only Catholics but the broader community that we recognise are our shortcomings.”

Mr Sullivan said the Commission case studies into Catholic Church institutions had highlighted the need for a separation between reparation processes and the pastoral response of the Church.

Chair of the TJHC Sir Neville Owen said the concept of independence did not mean an organisation was not accountable: “it’s about the capacity to make dispassionate, independent decisions”.

He said the emphasis should be on promoting personal integrity and charters which entrenched the ability of the person to exercise independence in the decision making process.

Meanwhile, the Royal Commission last month began its public hearing into possible redress schemes for survivors of child sexual abuse. The hearing will enable institutions and governments to outline their position on redress in light of the commission’s consultation paper released in January this year.

This article was first published in the April 2014 issue of The Southern Cross, the official publication of the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.