The President of Blue Knot Foundation, Australia’s National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma, Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, says the sweeping new laws making it obligatory to report sexual abuse within the Catholic Church are to be welcomed.
“It has taken a very long time for the church to get to this point and these changes have been met with tremendous resistance from within the hierarchy of the church,” Dr Kezelman said.
This is the first time in the church’s history that clergy now have a mandatory obligation to report child sexual abuse to senior members of the church and to set up reporting systems for those who’ve witnessed or experienced abuse.
“It’s an important step in requiring clergy to adhere to the same laws that that govern the rest of us,” Dr Kezelman said.
“What remains to be seen is if senior members of the Catholic Church and the hierarchy will live up to these laws and report abuse when it happens. Until this point, the church has not had a good track record in reporting abuse, protecting whistle-blowers or referring reports to police or law enforcement.
“My hope is that church will involve lay people in the process so that reports won’t strictly be handled internally or within the Diocese,” Dr Kezelman said.
“It’s still unclear what sort of accountability any clergy accused or found guilty of sexual abuse will face from within the church. It doesn’t lay out the point in which they will be defrocked or removed from parishes. We will be watching closely how this new decree will be implemented and if it provides the protections that are so long over-due and desperately needed,” Dr Kezelman said.