Lawyers for abuse survivors have today welcomed the Vatican’s decision to lift strict confidentiality provisions, known as the ‘pontifical secret’, from abuse matters, saying the decision will lead to much needed transparency from the Church for survivors.
Maurice Blackburn national head of Abuse Law, Michelle James, said the decision from Pope Francis to remove the secrecy provision was an important and overdue step.
“The message to the Catholic Church from the Royal Commission could not have been clearer: greater transparency is needed regarding allegations of abuse to ensure that survivors can have closure and proper access to justice in bringing claims,” Ms James said.
“The Church has made many statements about its commitment to greater transparency and a more open approach to matters of abuse, but is yet to follow this with substantive action, including refusing to report on allegations of abuse raised in the confessional.
“Such a stance remains completely unacceptable; survivors have waited a long time for the Church to do the right thing and the stubborn refusal of the Church’s leadership to do the right thing in reporting abuse allegations raised in the confessional must change.
“We call on the Catholic Church here in Australia, including the Church’s leadership, to abide by Pope Francis’s decision to ensure a greater commitment to transparency on abuse matters that will assist survivors.
“This is particularly the case for the Melbourne and Brisbane Archdioceses who have continued to remain steadfastly reluctant to assist survivors in an open and transparent way in the resolution of their abuse legal claims.
“It is well past time for the Church to act on this. With the decision today from Pope Francis and the Vatican, there can be no more excuses from the Catholic Church in Australia. It is time for a genuinely open and transparent process regarding allegations of abuse, and in the resolution of legal claims being brought for abuse perpetrated,” Ms James said.