TJHC session in Bathurst
At the invitation of Bishop Michael McKenna, Mr Francis Sullivan and Mr Michael Salmon from the Truth Justice and Healing Council visited Bathurst on Friday 7th November 2014. The session, held in the Cathedral Parish Centre, was attended by about 45 priests, religious and laity from across the Diocese.
Mr Sullivan gave an explanation of the work and processes of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and that of the Truth Justice and Healing Council.
The Council was set up by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia following the announcement of the Royal Commission in 2011, to oversee the church’s engagement with the Commission.
Mr Sullivan described the operations of the Commission, which holds private and public sessions in its search for answers to the many questions around responses to institutional abuse.
He praised the sincerity of the Australian Catholic Bishops, quoting their Commitment Statement - which includes an acknowledgement that in some cases, the actions of those in positions of authority were indefensible - as proof of their desire for transparency.
Mr Sullivan spoke of the work the church has done since 1992 to ensure better processes, eventually leading to “Towards Healing” - the church’s pastoral response. Its intent is to meet victims and survivors primarily in a pastoral relationship as opposed to an adversarial, legal approach, focussing on the needs of the people involved.
As well as the actual sittings of the Royal Commission and the work that entails, the Truth Justice and Healing Council continues to work on longer-ranging initiatives to ensure better prevention and responses. Next year, there will be State based consultation on the establishment of a new supervisory group in the church, which would see dioceses and religious orders come together to agree on matters of accountability. The TJHC’s work in this area is simply a beginning point to ensure standards are being maintained and progressed, Mr Sullivan said, it will then be up to others to “take it up and run with it”.
He has called on all Catholic communities and agencies to stay in touch with the reforms which are starting to take place in the Church. “The Catholic Church is playing a very important role in contributing to the public debate around reforms which need to be made, particularly across civil litigation and redress for survivors of abuse. It is vitally important that the Catholic community, at the very least, is aware of these changes”.
Information on the Council and the Royal Commission is available on the website - http://www.tjhcouncil.org.au.