On Monday 12 November 2012 the Prime Minister announced that she will be recommending to the Governor-General the establishment of a Royal Commission into institutional responses to instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia.
The Terms of Reference and the membership of the Commission are currently being developed. These arrangements will be discussed with Premiers and Chief Ministers, as well as survivors groups, religious leaders and community organisations in coming weeks. The Attorney General, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, and the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, will co-ordinate this work on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
The Australian Government is putting in place a broad consultation process to ensure the perspectives of key stakeholders inform the decisions that need to be taken in establishing the Royal Commission.
As part of this consultation process, the Australian Government has released a consultation paper to seek the input of interested individuals and organisations on issues such as the scope of the Terms of Reference, the form of the Royal Commission, the number and type of Royal Commissioner/s and the reporting timetable for the Royal Commission.
These factors will guide the Commissioner/s in their task of examining responses to instances or allegations of child sexual abuse in the context of public and private institutions or organisations in Australia. ~ via Royal Commission website. Read more...
This is not a subject that I think warrants a soft, gentle introduction by way of friendly anecdote or witty illustration so I’ll blunder right in. Whatever the Terms of Reference this Commission settles upon, all Churches, religious organisations etc should do their utmost to be proactive and supportive. That the situation in Australia has come to the point where a Royal Commission is necessary means, in part, that that the Church is already behind.
This is something that evangelicals, in particular (as they my “tribe”), need to ensure they are not obstructive and defensive about. From my experience in Sydney Churches I’m confident that the majority will not wait for an official investigation to make enquiries. In fact we probably already have stringent processes in place. However, the Commission should be an urgent prompt to update processes and educate and orient everyone in the Church, not just paid staff.
The recent discussions in NSW State Parliament about confessional confidentiality as sacrosanct in Roman Catholicism ought not be dismissed lightly either. I consider pastoral confidence one of the highest responsibilities I hold as a gospel minister. However, I am in full agreement with our politicians and other Church leaders, that a report of child abuse must be responded to exactly the same as it ought to be in any other context. The Church should not be a hiding place for abusers.
Mine is a barely audible voice in the Sydney Evangelical scene. I am sure there are others who will weigh into this more persuasively and eloquently (late edit: CPX & InFocus have already done so). I hope that as they do, we can form a genuine and serious consensus that provides more than just protection of our children. We need to more than respond and react. We need to actively contribute to their thriving and flourishing. Anything else falls short of Jesus own standard and example.
Potentially Related articles
- The Royal Commission: This is a good thing (InFocus)
- Whatever it takes: sexual abuse and the Church (publicchristianity.org)
- Government calls for feedback on abuse inquiry (abc.net.au)
- Australians ‘back royal commission’ (bigpondnews.com)
- Govt wants help to shape royal commission (news.theage.com.au)
- PM calls abuse inquiry (theage.com.au)