A half a billion dollars. That’s how much Australian government officials will spend.
Five years (through 2017). That’s how long they’ll work.
Toward what end? Investigating, exposing – and hopefully preventing – future child sex crimes and cover ups in institutions.
A number of governmental bodies across the globe have done probes somewhat like this one. (Most notable, perhaps, is the work of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which found that the Vatican “still places children in many countries at high risk of sexual abuse, as dozens of child sexual offenders are reported to be still in contact with children” and has “policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.”)
So what makes this Australian initiative, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, significant and different?
Well, look at the results so far:
–In part, because of pressure generated by the Commission, one Catholic bishop (Bishop Max Davis) has been arrested on charges that he molested a child 45 years ago, before he was even ordained.
–Another Catholic bishop (Bishop Philip Wilson) has been arrested on charges of failing to report child sex crimes by a colleague in the 1970s.
–The Commission has overruled or overridden a number of objections and “privileges” claimed by church officials in the hopes of continuing to keep their secrets secret.
–It is publishing some of the documentation it gets or finds online (though much more remains to be revealed).
–Realizing the magnitude of these devastating crimes and continuing cover ups, it has extended its deadline from December 2015 to December 2017.
–It has exposed and is still exposing the ruthlessness and deceit of the second most powerful prelate on the planet, Cardinal George Pell, by disclosing incriminating private memos from Pell’s lawyers.
–And it has given hundreds of still-suffering victims a chance to be heard. That, alone, is significant and healing.
Can and should the Commission do much more? Certainly. SNAP Australia leader Nicky Davis, hopes that the Commission “will reach its full potential, as survivors deserve, and not just go through the motions, tinkering around the edges, rehashing old evidence and not revealing anything new.”
But what’s happened so far is an impressive start.