THE priest in charge of one of the largest parishes in the Catholic Church’s Wagga Diocese has backed calls for lasting cultural change within the faith following the release of alarming figures revealing the extent of child sex abuse within the church.
Reverend Father Paddy Sykes, South Wagga parish priest, published the statistics under the heading “grim data” in his parish newsletter last weekend.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse said between January, 1980, and February, 2015, 4444 people made allegations of child sexual abuse to 93 Catholic Church authorities in Australia.
A total of 1880 alleged perpetrators were identified, of which 32 per cent were religious brothers, 30 per cent were priests, 29 per cent were lay people and 5 per cent were religious sisters.
“As terrible as those figures are, there are probably more (victims),” Fr Sykes said.
Fr Sykes played to his congregation a video recorded by the Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, in which he said it would not be enough to change church policies and procedures after the Royal Commission.
“That has to happen, but we have to shift the culture, and that is a much more difficult thing to do,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
Fr Sykes agrees with the archbishop.
“We can’t be business as usual,” he said.
“My hope is we will be a more humble church and we will be a church that is being modelled by Pope Francis – a humble, inclusive and compassionate church.”
Fr Sykes also played a video recorded by Fr Rob Galea of the Diocese of Sandhurst in Victoria.
Fr Galea said statistics that showed 7 per cent or more of Catholic clergy in Australia had sexually abused children broke his heart and made him angry.
He spoke of being embarrassed to be a Catholic as he walked down the street and how he had been physically attacked twice in recent years. “I am defenceless because there is nothing I can say in a situation like this because they are right; their pain is right, their pain is true,” Fr Galea said.
But he said the Catholic Church, although wounded, needed to bring hope and life.
A prayer service for child sex abuse victims will be conducted at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Kooringal, at 5pm next Thursday, March 2.