Thursday, 23 February 2017

Thoughts on the Royal Commission

Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is nearing the end of its lengthy process, nearly five years after it was first commissioned.  The Royal Commission has examined the workings of many organisations (governmental and non-governmental, religious and secular, profit and non-profit, mainly professional and mainly volunteer) that work with children and young people in Australia in terms of the quality of the responses of these organisations to complaints of the sexual abuse of children and young people within these organisations.  The Royal Commission deserves our thanks for the thoroughness of its work.

In my opinion, a few comments need to be made about the information uncovered by the Royal Commission so far:

1.  No organisation that works with children and young people is immune from the issue of child sexual abuse.

2.  The Royal Commission was scrupulously fair in its treatment of all relevant organisations.  No organisation was the recipient of a cover-up.  No organisation was the object of a witch-hunt.

3.  The men (and they were almost all men, rather than women) who were accused of child sexual abuse were inclined to abuse young people before they were in the relevant professional or volunteer roles.  ... They were paedophiles before they were teachers.  ... They were paedophiles before they were policemen.  ... They were paedophiles before they were scoutmasters.  ... They were paedophiles before they were football coaches.  ... They were paedophiles before they were priests or pastors.  ... They went into their jobs because they saw opportunities to groom potential victims.

4.  In the case of faith communities (both Christian and otherwise), while issues of child sexual abuse are far worse in some groups than in others, no faith community is immune from this problem. 

5.  However, two factors exist that determine why the problem of child sexual abuse is far more severe in some faith communities than in others.
  • Child sexual abuse has been a far worse problem in faith communities where the ordained clergy is made up solely of men than it is in those faith communities where both women and men serve as ordained clergy.
  • Child sexual abuse has been a far worse problem in faith communities in faith communities where the only people to whom clergy are accountable are other clergy than it has been where the people to whom clergy are accountable in the conduct of their ministry consist of both lay people and other clergy.
These two factors affect seem to affect both the level of child sexual abuse in any particular faith community and the adequacy of the faith community's response to the abuse.

Again, I believe the Royal Commission deserves our thanks for the solid work that it has done.  Now the hard work begins, as organisations of many different types begin the process of seeking, on the one hand, to make amends with those whom people representing their organisations have injured in the past and, on the other, to safeguard the young people with whom they work from those who would seek to exploit them in the future.

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Constructive comments, from a diversity of viewpoints, are always welcome. I reserve the right to choose which comments will be printed. I'm happy to post opinions differing from mine. Courtesy, an ecumenical attitude, and a willingness to give your name always help. A sense of humour is a definite "plus", as well.