Over the past two decades, tens of thousands of survivors have come forward with their stories of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergymen. Though the pervasiveness of the problem suggests that it is intricately associated with the Church’s history, it’s only in recent years that the Church has really felt the blow. Instead of taking measures to stop the gross misconduct, however, the Catholic Church continues to try to brush it under the rug, as evidenced by the most recent accusation involving one of the Church’s very own.
First Case Brought by a Priest That Alleges Abuse by a Priest
The case is unique in that it is the first one lodged by a priest against the Catholic Church alleging abuse. The case was filed against the Lismore diocese in New South Wales. It claims that the plaintiff, who was once an altar boy and is now a priest, was abused in the 1960s by now-deceased priest Clarence “David” Anderson. Per the claim, the abuse occurred when Anderson worked as a religious teacher at a boarding school the plaintiff attended. The plaintiff alleges that Anderson abused him after morning Mass in the sacristy of the church.
Instead of denying the claim, the Catholic Church is choosing to defend the claim by saying that the time between the alleged offense and the court case denies the Church any chance of a fair trial. In a letter, the Church goes on to argue that the plaintiff’s delay has permanently hindered its ability to thoroughly investigate, respond to and adequately defend against the accusations. The Church wrote to the plaintiff’s attorney, Mark Barrow of Ken Cush and Associates, demanding that he drop the case, otherwise the Church claims it will pursue all legal costs.
The Church Ignores the Royal Commission’s Recommendations
The Church’s response to this claim goes against the Royal Commission’s recommendations. As allegations piled up, the Royal Commission stepped in and supplied the church with some eye-opening statistics. According to the Commission’s findings, it is not uncommon for victims of sexual abuse to delay or completely fail to talk about their abuse or file a civil claim. The reasoning behind this is simple: Many survivors internalize what happened to them and even blame themselves. They are often embarrassed about the abuse and unwilling to discuss it with anyone for many years, if ever.
Moreover, the Commission found that nearly 60% of survivors of childhood sexual abuse were unable to disclose the abuse as a child. The average number of years it takes for victims to come forward is 33.
The Royal Commission suggested to the Church that it should remove limitation periods in cases involving child abuse. It also recommended that the Church be better prepared to handle cases involving delayed disclosure of abuse, such as by keeping records for longer periods of time.
Second Time in Recent Months the Church Attempts To Throw Out a Case
It seems clear, by the Church’s response, that it does not take the Royal Commission seriously. Not only is it attempting to place a stay on the priest’s case, but also it successfully threw out a case brought by a woman back in December who alleged abuse by a priest named John Curran. The alleged abuse took place in the 1940s. Curran has since died, and, sadly, the woman’s story will go unheard.
The Church’s callous attitude toward sexual abuse raises legitimate concerns that even with all the reforms taking place, it is back to square one when it comes to abuse and the Catholic Church. If not a delay, a defense the Bishop of Lismore has clearly taken advantage of, the Church may try to find some other excuse to avoid paying fair compensation to victims and doling out justice. To date, it would seem that not enough has been done to hold the Church and its clergy members accountable for the damage it continues to inflict upon survivors of abuse.