Catholic Priests and religious ministers are top on the list of alleged sexual abusers according to a report issued by a five-year inquiry into sexual abuse in Australia.
The inquiry carried out by the Royal Commission, Australia’s highest form of public inquiry, indicted institutions of the state for failing to protect children from sexual abuses with over 60,000 children sexually abused in the last decades
After hearing over 8,000 testimonies from victims of abuse, the commission recommended that the Catholic Church may have to amend its celibacy rule as Priests topped the list of offenders followed by school teachers.
The commission found that the Catholic Church had 4,400 allegations of child sex abuse against its priests, Anglican Priests allegedly abused 1,115 while priests of the Jehovah’s Witness Church had 1,000 alleged abusers.
“Tens of thousands of children have been sexually abused in many Australian institutions. We will never know the true number,” the report said.
“It is not a case of a few ‘rotten apples’. Society’s major institutions have seriously failed.”
Since 2013, the royal commission has referred more than 2,500 allegations to authorities.
The final report, released on Friday, added 189 recommendations to 220 that had already been made public. The proposals will now be considered by legislators.
Reacting to the report, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said “a national tragedy” had been exposed.
The report of the inquiry had very damning figures with 60,000 children said to have been victims of sex abuse and eligible for compensation as over 200 prosecutions were currently ongoing.
The commission had previously recommended that Catholic clerics should face criminal charges if they fail to report sexual abuse disclosed to them during confession.
The final report on Friday said the Catholic Church should also consider making celibacy voluntary for priests because while it was “not a direct cause of child sexual abuse” it had “contributed to the occurrence of child sexual abuse, especially when combined with other risk factors”.
Among its other major findings, the inquiry recommended: A nationally implemented strategy to prevent child sex abuse: A system of preventative training for children in schools and early childhood centres: A national office for child safety, overseen by a government minister.
The commission also recommended that it should be made mandatory for more occupations, such as religious ministers, early childhood workers and registered psychologists, to report abuse.
Reaction of the Catholic and Anglican Church
Throughout the inquiry, many leaders of institutions admitted failures and apologised to victims on behalf of their groups.
On Friday, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, issued an “unconditional” apology.
“This is a shameful past, in which a prevailing culture of secrecy and self-protection led to unnecessary suffering for many victims and their families,” he said.
Australia’s most senior Anglican figure, Melbourne Archbishop Dr Philip Freier, also said sorry.
“I apologise on behalf of the church to survivors, their families, and others harmed by our failures and by the shameful way we sometimes actively worked against and discouraged those who came to us and reported abuse,” he said.