Police have accused the Catholic Church in Victoria of hindering its efforts to investigate child abuse by clergy.
The damning assessment of the Catholic Church’s conduct is contained in a submission Victoria Police has made to a state parliamentary inquiry into child abuse.
It says the Church appears to have dissuaded victims from reporting child sex abuse, alerted suspects to allegations and either moved or protected offenders who were known or suspected of committing sexual offending against children.
Police say one of the Church’s own complaint systems, the Melbourne Response, has been detrimental to police investigations into those suspected of sexually abusing children.
Police have also criticised the role played by the church’s lead investigator Peter O’Callaghan QC.
They say his methods have effectively dissuaded victims from going to authorities.
In a separate submission to the inquiry, the Catholic Church in Victoria has urged lawmakers to preserve the sanctity of the confessional when considering changes to the way religious organisations deal with child abuse.
The Catholic Church’s submission supports extending mandatory reporting requirements to ministers of religion, provided the sanctity of the confessional is maintained.
The submission says “legislation requiring priests to violate the sacramental seal of confession will be ineffective as priests will be unable and unwilling to comply”.
The submission also contains details of the Church’s response to child abuse complaints over the past 16 years.
It has upheld 620 complaints, most of which relate to abuse committed in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
Source: ABC News