by ROWENA OREJANA
AUCKLAND — The Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, describes the investigations by the Royal Commission on Child Sexual Abuse in Australia as a “public humiliation that never seems
to end” and, at the same time, “a grace that I didn’t see coming”.
Speaking before Auckland diocese priests at Waipuna Lodge on August 25, Archbishop Coleridge said what he saw in the past 20 years is that the Catholic Church, particularly in Australia, has dealt with the issue internally and has failed spectacularly.
“One of the things I have come to see is that the Church needs help. We have tried in Australia to deal with the problem internally, and that was the traditional approach,” he said.
“We knew what the policies were, but they were no good to us. Not only were they no good, they led us down dark paths of serious mistakes.”
The Royal Commission investigation, he said, “is so deeply humiliating, it has eroded the moral authority of the Catholic Church, particularly its leadership, in a way that will take a very long time to retrieve”.
It made even the most devout believer “angry and bewildered. There is a kind of anger that I haven’t seen before,” he said.
The Royal Commission’s life is expected to be extended for two more years and Archbishop
Coleridge expects the Church will be dealing with it and its aftermath “way beyond his
“It’s a horrible, horrible thing. It can seem like a mortal attack on the Catholic Church.
But to respond to it as if it were that is to get it badly wrong,” he said.
He said despair is understandable but, as ministers of grace, the Church has to find
God in these times of darkness.
“[There is] a searing grace that scours the soul and seems to rip your heart out. Given
what we say about grace as being this free gift for perfect love, it’s so beautiful who
wouldn’t want it? But there is a grace, a kind of love that is like a tsunami, that
I don’t particularly want,” he said.
The archbishop said the Royal Commission is that grace and that tsunami. “There is no room whatsoever for any kind of complacency,” he said.
Just when the Australian Church think they have got a handle on a problem, a bigger wave comes along. He said there is no way around, under or over the problem.
“[You] can’t protect yourself from the degradation of sin,” he explained. “Holiness is going into the very heart of sin and allowing God to do the transfiguring.”
The next point of the journey, he said, is to listen to the abused. “There are discussions going on about a National Redress Kit. In shaping our submission, we have been quite resolute in listening to victims and victim support groups before we start holding forth,” he said. “This is not easy, as there is a widespread perception in Australia that there is a gap between Church rhetoric and reality. The fact that the Church protected priests who have committed the abuse has not helped.
“We need help from wherever help is available, even from unlikely quarters. That is grace. Grace will come when you least expect it in ways you don’t know.
“This takes humility, because we’ve been a proud Church,” he said.