CATHOLIC Bishop Bill Wright of Maitland-Newcastle is to be congratulated for daring to publicly support a formal inquiry into priestly abuse.
It is no easy matter for a senior clergyman, embedded in a church hierarchy under intense pressure over seemingly endless allegations of criminal abuse, to offer even guarded support for a course of action that seems certain to result in serious recriminations against his own organisation.
Bishop Wright’s acknowledgement of the need for a thorough external inquiry suggests a recognition that the issue has an inevitable momentum that can no longer be credibly resisted.
The heartbreaking discovery yesterday of the body of abuse victim John Pirona has seared the hearts of thousands of Hunter people, adding powerfully to the groundswell of support for a royal commission into priestly abuse.
Mr Pirona, 45, of Belmont North, was found dead in his car at Tomago, days after he left a farewell note to his family. The note spoke of the continuing pain of coping with the emotional and psychological aftermath his abuse, years ago, at the hands of a notorious predator priest.
There was a time, when the first shocking revelations of abuse began to emerge into the public eye, when many probably believed the matter could be satisfactorily dealt with by the churches and the police. But since that hasn’t been entirely the case, and since – on the contrary – more cases of abuse by more priests keep surfacing along with distressing evidence of church cover-ups and failed police investigations, public opinion has dramatically altered.
Many now believe the churches are too systemically implicated to be capable of dealing convincingly with the problem.
Generational change – as represented by new church leaders with no links to the abuse cases in question – is helping the churches to gradually admit the difficulties they face and to concede, as Bishop Wright has done, that external investigations may be the best way to clear the air.
Bluntly, it seems likely there will be no rest, no closure and no real satisfaction for the many victims of priestly abuse until a full royal commission, with the strongest possible powers to compel witnesses and find the truth, is established.
And even though most focus has fallen on the Catholic church, this commission can’t be confined to any particular denominations but must be free – and encouraged – to cast its net widely.
AS many bleary-eyed Australians will have seen on live television early this morning, the games of the 30th Olympiad have opened in London.
For the next fortnight or so, if things go smoothly at the games, the daily talk around the world will be of medal hopes, surprise upsets and international sporting rivalries. It’s a brand of excitement that only the Olympic Games can generate, and it only comes around every four years. For the sake of sleep routines, that’s probably a good thing.