Hundreds attend forum calling for Royal Commission

OVER 400 people attended a forum in Newcastle today calling for a Royal Commission into the Catholic church’s handling of child sexual abuse.

Author Peter FitzSimons received a standing ovation when he told the crowd at Club Panthers Newcastle the time had come for people to say: 

‘‘This stops now, this cannot go on, and on, and on.

‘‘This gathering is not anti-Catholics. This gathering is anti-criminal activity.’’

Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy, whose six years of writing about priestly sexual abuse has resulted in the Herald’s Shine the Light campaign, said a Royal Commission was needed because there ‘‘are gaps in what we know about this situation that the media can’t fill, the courts can’t fill and the police can’t fill’’.

Tracey Pirona, whose husband John Pirona committed suicide in June after being abused as a child, said it took him until 2008 to tell her what had happened to him.

‘‘These men have to pay for what they have done, whether it’s the vile act of what they did or having the knowledge of it and not doing anything about it.’’

John’s father Lou Pirona said he acknowledged the good that the church had done but all that good would fall by the wayside if the Catholic people of the world let the church hierarchy ‘‘give them the mushroom treatment’’.

Victims’ advocate Peter Gogarty told of the guilt and shame and anger he felt as a result of ‘‘living a double life with a paedophile priest’’.

Sydney barrister Andrew Morrison SC said a Royal Commission was necessary because it could compel people to attend, give evidence and hand over documents.

Greens MLC David Shoebridge, who chaired the forum, said the call for a Royal Commission needed to come from across the political spectrum.

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