A PLANE flying over Lower Hunter skies yesterday towing a banner saying ‘‘Royal Commission now’’ spoke volumes for victims of Catholic paedophile priests.
The plane was organised by Anthony Stevens, a brother-in-law of the late John Pirona who committed suicide after saying he could no longer deal with the painful memories inflicted by priests who abused him as a child.
Mr Stevens said he wanted to send a message about the church’s refusal to recognise its wrongs, despite Premier Barry O’Farrell announcing a special inquiry into the matter on Friday.
Other church child sexual abuse victims yesterday agreed they wanted the investigation broadened into a royal commission.
Clergy Abuse Network co-founder Bob O’Toole, Salt Ash man Rob Lipari and ‘‘Susan’’, a victim of serial paedophile priest Denis McAlinden, all said the inquiry announced on Friday was a good start, but nowhere near enough to deal with a massive problem.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, a veteran investigator of numerous child sexual abuse cases in the Hunter Region, told ABC TV’s Lateline host Tony Jones he had ‘‘irrefutable’’ evidence of a cover-up.
Detective Fox said he submitted ‘‘report after report’’ to his police superiors saying ‘‘a lot more’’ needed doing to investigate ‘‘paedophile priests’’ operating in the Hunter ‘‘with immunity’’, but he ‘‘never received a response’’.
Mr O’Toole said he feared the Premier’s special inquiry would be limited just to the allegations raised by Detective Fox.
‘‘It should ‘‘address the broader issues of the Catholic Church and its paedophile priests’’ he said.
He also took aim at federal Opposition frontbencher Joe Hockey, who has dismissed calls for a royal commission by saying a public inquiry would ‘‘traumatise’’ victims.
‘‘That’s absolute rubbish, because the people who come forward know there’s a strong possibility of ending up in court,’’ Mr O’Toole said.
‘‘Knowing that there is support there in terms of a royal commission would be a great help.’’
Mr O’Toole said most lay Catholics knew the time for an investigation had come.
‘‘There is a group in the church who would prefer it to go away and blame the Herald for it all,’’ Mr O’Toole said.
‘‘But I think there’s a groundswell of people, getting fed up and more and more becoming aware of the extent of the problem.
‘‘We’ve had it described as a few bad apples, and no worse than in general society but now people are coming to see that this is not true.’’
Hunter woman ‘‘Susan’’ said Mr O’Farrell’s announcement was ‘‘a step in the right direction but probably not as much as we wanted’’.
‘‘It creates more pain keeping it hidden as it has been for so many years,’’ Susan said.
‘‘It brings up old wounds, it’s always there in front of us but to have it recognised in this way would give victims some confidence.’’
Susan said that despite the ‘‘premeditated’’ nature of the crimes against her and other victims of paedophile priests, she had kept her faith in the church.
‘‘It wasn’t the Lord or Jesus who did this, it was people who put themselves in His place to take advantage of that and to perform these acts of evil,’’ Susan said.
Rob Lipari, the victim of a Christian Brothers priest in Sydney in the 1970s, said a royal commission was the best way to force those involved to admit their wrongs.
‘‘For the church, it’s not about the paedophile priests – they’re expendable,’’ Mr Lipari said.
‘‘It’s about the people who were at the bottom of the pile then, who chose not to do anything at the time, to look the other way or to cover up what was going on, but who are now at the top of the Catholic Church in Australia.’’