ROYAL Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse data released in 2017 on offending rates against the Catholic Church in Australia shocked the nation.
It shocked the church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council chief executive Francis Sullivan to the point of tears as he delivered a final address on the church’s behalf to the commission.
For years Catholic leaders argued strongly that the church was unfairly targeted by the media, and child sex offending rates for the church were comparable with rates in the general community.
The royal commission blew that myth away. The commission found that across Australia between 1950 and 2009 the rate of priests accused of committing child sex offences was 7 per cent.
But it was the offending rates among religious orders that produced the most horrifying figures, with 20 per cent of Marist Brothers and 22 per cent of Christian Brothers accused of offences. But both these orders – and all other churches and institutions in Australia investigated by the commission – did not reach the truly appalling rate of the St John of God order.
More than 40 per cent of its representatives, or two in five of its members, were accused of child sex offences over six decades.
In a courtroom on Friday the true nature of what that figure represents in terms of the number of victims, and the trail of destruction left by this one Catholic group, was laid bare. The former Brother Bernard McGrath, 70, was jailed on Friday for the fourth time on 64 offences against 12 victims at the notorious Kendall Grange boys’ home at Morisset between 1978 and 1986. McGrath was principal for almost all those years.
McGrath recklessly and opportunistically groomed, assaulted, attacked, humiliated and discarded some of the most vulnerable young children in the community, because he could.
One of the most sobering aspects of Friday’s sentencing of McGrath to 33 years’ jail for his crimes was the fact that so many boys reported the abuse to adults including police and parents, and weren’t believed.
McGrath’s victims in Australia and New Zealand sought justice for years, with courage and determination. On Friday, with that long sentence delivered, they achieved some justice for the many who were silenced for so long.