Leader of the Reason Party and Northern Metropolitan MP Fiona Patten has urged our religious institutions to set new standards in the way they address institutional child abuse.
“The maxim ‘justice not only needs to be done, but must be seen to be done’ should be the standard that the church adopts,” Ms Patten said.
“The church needs to stop mounting defences and put victim’s needs ahead of its desire to defend its reputation.”
Ms Patten’s comments come in the context of calls from survivor organisations for Victorian Bishop Peter Hollingworth to stand down.
During the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (something that Ms Patten called for publicly in 1999), evidence revealed that Bishop Hollingworth allowed confirmed paedophile John Elliot to continue in his role as rector at Dalby; rape was also alleged against him.
Bishop Hollingworth had to stand down as Governor-General and as patron of a series of children’s foundations – but was permitted by the Anglican diocese of Melbourne to continue working as a church minister.
“I question whether there is another employer who would permit their staff member to continue working with children after such allegations were levelled against them, and as an act of contrition he should be asked to resign” Ms Patten said.
Ms Patten has called on the Government to extend mandatory reporting laws to religious ministries and end legal exceptions for admissions disclosed in religious confession. Despite raising these issues in Parliament, the Attorney-General has failed to respond.
She also queried, given the evidence of the commission, how the Government granted Bishop Hollingworth a working with children certificate.
“This is creating further pain to victims who are already suffering.”
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