This is an article taken directly from Bigpond News.
Catholic Church hid abuse, Vic Police
Thursday, October 11, 2012 » 01:12pm
The Catholic Church and other religious groups hide accusations of abuse rather than expose suspected offenders, Victoria Police says.
In its submission to the state government's inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations, Victoria Police says victims of sexual crime are too often being talked out of reporting the matters to police, while the suspected offenders are sent elsewhere.
It is concerned the Catholic Church, instead of encouraging sex abuse victims to go to the police, is providing a financial incentive to keep the matter within church walls, the submission says.
But the Catholic Church says many victims want their experiences to remain private and do not want their complaint reported to police.
In the last 15 years more than 30 religious leaders have been convicted of child sexual offences in Victoria.
Police said they have found recurring issues in dealing with religious organisations, with victims discouraged from reporting sexual crimes and suspected offenders moved to a different diocese or sent overseas.
They said the Catholic Church's 'Melbourne Response' - set up to assist victims - appeared to be a substitute for criminal justice.
'It has not referred a single complaint to Victorian police,' the submission said.
It said the assessors were not trained or resourced to conduct criminal investigations, there was no transparency or external right of review and they may be providing inappropriate or wrong advice to victims, who are not legally represented during the process.
The victims are told that to obtain an ex gratia payment they must agree to discharge the church from further liability and not to discuss or disclose the facts and circumstances around their complaints at the risk of being sued by the church.
The submission said there was an underlying culture within the Catholic Church, and other religions, to hide accusations of abuse rather than exposing suspected offenders.
'It is in the opinion of Victoria Police that such deliberate action should be criminalised,' the submission said.
The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, said tension existed between respecting the wishes of victims and the calls for all allegations of abuse to be reported to police.
'In relation to the police (submission), our submission discusses the issue - a sensitive one for victims - that many want their experiences to remain private and do not want their complaint reported to the police,' he said in a statement.
'The church acknowledges that Victoria Police has the primary role and expertise in investigating criminal allegations.
'We recommend that all allegations of serious crimes be reported to the police in a way that does not infringe the confidentiality and privacy of victims who have come forward on that basis, or the sanctity of the confessional.
'This difficult matter requires a balance to be struck between the responsibility of the community to prosecute criminal conduct and protect the vulnerable, and the right of victims to privacy.'
Mr Hart said such a balance could be achieved through a system where details of an allegation are reported to police on the proviso that police could not use powers of compulsion to discover the identity of the complainant from the source of the report.
Police are investigating 50 suicides by the graduates of just one school, St Alipius in Ballarat, which are all thought to be linked to sex offences by Brother Robert Charles Best and Father Gerald Ridsdale, who operated the parish.