“IT is now time to listen,” Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn Christopher Prowse told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney on Tuesday.
“When I go back into the Archdiocese, I have it in my heart to hold listening sessions in the regional areas. I want to gather the victims and their families - it has been like a bush fire going through the Catholic Church in terms of faith and people’s trust in us.”
He referred to the victims of sexual abuse as “wounded healers” and said the Catholic Church had to move forward with them.
“We need to go ahead with them walking beside us, directing us, working with us. When I read those statistics that the average age was only 11...” Archbishop Prowse said, at a loss for words.
“We need to get on our knees and say we are profoundly and deeply sorry that it has taken a Royal Commission to put a mirror in front of us to say you are not doing as your mission says you should do.”
He said the national statistics the Commission handed down on the extent of the abuse had “shocked him.”
Despite his declarations of new accountability, openness and transparency in the Catholic Church, Archbishop Prowse was asked by Counsel Assisting the Inquiry Gail Furness SC why he had refused to participate in a Healing Ceremony at a Marist Brothers College in his diocese “as recent as last November.”
“That was a mistake on my part. I have made a public apology and asked for their forgiveness,” he said.
“It was a very recent mistake and at odds with the evidence you are giving about how you have learnt from the Royal Commission, which has now been sitting for four years,” Ms Furness replied.
She also asked him why in Sale, Victoria, where he was Bishop for a time, that 15 per cent of priests identified as having claims made against them. “Can you help us as to why it might have happened in that diocese?” She asked.
“In Sale, more so than in a bigger city, there was an extraordinary trust of the priest whereby he was able to become part of the family...It was a a breeding ground for immature and disconnected priests,” he said.
Archbishop Prowse said he had set up an Institute for Professional Standards in his diocese in September 2015 in an attempt to respond to allegations of abuse promptly and work more openly with Child Protection Agencies.
“There is more scrutiny of priests now,” he said.