Church 'ashamed' over child abuse

The Catholic Church "failed badly" and must explore every avenue to eradicate the sexual abuse of children, Perth's Archbishop has said ahead of a royal commission hearing that will expose horrific abuse at four WA Christian Brothers' homes.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe expressed horror and shame over the abuse that "infected" the Church in a letter to the Catholic community before the commission's first WA public hearing.

"Words are cheap and apologies ring hollow if they are not backed up by a sincere and sustained effort to right the wrongs of the past and to put measures in place to prevent a repeat of those wrongs," he wrote.

"What I can assure you of is this: the leadership of the Church in the Archdiocese of Perth is committed to doing everything we can to make sure the future is very different from the past.

"We cannot undo what has been done but we can acknowledge with honesty, sincerity and humility that as a Church we have failed badly."

He "humbly" asked forgiveness from those whose lives were "so deeply and badly damaged".

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse holds its first public Perth hearings on Monday.

It will look into the experiences of boys who lived at Castledare Junior Orphanage, St Vincent's Orphanage Clontarf, St Mary's Agricultural School Tardun and Bindoon Farm School, with 11 former residents scheduled to testify, possibly over three weeks.

It will also examine the response of the Christian Brothers and State authorities to complaints about those involved with the institutions.

Archbishop Costelloe said people who suffered terribly through the abuse as children would relive their experiences by courageously telling their stories.

"We will hear some terrible and shocking stories," he said. "They will make us wonder how institutions under the jurisdiction of the Church and its agencies could have gone so wrong.

"They also have a right to know that the Church really does recognise their suffering and genuinely apologises for the terrible things they endured."

He hoped the Perth hearings, though they would be difficult for many, would finally give victims a chance to be heard.