Church leaders back abuse probe
Timothy Costelloe. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Perth Catholic and Anglican leaders have welcomed a royal commission into child sexual abuse in religious and State-run institutions, saying they will support any attempt to crack down on a "widespread" and "terrible" problem.

Perth Catholic Archbishop Timothy Costelloe said he would co-operate with the commission. It offered society an opportunity to come to grips with an "unfortunately very widespread" problem.

"As I have said on other occasions, sexual abuse of minors is a terrible scourge in our community," he said.

"It is both a crime and an attack on the innocence and vulnerability of children and young people.

"I want the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Perth to play its part in dealing as fully and honestly as it can with this terrible problem."

Perth Anglican Archbishop Roger Herft said the Anglican Church had long called for openness and transparency around the issues of child sexual abuse.

"It has acted badly in the past and has, at times, not understood, I think, the addictive and lascivious behaviour of paedophiles," he said.

"I welcome anything that could bring together . . . all of us who have the care of young people at our heart."

Scouts WA chief commissioner Larry Lucas, whose organisation is among those to face the commission's scrutiny, said he would support anything that minimised incidents of abuse.

"Scouts WA have strict controls in place, which include working with children card checks for all adults in leadership roles," he said.

Premier Colin Barnett offered his support for a commission into clergy abuse but said he did not want to see "hysteria" develop around it.

"If there is sufficient evidence there then maybe there does need to be a national royal commission," he said.

"It will hopefully bring closure to people if they have been abused, it will also create immense amounts of chaos.

"I simply don't know (how widespread a problem in WA), we are going back decades in time."

But the Premier said his views on a national inquiry did not create a moral case for a WA royal commission into child abuse in State-run institutions, which has been called for by Labor and the Greens.

He said the recently completed Blaxell inquiry into abuse at two State hostels - Katanning and Northam - had all the powers of a royal commission and the Government accepted its recommendations.

The West Australian

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