Catholic Church calls for child officers
Proposal: Archbishop Timothy Costelloe. Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

The head of the Catholic Church in Perth supports introducing child safety officers to oversee protection safeguards in the Church.

In a letter to 100 parishes, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe said he was considering whether such officers, who are widely used in Britain but not in Australia, could be appointed to the Perth archdiocese.

Writing as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse began its examination of how abuse victims in the Eastern States were treated by the Catholic Church, Archbishop Costelloe also apologised for what he said was the failure of the Church's leadership "to respond adequately to this deplorable reality in our midst".

He said the Church could not afford to wait for the final report and recommendations of the royal commission but must "take whatever action we can now".

"The work of safeguarding children must never end and our vigilance must never be relaxed," he wrote in the letter, which was released publicly yesterday.

"Our aim must be to eradicate fully from the Church this terrible evil of sexual abuse and make our Catholic institutions places of absolute safety for children.

"In this regard I am presently examining some proposals concerning the appointment and training of child safeguarding officers in our archdiocese."

It is understood the aim of such officers would be to ensure the Church's child protection safeguards were followed. They could also act as an independent party for anyone to report their concerns.

Archbishop Costelloe said the royal commission was an opportunity for anyone who had suffered abuse and not come forward to do so "in the knowledge that you will be welcomed and that your story will be listened to".

"It is a time, too, for us as a Church to recognise in shame that so many people have suffered, and continue to suffer, because of the crimes of a minority of our own fellow Catholics," he wrote.

"I refer in particular to those priests and religious men and women who betrayed solemn vows and their commitment to be living signs of the presence of Jesus among us. They were anything but this.

"To our shame we acknowledge that this terrible betrayal has at times been compounded by our leaders who failed to recognise the presence of this evil in our midst and respond promptly with decisiveness and courage."

The West Australian

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