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A new high water mark for child protection

  • 20 February 2018


If the safety of children and vulnerable people is not at the very centre of the Catholic Church's mission both here and in all other places around the world, then something has gone very, very wrong in the Church.

For five years, as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse revealed the horrific details of child sexual abuse in Catholic parishes, schools, children's homes and other places, Catholics and the broader community slowly came to understand the true extent of the failings of past leaders.

They also saw the complete disregard, not just for Gospel values, but for the most basic human instincts of compassion and kindness by the hundreds of priests, brothers and others, whose commitment was to protect children, not abuse them.

The statistics are appalling: more than 4400 allegations of child sexual abuse against some 1880 priests, religious and others in the Catholic Church, occurring in more than 1000 different Catholic institutions in the six decades between 1950 and 2010.

If this were to have occurred in any other institution the community could reasonably ask, 'Why should it be allowed to continue operating?'

The answer is that the Catholic Church is much more than what has been revealed in the commission; and the Church, and the broader Australian community, is very different to what it was 30 years ago. 

Nonetheless, the biggest future challenge facing the Church is the protection of children and vulnerable adults. Regardless of the changes that have been made to the way in which the Church in Australia responded to, and dealt with, allegations and the survivors of child sexual abuse over the past 25 years, it has become very clear that more, much more, needs to be done.


"CPSL sets a new high-water mark in the ongoing development of a child-safe church in Australia."


That is one of the many reasons Catholic Professional Standards Ltd (CPSL) now exists and has started the work of strengthening child protection regimes across Australia. CPSL will bring new levels of accountability and transparency to the way in which Church leaders operate and manage the protection of children and vulnerable adults.

CPSL is developing and setting new child safeguarding standards, in line with the extensive research and recommendations of the Royal Commission. It will be sending auditors into dioceses, parishes, congregations and Church entities to measure compliance with these standards, and then publicly reporting what it finds.

This is a completely new process for the Australian Church, its leaders and