....we also hear the cry of the Church our Mother, who weeps not only for the pain caused to her youngest sons and daughters, but also because she recognizes the sins of some of her members: the sufferings, the experiences and the pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests. It is a sin that shames us. Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity. We regret this deeply and we beg forgiveness. We join in the pain of the victims and weep for this sin. The sin of what happened, the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power. The Church also weeps bitterly over this sin of her sons and she asks forgiveness.... Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to "zero tolerance".
Pope Francis, 28 December 2016
Particular individuals who have been part of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle abused children and vulnerable adults. The Diocese has a particularly troubled history of failing to protect children from sexual abuse and through these failures, allowed predatory individuals to continue to abuse.
The Diocese has an absolute commitment to promote the safety, welfare and wellbeing of all children and vulnerable adults, particularly those who participate in the life of the Diocese; as part of our faith communities in parishes, as students in our Diocesan schools, as children in our care within early education or as part of our community services through CatholicCare.
The Diocese also has an enduring commitment to be present with and support those who have been affected by child sexual abuse.
The role of the Diocesan Protection and Safety Council
The Diocesan Protection and Safety Council (Council) was established in January 2016, replacing a number of former bodies including the Towards Healing Consultative Panel. The Council provides independent advice to the Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle on a range of issues, including:
- promoting the protection of children and vulnerable adults within the Diocese from abuse or exploitation
- developing the Diocesan capacity to be a genuine, innovative and supportive presence for those who have been affected by child sexual abuse
- rebuilding a sense of trust within the Diocesan faithful and the broader community about the Diocese's commitment to protect children and vulnerable adults.
The Council is an advisory body to the Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle. The Council meets quarterly and as required. To fulfil particular functions the Council has established the following standing committees:
- The Standing Committee for Developing and Promoting Healing Practices - to review current and emerging practices in providing services to, and promoting healing for, persons affected by child sexual abuse, with a particular focus on persons affected within the Catholic Church.
- The Standing Committee for Assisting in Resolving Claims - to provide independent and informed counsel to the Bishop to assist him in responding to uninsured claims for damages and other non-financial restitution, in a just and equitable way.
- The Standing Committee Advising on Professional Standards Complaints - to provide counsel to the Bishop to assist him in managing professional standards complaints made against leaders of the Diocese that promotes equity and justice for all persons within the Diocese whilst avoiding or minimising disruption to the stability of Diocesan leadership.
Members of the Diocesan Protection and Safety Council
The Council consists of nine members who are neither employees of nor incardinated to the Diocese. The Council members were selected for a range of qualities, including particular professional skills and personal backgrounds. The Council members include:
- a parishioner of one of the Diocese's parishes
- a non-Catholic with no prior ties to the Diocese
- a clinical psychologist or social worker
- a Catholic priest
- a canon lawyer
- a civil lawyer
One of these members is appointed as the Council's Chairperson. The Bishop appoints the Chairperson and all Council members. The Bishop has endeavoured to ensure that one or more of the Council members has a personal understanding of the challenges and complexities that affect people who have suffered child sexual abuse.
Council members - as at 23 January 2017
There are also three ex- officio members of the Council:
- the Bishop,
- the Vicar-General, and
- the Manager of Zimmerman Services who also fulfils the role of Secretary to the Council.
For more information on the Council, please review the constitution.
The Council will issue an annual report for each financial year period, commencing at the conclusion of the 2016/2017 financial year. This report will be issued at the conclusion of the calendar year, from December 2017.
The Council will also publish a summary report of the Council's quarterly meetings.