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Published: 28 March 2017
Author: RCT Abuse Law team

New Anglican sex abuse stats suggest national approach needed

Royal Commission hearings into Child Sexual Abuse

As the Royal Commission's hearings into the child protection practices and policies of various church bodies continue, and new data on abuse is released, it's clear that the Catholic Church is not the only religious organisation that has an odious track record.

Last week, it was the Anglican Church’s turn to shock.

Statistics released by the Commission reveal that 22 Anglican archdioceses had received 1115 reports of complaints of child sexual abuse between 1980 and 2015.

Among the complaints, 247 clergy were named as alleged perpetrators. One theological college alone (St John’s at Morpeth) was the source of 45 of the 247 alleged clergy perpetrators.

Four senior Anglicans were questioned about the process for selecting student clergy for training, and how it was possible that people where selected who "ended up... committing these terrible crimes"?

It emerged during the hearing that, while now there was clearly an appreciation of the prevalence of child sexual abuse within the church and the need to tighten up procedures, there remained a lack of dialogue within different arms of the organisation which was preventing adequate change occurring.

A national approach to recruitment standards

Given the similarities that are emerging between various denominations of religious organisations, revealing the same systemic failures, it would appear that a sensible approach to addressing the vetting and selection processes for clergy and other religious could benefit from a national set of guidelines and procedures.

The Commission’s work has already achieved a major tightening of various state laws in relation to police checks and mandatory reporting of abuse, regardless of secular or religious orientation. Although it should be noted that within the Catholic Church, child abuse that is admitted to within the confessional is exempt from these laws.

However, the recruitment and training of religious across churches has not yet been sufficiently mooted.

A robust set of standards addressing the minimum procedures to be followed in the vetting, recruitment and training of religious, backed by Federal law, would go a long way to achieving the cultural change necessary in order to prevent a return to the sexual abuse scandals of the past.

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