In late-February, ERC Director Phil Glendenning delivered the keynote speech to the Catholic Social Services Conference in Melbourne. Phil spoke about the deficit of leadership in Australian society, including in politics and the Catholic Church. He called for an honest and compassionate response by the Catholic Church to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which must include a fundamental shift in power relations. It is not good enough to say "yes terrible wrongs were committed, but the Catholic Church runs many schools, hospitals and social services".
There needs to be an honest and open recognition of the history, recognition that abuses and systematic cover-ups occurred, acknowledgement of the hurt and pain to victims, survivors and their families, acknowledgement of the criminal culpability of a culture that allowed cover-ups, commitment to justice that is formal and substantive (including proper compensation) and a fundamental change in power relations.
This is not just a matter of the Church getting its house in order - the house needs to be rebuilt.
Phil also rejected the view espoused by some that 2017 was an annus horribilis for the Catholic Church because of the child abuse revelations and the marriage equality vote. Last year was not an annus horribilis for the Catholic Church - but it was an annus horribilis for Behrouz Boochani and the 2,000 other men, women and children who remain on Manus Island and Nauru; for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples whose calls for Reconciliation and Recognition were again rejected by the Parliament; and for the people in the Pacific struggling for climate justice. The Church must move away from an over-adherence on rules, regulations, defending the hierarchy, judgements in who is in and who is out, and move towards the social reality, to engage with those made poor, excluded and marginalised.
But ultimately, Royal Commissions do not guarantee change - change needs to be demanded. And it's up to us to demand change.
You can watch Phil's speech below (video courtesy of Eureka Street):