First the conviction of the senior Australian Catholic churchman and then the tragedy in Christchurch. What a roller coaster it has been these past few weeks.
I know I’m not alone in shock, dismay, anger, frustration, disbelief, painful empathy at what we have seen not only in regard to the conviction but also around what has transpired from the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse. As a Principal of a Catholic school that is trying to serve its community and build the kingdom of God on earth as our mission would indicate we should, it has been very challenging times.
It shocks me to my core that such crimes against young people could be committed by anyone, even more shocking that religious brothers and priests have done so. It is a scourge in our world that such behaviour exists and we know that such crimes are as likely if not more so to happen in the home by family members let alone by those we entrust the care of our children to.
Clearly our church has let us down as Bishop Long commented, ‘the Church needs to be broken open and born anew.’
I look with hope and pray still that the Church will embrace the opportunities that now exist to face these challenges and the expectation of the large percentage of the Church who have stood back.
My thoughts first of course go to the victims who have suffered so much not only with the abuse they suffered but that then when they sought help were as described by the Royal Commission almost abused again. I pray that the redress scheme that the church and religious orders have committed themselves to brings the healing hoped for.
I know too that many Catholics, many I know of my generation, are in pain at being associated with such acts simply because of their faith and beliefs. To put ones head up and declare ‘I am Catholic’ is now more difficult for so many due to the reaction they get. Many have just stepped back and await change in their church.
I take solace in my own faith in God and the example of Jesus Christ confident that this is the right example that we strive to bring to the young men of St.Paul’s and that this is never more important.
It is vital that they and you have confidence that this school is a safe one and that the systems in place to ensure they are safe guarded from harm are strong and effective.
I want to take this opportunity to reassure and reaffirm to all parents and carers that the Catholic Education system through the Catholic Schools Office in Broken Bay already undertakes training on a regular basis in areas of child protection such as:
- reportable conduct,
- mandatory reporting,
- privacy and confidentiality,
- detecting and responding to trauma,
- a nominated child advocate,
- conducting investigations,
- how to identify signs of harm,
- counselling availability,
- facilitating child-friendly ways for children to express their views, participate in decision making and raise their concerns.
The safety and wellbeing of our students is our main priority. These systems are overseen by government agencies such as the Ombudsman, independent and with authority to ensure compliance.
The shootings in Christchurch have also challenged us enormously but have also provided an opportunity. Yes we have been shocked and appalled at what transpired last Friday week but it has been inspiring to see the leadership from the NZ Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern who has clearly stated that those who were the targets of hate are ‘Us’ not those who attacked them. The outpouring of support for the community of Christchurch during Harmony Week I hope, converts into better treatment of each other day to day.
The opportunity for us comes in being able to dialogue with our young people about the importance of tolerance, inclusion and love towards all. This is central to the Gospel message of Jesus and is at the heart of what we try to do here at St. Paul’s every day.
We need your support in this dialogue.