Principal's Blog - 16 February 2017
Dear members of the Marcellin College family,
As the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is about to present its findings I write to you this week with the heaviest of hearts. As a Catholic, a Marist, an Educator and a Leader in Catholic Schools for the past 31 years I have been deeply distressed and shocked at the level and nature of child sexual abuse which has occurred in Catholic schools and institutions as presented by victims at this Royal Commission. The numbers alone are staggering and deeply disturbing. 36,975 Calls handled, 22,686 Letters and emails received, 6,443 Private sessions held and 1,899 Referrals to authorities (including police).
Reading many of the transcripts of statements made to the Commission by victims of sexual abuse, I was moved to tears at the nature of the abuse suffered by young people in Catholic Institutions. Equally, I am appalled at the betrayal of trust demonstrated by people whose role it has been to protect and support the young people in their care.
It is equally upsetting to read of the many times when claims of abuse were not properly supported which only served to amplify the overwhelming sense of betrayal which must be felt by victims. At the same time I am in awe of the courage of those victims who have come forward to tell their stories. People whose lives have been shattered by sexual abuse and who have lived with the pain and suffering of those acts of betrayal for many years. I am grateful to the commissioners who have provided the opportunity for victims to finally tell their stories. As commissioner, Justice Peter McClellan said recently, “We’ve created a place where people can come and tell their stories and be believed.”
As a Marist I have been encouraged by the recent statement released by Brother Emili Turu, the Superior General of the Marist Brothers, who presented an unequivocal apology to victims of child sexual abuse in Marist Institutions:
I seek Forgiveness because in some of our institutions, which should have been havens of safety for all children and young people, there have been situations of abuse which have left deep wounds, frequently for life. Forgiveness in a very special way from those who suffered that abuse because, as an institution, we have not always acted with care, or as quickly and decisively as such situations demand. Or perhaps we have simply not made enough effort to prevent them. – Br. Emili Turu fms.
As a Catholic, a Marist and a Principal in Catholic Education I am deeply sorry to all those who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of people in our Catholic Institutions in positions of trust. I commit myself to supporting victims in any way I can and I commit also to leaving no stone unturned in ensuring the students in my care are cared for and protected in a community of faith and love.
Evidence gathered by the Royal Commission will be used to make recommendations to improve policies and practices to improve how institutions respond to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse to ensure that children are not abused in the future. As Pope Francis said recently, "it is a sin that shames us". Pope Francis has urged the whole Church to, "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".
At Marcellin, like all other Catholic and Marist schools and institutions, we have devoted a great deal of time, energy and resources to reviewing and reinventing our Child Protection policies. These policies and programs ensure not only the protection of the students we have been entrusted to care for but also provide clear and accessible guidelines for our students and families to report allegations of abuse. Our new Marist Child Protection Policy is in line with and goes beyond the guidelines presented in Ministerial Order No.870; Child Safe Standards - Managing the risk of child abuse in schools.
A copy of the Colleges' Child Protection Policy and code of conduct for staff of Marcellin College are available on our website.
Marcellin College is a great school. A place where all are loved and where the dignity of all is supported and protected. I have tremendous faith in all who work with and walk with the young men at our school. I know that they are not only committed educators but also people who take extremely seriously their role and responsibility in providing a safe and nurturing environment for our boys. We are all committed to continuing to review and develop our practices and policies with regards to child safety to ensure that the boys of Marcellin can grow to become fine young men in a safe and caring environment.
Saint Marcellin Champagnat said that our role as Marists is to make Jesus known and loved, to young people, particularly those in greatest need. In this spirit let us all pray for the victims of abuse that they find healing, justice and hope and let us pray that we never allow the mistakes and abuses of the past to ever happen again.