The Catholic Church says its response to cases of child sex abuse should be compassionate, that abusers should be brought to justice and that concealing the truth is unjust to victims.
But does it follow those principles?
Coming up, Four Corners reporter Geoff Thompson investigates a shocking case of abuse involving many children, committed over several years. The abuse in itself is horrifying, the impact on the victims devastating, but perhaps the most alarming revelation is the fact that the Church turned a blind eye to the priest's crimes. Four Corners asks why, despite clear evidence of abuse, the Church allowed him to move from parish to parish, apparently without alerting the police. The program reveals that even now the Church will not admit the full extent of what it knew about the priest's activities.
The program also tells the story of the young men and their families, whose lives were devastated by the abuse. And details how the crimes committed led to the early death of several victims.
"It would have been no different if he had taken a gun and shot him, it just took longer." Relative of an abused child
From extensive research it's now clear that child sex abuse victims are more likely to take their own lives, are more prone to drug abuse and the possibility of early death. It's also true that the torment for an abused child is made worse when the abuser is not brought to justice.
In Victoria the Government is holding a joint party inquiry into the way religious and other non-government organisations respond to sex abuse cases. The Government was pressured into holding the inquiry after the release of a police report that criticised the Catholic Church's handling of abuse issues. The confidential police report revealed that the Church had known about a shockingly high rate of suicides and premature deaths but had "chosen to remain silent".
There is now a growing demand for the Federal Government to hold a national inquiry to assess the true extent of sexual abuse by all church groups and to assess the programs that have been put in place to assist victims and deliver them compensation.