Frequently asked questions
What has the Council been set up to do?
The role of the Council is to coordinate the Catholic Church’s response to the Royal Commission.
The Council is the Church’s representative during the whole Commission process, which means the Commission doesn’t have to deal directly with the many different diocesan and religious organisations around Australia.
It also means the Council can help the Church and all its dioceses and religious orders cooperate with the Royal Commission by producing evidence and complying with all of the Commission’s requests.
The Council is also in the process of developing new policies and procedures to protect young people in the future and to ensure the Church responds to any future complaints appropriately and justly, putting the needs of victims and survivors first.
Who is on the Council and what are their backgrounds?
The Council is made up of men and women with professional and other expertise in the areas of child sexual abuse, paedophilia, trauma, mental illness, suicide, education, public administration and governance. Detailed information about all the Council members can be found here.
The Council’s Chair, The Hon Neville Owen, has a long and distinguished 40-year career as a judge, barrister, solicitor, advocate and reformer. He has worked closely with many charities and educational bodies advising on governance and reform initiatives.
Mr Francis Sullivan, the Council’s CEO, has worked in Government and private practice and has held positions as Secretary-General of the Australian Medical Association, Chief Executive of Catholic Health Australia and consultant to the Pontifical Counsel for the Pastoral Care of Health Care workers at the Vatican. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Australian Catholic University.
Who established the Council?
The Council was established by the two overarching Catholic Church organisations, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia that, together, represent dioceses and congregations across Australia.
These organisations have appointed the Council members, its Chair and Chief Executive Officer.
The Council has been established to take a national perspective on the way the Church has handled child sex abuse. It draws on the expertise of members across a number of disciplines and makes recommendations on new policies and procedures to protect young people now and in the future.
This is the first time dioceses and religious orders across Australia have authorised a single body to represent them en masse to any legal body, let alone a Royal Commission.
Who does the Council represent at the Royal Commission?
The Council represents dioceses and religious orders at the Royal Commission and will be the primary voice and the channel by which the Royal Commission will engage with the whole Church.
The Council does not be represent individuals and or defend the indefensible.
What legal approach does the Council take at the Royal Commission?
The legal representatives work with the Council to engage with the Royal Commission, taking an open, transparent, cooperative and responsive approach.
This involves producing documents called for by the Royal Commission, attending hearings, and, if required, preparing evidence and submissions for the Royal Commission.
The Council has instructed its lawyers to treat victims with respect and consideration and to be open and transparent with the Commission.
What is the Council's relationship to the Catholic Church?
The Council has been set up by the Church as a unique organisation made up 12 men and women of different backgrounds with experience in a range of areas including child psychiatry, child welfare and public policy.
All have reputations for independent thinking. A number of the Council members have themselves been victims and survivors of sexual abuse within the Church.
The Council makes recommendations to help the Church build on its current policies and to respond to future complaints appropriately and justly, putting the needs of victims and survivors first.
How can the Council help victims of sexual abuse?
The Council helps the Church continue to develop new support services and systems to help victims and survivors.
The Council also makes recommendations to the Church about its future approach to dealing with child sexual abuse.
Since the mid-1990s the Church has worked hard to put in place new policies and procedures designed to put victims and survivors first and to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect.
The Church acknowledges the failings and shortcomings of its response in the past and sees the Royal Commission as a unique opportunity to establish credible and robust practices to protect children and to allow victims and survivors to move towards healing.
While the Church has dramatically improved the way it now approaches cases of child sexual assault, these changes will be built upon as we learn more from victims who come forward to the Royal Commission and as the Council undertakes its own research and policy development.
Links to support services for victims and survivors can be found here.