The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference says it supports the announcement of a Royal Commission by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to investigate decades of child abuse in churches, schools and foster homes, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.
Ms Gillard said the commission would address "institutional responses to child abuse" - the instances of abuse as well as the manner in which they have been dealt - by a range of institutions.
She said she would work in coming weeks with Attorney General Nicola Roxon to define the terms of reference, but said she imagined the investigation would go back decades.
Ms Gillard stressed the inquiry would not be limited to the Catholic Church.
"We will work on the specific terms of reference but this is about children who were in the care of religious organisations - so that's all religious organisations - it's about children who were in state care, it's about children who were in the care of not-for-profit bodies other than religious organisations, it will therefore go as well to the response of children's services agencies, and the response of the police."
The President and Permanent Committee of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, on behalf of the Australian Bishops, said: "this is a serious issue not just for the Catholic Church but for the whole community. As Catholic bishops and as individuals we share the feelings of horror and outrage which all decent people feel when they read the reports of sexual abuse and allegations of cover-ups," the ACBC said in a statement.
The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Pell, said he welcomed the PM's announcement. “Public opinion remains unconvinced that the Catholic Church has dealt adequately with sexual abuse. Ongoing and at times one-sided media coverage has deepened this uncertainty. This is one of the reasons for my support for this Royal Commission.
“I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement. I believe the air should be cleared and the truth uncovered. We shall co-operate fully with the Royal Commission."
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ACBC response to Royal Commission
Time to clear the air, says Cardinal Pell