I want to commend the steps taken by Tasmania’s Anglican Bishop, Richard Condie, to redress the issue of child sexual abuse.
According to this evening’s ABC report,
“Tasmania’s Anglican Diocese is proposing to sell more than 120 properties, including churches, halls, houses and vacant land, to fund redress for survivors of child sexual abuse.
The church said it would need to sell just under half of its Tasmanian properties to cover an estimated $8 million of liability in additional payments to survivors.
It has been lobbying for the State Government to sign up to the National Redress Scheme for survivors, due to start on July 1 as a result of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The Tasmanian Diocese also agreed to increase the payment cap for its own Pastoral Support and Assistance Scheme from $75,000 to $150,000 per claim.
Previous claimants will be entitled to have their claims reassessed, which may result in extra payments.
The figure of $8 million is based on advice that 150 survivors may be eligible to receive the average payment of $78,000 under the national scheme, or a similar figure from the church’s own scheme.”
“Survivors will not be able to claim from both schemes but, unlike the national scheme, the Tasmanian Anglican scheme is open to non-Australian citizens, those with a criminal conviction or people who were abused as adults.”
Christian denominations and organisations have been rightly rebuked for the evil acts of child abuse that have been carried out by clergy and employees over many decades. The abomination is not only the fact that the lives of young children have been devoured by demonic men, but that some groups covered up the crimes, or through inadequate training others did not respond to the cries of victims as they needed.
In part due to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Australians are more aware of the depth and breadth of the issue, and positive moves are now being taken to ensure children are safe and that Churches and other groups are better informed as to how to deal with reports of abuse. It still saddens me that the Royal Commission was ever required, but we should thankful for the tireless work of those who organised and participated. It is also encouraging to see many organisations being quick to follow the report’s recommendations, and it is disturbing to hear of others who are slow to practice repentance.
The damage created by decades of abuse will remain with us for decades to come. Thousands of Australians have been personally scarred, and their families too. Confidence in many institutions, including Churches, has been understandably broken. Churches have given Australians reason to doubt the authenticity of the Gospel, and to disbelieve the witness of Churches. This should never have been the case, for the name of Jesus Christ is good and holy, and without a single spot of unrighteousness, and followers of Jesus are called to be like their Lord and show others how good He is. Yet men from hell came and covered themselves in white robes and stole innocence. God is just and their evil behaviour will be recompensed in full, but we are being naive if we believe that Aussies will quickly forgive or forget. We should not forget, we must repent.
I am reminded of the Law in the Old Testament. The Pentateuch may have fallen out of favour in our culture, like an out of date carton of milk, but perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to pass judgment. Yes, the Mosaic law sours when it’s misapplied, but the law is more useful and essential than we might be willing to admit. In reading the law we learn two profound truths: Justice is paramount, and mercy is desperately needed.
“Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.” (Exodus 23:6)
“Do not pervert justice or show partiality.” (Deuteronomy 6:19)
I thank God for Richard Condie’s leadership in practicing public and genuine repentance. He has not minimised the sins of past generations, and he is willing to go beyond recommendations in order to offer compensation to victims.
“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15).
Let justice be done. My prayer is that others will follow the example of the Tasmanian Anglican Diocese (and that of the Sydney Anglican Diocese who have also made welcoming steps forward).