The Bishop of Parramatta, Vincent Long Van Nguyen, has told a royal commission [that] he suffered sexual abuse by a member of the clergy after arriving in Australia as a refugee from Vietnam in 1981.
Bishop Long told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse he had enormous empathy for victims.
“I was also a victim of sexual abuse by clergy when I first came to Australia, even though I was an adult,” he said.
“That had a powerful impact on me and I want to walk in the shoes of other victims and endeavour to attain justice and dignity for them.”
The bishop, 55, told the commission [that] ordained ministers have too much power in the Catholic church and too little accountability.
The lack of women and lay people in leadership positions in the Catholic church has contributed to the high proportion of child sexual abuse allegations, Bishop Long said during the inquiry.
“The marginalisation of women and the laity is part of this culture of clericalism that contributes not insignificantly to the abuse, sexual abuse crisis,” he said.
“If we are serious about reform, this is one of the areas that we need to look at.”
That reform could include giving lay people more power over their parish priest, the commission heard [the bishop as saying].
“The laity have no meaningful or direct participation in the appointment, supervision and even removal of the parish priest,” Bishop Long said. “I think that needs to change.”
Bishop Long, who was installed as Bishop of Parramatta last year, told the inquiry [that] the hierarchal culture of the institution needed dismantling.
“As long as the bishop has the backing of the Pope, he’s safe,” he said.
“As long as the priest has the backing of his bishop, he’s safe. There’s no accountability that reaches downwards or outwards and that’s the critical problem.”
Bishop Long, who received a round of applause from observers in the hearing room, said Pope Francis was “leading the way” in addressing the power imbalance in the Catholic church.
Six bishops and archbishops from around Australia gave evidence at the 11th day of the hearing, which is examining factors behind alleged child sexual abuse in the Catholic church.
Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn Christopher Prowse told the inquiry revelations of widespread abuse claims have “been like a bushfire going through the Catholic church or a tsunami effect, on faith and people’s trust in us”.
When asked by commissioner Andrew Murray whether he would demand “no more secrecy; no more cover-up” from Pope Francis, the Archbishop responded: “If I had the opportunity, most certainly.”
Archbishop Prowse said the church was trying to “work more transparently with government agencies” in responding to child sexual abuse.
“The gravity of the sex abuse is really starting to dawn on us and we can see that we simply don’t have the resources on our own to cope properly with this. And even if we did, it’s not appropriate,” he said.
━ as published in the website of PNA Australia, Inc. & PHCAA