Stop clergy sexual abuse of vulnerable adults

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Clinical psychologist Dr Gerardine Robinson, who has spent years treating clergy through the Catholic Church’s Encompass program, says research suggests that for every child sexually abused by clergy, four women and two men have been victims. Based on the 2790 child abuse survivors who presented evidence at the Royal Commission, this could equate to 5580 men and 11,160 women in Australia over the decades.

Researcher Stephen de Weger who conducted a Queensland University of Technology study with victims of clergy sexual misconduct recognised that adults who became involved with a priest were usually vulnerable due to having marital or family problems, seeking spiritual or emotional guidance for problems in their life, being physically or mentally disabled, being a widow or widower, isolation, loneliness, old age, poor health or wealth, etc.

There are also nuns and seminarians sexually abused in convents and seminaries due to the imbalance of power. There are also migrants, refugees sexually abused due to them needing help in the new country.

Professional caregivers (doctors, therapists, lawyers, social workers, etc.) are prohibited by codes of ethics from exploiting their clients or patients to meet their own emotional and psychological needs. Priests should also be prohibited by the same professional code of ethics from sexually abusing their parishioners or people in need.

We the undersigned request and expect this be done expediently and thoroughly with adequate accountability. This is not a once and done but an ongoing effort to eradicate predator priests and church authorities.

1. The Church will immediately release the names and files of all clergy sex offenders and make them available to the public. 

2. The Church will make appropriate effort to discreetly identify and protect adult victims.

3. All verified vulnerable adult victims of clergy sexual abuse will be compensated for counselling and any medical care related to the abuse. 

4. The Church will establish a Code of Ethics, prohibiting priest to remain, who have used their position to sexually abuse vulnerable adults. 

5. There will be education to priests and the congregations to remove this plague upon vulnerable adult members of the church community and adequately identify behaviors and habits of predators.

6. The Church will form accountability mechanism run by laypersons to hold priests accountable for exploitation of victims.