Our Work is Underpinned by Compasssion, Integrity and Justice.
Last week we heard more stories about the shocking abuse of young children in the care of the Catholic Church.
Later in the week Bishop Greg Thompson from the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle made the announcement that some 20-30 former clergy and lay workers from the Diocese were under investigation for child sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s.
He also announced that serious complaints in the past had not been given a fair hearing in a culture which protected the powerful and the institution they represented.
Thank God for the Royal Commission which has empowered abuse victims to tell their stories in a safe environment, sometimes after decades of suffering.
Surely there could be no worse betrayal than the abuse of children in a church which has hitherto been well known as a place which offered safety and sanctuary for the vulnerable.
Putting the needs of the institution over the needs of people we have hurt is contrary to Christian teaching. Jesus, the son of a carpenter from somewhere in the Middle East, was arrested and tortured to death because of his tireless efforts to support the vulnerable against powerful groups in the community(religious, political, military, racial). The followers of Jesus “Christians” are called to continue this struggle in every era. Words are not enough. We have to live out what we believe.
All our work at Samaritans is underpinned by the strong Christian principles of compassion, integrity and justice. Samaritans policies and procedures ensure that in our care for children we must always be rigorous in screening future staff and volunteers and we must be equally committed to really listening to children and responding to their concerns.
In this type of care we are fully accountable to external bodies whose legislated role is to ensure the safety and wellbeing children. This is a good thing. Society should have safeguards to prevent the abuse and neglect of children.
Churches were for too long exempt from these safeguards.These Churches now need to revisit their mission, governance, policies and practices to get back on track.
The Anglican Church, both here in Newcastle and across Australia, began this process a few years ago with the introduction of robust professional standards systems.
Bishop Greg, in his announcement last week, has vowed to continue these reforms, to be fully accountable for the past, and to acknowledge the shame and profound regret church members have that people have suffered harm in the church.
Samaritans is fortunate to have a skilled and committed Board of Governance to oversee our caring work across the region. However, we are part of the Anglican Church, Bishop Greg is the agency’s President and we will assist him in any way we can in the challenging days ahead.