Child Protection Sunday

4 September 2019 | General Interest

The Catholic Church in Australia observes Child Protection Sunday on September 8, in conjunction with National Child Protection Week. I am not sure that Child Protection Sunday was a designated Sunday in the Church’s calendar ten years ago. It is a sad indictment on our society and on our Church that child protection has to be highlighted. That is not to say that the protection of children has always been upheld. History reveals children have always been vulnerable and many have been brutally treated, maimed, exploited, held in detention and sexually abused by adults. But the revelation that numbers of ministers in the Church have been found guilty of child sexual abuse has led many Catholics to question their allegiance to the Church they grew up in. We know many have walked away.


We have now lived through the Royal Commission into the sexual abuse of children and been shamed by the testimonies of the survivors. While governments and Churches have set up bodies to mandate legislation and establish safeguarding practices to protect children and vulnerable adults, there is still much to be done to transform culture, structures and accountabilities within our Church. Every secular and Church institution - Diocese, Parish, School - is required to name a Safeguarding Officer (hopefully supported by a Committee) to implement child safe practices. Codes of conduct, working with children checks, and policies – are all part of the landscape today. Still people are yet to be convinced that a cultural shift is happening. Rarely a day goes by when a new case is not brought to light. At times we can be left wondering if lessons will ever be learnt from the past.

However, we are the Church – the People of God. Each of us has a role to play to ensure our communities provide a safe environment for every child. We must never ever again be complacent in not speaking up for the rights of all children. On this Child Protection Sunday, let us resolve to do our part. Let us always remember the survivors and all children as we ask God’s mercy, healing and protection.