Kids Treated As Objects: Archbishop

The Age [Australia]
June 28, 2003

The Anglican Church had treated children as objects rather than human beings deserving dignity and that attitude sowed the seeds for abuse, Brisbane Archbishop Phillip Aspinall says.

Children had fallen victim to abuses of power within the church, Archbishop Aspinall told the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane's annual synod.

"It is sad but probably true that even today in the church there can be a tendency to treat children as objects to be used, rather than as intrinsically valuable human beings to be accorded dignity in their own right," he said.

That view, which gave children secondary or no status and allowed them to be used as objects by those with power, was fundamentally flawed, he said.

"Therein lie the seeds of sexual and physical abuse," he said.

A report of the Anglican Church's inquiry into child sex abuse was tabled in Queensland parliament on May 1.

The inquiry was sparked by allegations that former Governor-General Peter Hollingworth had ignored complaints of abuse at church schools and in the community while he was Archbishop of Brisbane.

Since his election in February 2002, Archbishop Aspinall has revoked six clergy licences, suspended five other priests pending investigations, reported 40 abuse complaints to police and settled 31 claims via voluntary mediation.

Complaints about the church's handling of child sex abuse were still coming in although the number had dwindled, he said.

"All these matters are serious but ... the kinds of complaints that are coming, in recent times, are less serious on the overall scale of things," he told reporters later.

"So I think the message is getting through but we need to be constantly vigilant."

"It's not something we can fix now and then forget."

"These processes have to become embedded in the culture of the church."

Archbishop Aspinall said the Anglican Church's inquiry had been a heavy burden for many, including himself.

"Nobody finds it easy ... to be open about things that are shameful, painful and hurtful," he said.


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