After several state enquiries on child sex abuse by Catholic priests turned out to be a complete waste of time and money, yesterday Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced something we have wanted for years - a Royal Commission. It will probe organizations ranging from the Catholic Church and state authorities, to boy scout and sporting groups.
I'd wager there are a lot of very worried child rapists out there today, particularly those in positions of power, as their day of reckoning approaches. And we, the general public, are expecting nothing less than serious prison time for the perpetrators.
Chrissie Foster wrote a book about her family's ordeal at the hands of the Catholic Church and priest Kevin O'Donnell. Her eldest daughter is dead and her sister is a vegetable because she sent both girls to a Catholic Primary school.
An ever-vigilant mother, Chrissie couldn't believe it when she was told that Emma, her eldest child, was exhibiting classic symptoms of child abuse and O'Donnell was the suspect. How could this be she wondered, he had never been to her home and she had never left her girls alone with him, ever. Then they discovered that her spiritual protector, Kevin O'Donnell, had been sexually abusing her in a shower room at her primary school.
Then her younger sister Katie was singled out for abuse and she fell into depression. When her mother discovered a suicide note declaring her hatred for O'Donnell, who was by this time dead, Chrissie realized that both daughters were his victims.
In 1999, an intoxicated Katie ran into a busy main road and was struck by a car. She was in a coma for four months and awoke to a ruined life, unable to walk, feed or toilet herself. Their historic out-of-court settlement in 2006 could not save Emma, by now a heroin addict. She died 6 months before the Pope's visit to Australia.
The Fosters were prepared to co-operate with the church until they met with Melbourne Archbishop George Pell, now Cardinal-Archbishop of Sydney. He exhausted the couple with a "handful of trusted verbal tools" and urged them to "take your evidence to court." The church knew about O'Donnell as far back as 1949 and again in 1958. Both times he was relocated.
The Fosters showed Pell a photo of Emma with her wrists slashed, a sickening sight. He peered at the photo as said "Mmmmmm, she's changed hasn't she?"
In 2002, Pell told 60 Minutes journalist Richard Carlton he had never seen a photograph of Emma Foster but later admitted he had. He said his "lack of recall was an honest mistake."
Cardinal Pell said this week that his church has been unfairly targeted due to "anti-Catholic prejudice." He added "Public opinion remains unconvinced that the Catholic Church has dealt adequately with sexual abuse. Ongoing and at times one-sided media coverage has deepened this uncertainty. This is one of the reasons for my support for this Royal Commission."
Mr and Mrs Foster still fighting for victims