RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
A commission on child sex abuse in Australia has completed a landmark, five-year investigation of the problem there. As NPR's Scott Neuman reports, the panel's final report offers sweeping recommendations for the country's Catholic clergy.
SCOTT NEUMAN, BYLINE: The Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse interviewed thousands of victims over the years and produced a 17-volume report that included hundreds of recommendations. In this audio from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised the commission for what he called its often harrowing work.
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PRIME MINISTER MALCOLM TURNBULL: What that commission has done has been - exposed a national tragedy. It's an outstanding exercise in love. And I thank the commissioners and those who had the courage to tell their stories.
NEUMAN: The commission looked at abuse in schools and sports clubs, as well as churches, but it found the biggest problem in Catholic institutions. And it had some far-reaching recommendations - calling on the Australian Catholic Church to ask the Vatican to lift the celibacy requirement for priests, saying there was evidence of increased risk of abuse when celibate male clergy had privileged access to children. It also recommended requiring that any evidence of abuse revealed in the sanctity of the confessional be reported to outside authorities. President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, says he'll pass on the recommendations to the Vatican, but he also pushed back on the issue of violating confidentiality.
DENIS HART: The seal of the confessional or the relationship with God that's carried through the priest and with the person is inviolable. It can't be broken.
NEUMAN: He goes further to say that there is value in celibacy.
HART: It's a difficult thing. It's some that - a point - I think it's the commission made - that not everyone can live up to.
NEUMAN: And when asked if he thought the report was damaging to the church, he said no.
HART: If you were to ask me - what is the position of the church now? - I would say that we are diminished because our people are sad at what has happened. Many are angry at the betrayal of the trust that should've been able to be given to leaders and to priests and so on.
NEUMAN: Among the commission's other recommendations is the establishment of a National Office of Child Safety and making it a crime for anyone failing to protect a child from abuse within an institution. Scott Neuman, NPR News.
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