My Sisters and Brothers in Christ
The word “church” has many meanings. For some it can mean simply the building where we, as faithful, gather for worship, or it can be as an institution with laws, rights and responsibilities. However, no image is more significant than that of the Church as the people of God. All other images lose their significance if there is no living body of Christ.
Over recent days we have been presented with news that, for many, will disturb, upset and anger, as it involves a member of the hierarchy of the Church—Archbishop Philip Wilson—who had a significant influence in our Diocese during his time as Bishop of Wollongong. A guilty verdict has been handed down by the courts in relation to his failing to inform police about allegations of child sexual abuse when he was an assistant priest in 1976. I understand that he is considering the reasons for the verdict and consulting closely with his lawyers to determine the next steps. I do not offer any comment regarding the particulars of this matter.
The purpose of this letter is to recognise that many of you will be affected by the present situation with varying emotions ranging from confusion, anger and shame. As your Bishop, I stand with you in these emotions, with the added hurt that the events occurred in my previous Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
In December 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, released its report with many recommendations. As I mentioned in my Pastoral letter for Lent 2018: “all those who came forward and courageously spoke their truth to the Royal Commission … have given the Church a significant opportunity to reflect on how we are called to be the face of God in our world today. They have been the voice of the Spirit challenging us to be real and authentic in who we are as God’s people. Whilst it has been a difficult time for all, nothing compares to the courage of victims and survivors in coming forth and speaking truth—a truth that calls for action on the part of everyone.”
On my own behalf, I wish to offer my apology to all who have suffered abuse by members of the Church or are feeling hurt in whatever way by the actions of anyone associated with the Diocese of Wollongong. I wish to assure you that the Diocese is totally committed to the protection of children and young people above all else, and in remaining transparent and open in our communications to ensure that the safety of children and vulnerable people remains paramount. We have rigorous processes in place for dealing with complaints of abuse, and we give full cooperation to all police investigations and child protection authorities.
Like my predecessor, Bishop Emeritus Peter Ingham, I strongly urge any person with a complaint of mistreatment or abuse to come forward to the police through the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or contact the diocesan Director of Professional Standards and Safeguarding, Anna Tydd, on (02) 4222 2405. I also wish to offer support to anyone who is affected. If this applies to you or someone that you know, please contact Anna so that arrangements can be made for the appropriate support.
I ask that you hold everyone involved at this time in your prayers recognising that, as the body of Christ, we are a wounded people and like Mary stood at the foot of the cross looking beyond the cross to the resurrection.
Yours in Christ
Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
BISHOP OF WOLLONGONG
Our Lady Help of Christians | 24 May 2018