Collective responsibility for righting past wrongs

The Anglican Church in Tasmania is proposing to sell over 120 properties to fund its projected obligations to provide redress for survivors of child sexual abuse. 

This sacrifice expresses the church’s desire to provide restorative justice, recognition and support to survivors for the wrongs they have experienced by past leaders of the
church.

So, who is responsible for paying for these wrongs? As the current members of the church didn’t perpetrate the wrongs, one might think they should not have to pay.

But the church should pay, because taking collective responsibility for past wrongs is not only right it is profound and powerful.

I remember exactly where I was the morning former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd made the historic apology to the aboriginal people of Australia.

I remember the tears that flowed down my face, and how proud I was at that moment to call myself an Australian.

For years the debate in Australia had raged that we, the current generation, hadn’t mistreated the Aborigines, so didn’t have a responsibility to say “sorry”.

But how profound it was to have the nation take collective responsibility. The speech is etched in many of our minds, as the right thing for a mature nation to do.

Taking responsibility in that way was a powerful way for the country to move towards healing and restoration for the people who had been wronged in our country so many years before.

The Diocese of Tasmania has acknowledged the sins of the past. We have apologised many times for the hurts inflicted on innocent young children in its name by its leaders.

On 26 July 2000, my predecessor Bishop John Harrower, gave the following apology to victims of child sexual abuse by Anglican clergy and church workers in Tasmania. I continue to reaffirm this apology.

“…I am deeply sorry for what took place. I make an unreserved apology to those who were abused by clergy or other officers of the Anglican Church in Tasmania. My heart goes out to those of you who were abused. Those abuses should never have happened, and I pledge myself, as Bishop, to do all I can to ensure that such abuses do not happen again.”

Now we who are the church today have the opportunity to take responsibility for the next step of the apology by taking the collective costly sacrifice to provide redress to survivors.

This is a whole church collective responsibility. That is why all 48 Parishes will contribute financially to fund redress.

The heart of the Christian message is that the innocent one, Jesus of Nazareth, took the punishment for the sins of the whole world. Sins that he did not commit.

Making a costly sacrifice to right past wrongs is a profoundly Christian thing to do, and most worshipping Anglicans I have spoken to in the last weeks are prepared to do it gladly.

The Anglican Church is connected to our ancestors who gathered weekly to worship God and built the church buildings we treasure.

But we are also connected to those before us who did the wrong. As much as we appreciate the good parts of our heritage, we need to deal with the bad parts of our heritage too.

Over the past 18 years, the Anglican Church in Tasmania has worked collectively towards righting the wrongs of the past.

In 2004, the residence of the Bishop of Tasmania, “Bishopscourt” was sold for $1.5 million and all the proceeds were used to fund our own redress scheme – the Pastoral Support and Assistance Scheme.

We have developed Safe Church Communities programs to screen, educate and develop church leaders working to ensure we don’t repeat past failures.

With Jesus as our model of costly sacrifice, the Anglican Church in Tasmania is fully committed to redress, whatever the cost.

 

The Right Revd Dr Richard Condie
Bishop of Tasmania

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