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Reporting church abuse 'should be mandatory'

Senior MPs Bill Shorten and Joe Hockey reveal their own personal experiences with Catholic church abuse on 3AW.

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The Catholic Church has neither the motivation nor the ability to investigate complaints of sex abuse by clergy, and "the number-one issue" is to stop it doing so, a police witness told state inquiry today.

"Where is the motivation for an organisation or person to pursue perpetrators when the consequences to that organisation are so severe?" said Patrick Tidmarsh, a Victoria Police adviser on interviewing sex-abuse victims.

Church bombshell ... 'A boy was taken off to the infirmary [unconscious] and never seen again.'

'Where is the motivation for an organisation or person to pursue perpetrators when the consequences to that organisation are so severe?'

He told the state inquiry on how the churches handled sex abuse that the Church's handling was so inadequate and perpetrators so persistent that "I can't think of a single case where a priest has not been moved and reoffended, and moved again and reoffended again".

Detective Superintendent Rod Jouning conceded that previous police procedures had been so inadequate that they could retraumatise victims, but Mr Tidmarsh said the new "whole story" approach was the best yet, leading to far fewer victims withdrawing their complaints.

This did not look for particular evidence so much as the whole narrative, including grooming and controlling the victim, he said, and required careful training of investigators.

"I find it hard to believe that any organisation that investigates itself could genuinely listen and understand the victims' narrative." They could not bring the open mind needed.

He said a church investigation could not bring the "crucial independence" the police had. "You can call someone independent, but that doesn't make them so," he said.

Independent Commissioner, Peter O'Callaghan QC, was used by the Melbourne Archdiocese to investigate abuse complaints.

Family and Community Development committee chairwoman Georgie Crozier gave a 10-minute "opening statement" replying to recent criticisms of the committee.

On Wednesday in The Age, this reporter wrote that the committee was secretive and doing a superficial and shallow job.

She said the committee had taken action to obtain documents from the Catholic Church. Fairfax Media is seeking comment.

She promised that every one who wanted to testify to the inquiry would be heard, and said that the public hearings and submissions were only part of the inquiry's work.

On Thursday the committee posted on its website "frequently asked questions" that answered many questions raised in The Age article.