It was purely coincidence but the timing of National Child Protection Week and a warm spring day couldn't be more appropriate for tireless campaigner Damian De Marco to be conferred with his Member of the Order of Australia.
The AM award presented on Tuesday by Governor General David Hurley is the latest of many which have been delivered to Mr De Marco for his unstinting efforts over decades to expose the sexual abuse of children under the care of the Catholic Church.
The former Marist College Canberra student and the 2015 ACT Local Hero bravely faced the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse six years ago, eschewing anonymity in doing so.
It was his crucial evidence which helped build the compelling case against former Canberra Marist Brother and proven paedophile Kostka Chute.
Last year 87-year-old Chute faced 16 charges, including 14 counts of indecent assault of a minor, one charge of buggery without consent and one charge of an act of indecency with a minor.
Chute was found unfit to plead on medical grounds and escaped imprisonment.
The anger of injustice still burns in Damian De Marco, together with sorrow over the many Marist boys who were victims but could not bring themselves to revisit the awful acts against them. Sadly, as a result, some have ended up taking their own lives.
A new book released in the past week, The Altar Boys, reveals that Chute was only one of several paedophiles who taught at Canberra's Marist College. The book reveals how a known paedophile, Brother Coman Sykes, preyed on a particular child for more than a year before he was given a Year 10 teaching role and rugby coaching position at Marist Canberra in 1982-83. His victim later committed suicide. It was one of many sexual abuse cover-ups by the Catholic Church, as revealed by the royal commission.
Chute's inappropriate behaviour was first acknowledged and reported in the early 1960s but it was covered up by the Marist Brothers as he was shuffled through a succession of senior teaching appointments in Lismore, Parramatta, Coogee and finally Canberra.
Mr De Marco said that he applied eight months ago to obtain the full list of 154 Marist brothers whose abuse had resulted in compensation to victims, or conviction. The information was not released.
Mr De Marco said he believed the "tipping point" had been reached where "society is basically telling the church that enough is enough".
"Canon law cannot be placed above secular law. This secrecy and blind obedience to church doctrine has ruined too many lives over too many years. It has to stop," he said.
One of the royal commission's key findings was that authorities should not exempt persons in religious ministry from being required to report knowledge or suspicions formed, in whole or in part, on information disclosed in a religious confession.
However, the clergy have said they will not break the confessional seal, even though it may result in jail time.
"How can these people be licensed to run schools, with thousands of children in their care if they won't respect common law?" he said.
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