It is now four weeks since the former Federal Court judge Antony Whitlam QC was named to head up the inquiry into how the Catholic Church handled allegations that a former NSW priest based in this New England diocese sexually abused children.
Mr Whitlam, son of the former prime minister and Labor party icon Gough, is examining whether the priest known only as “Father F” – we can’t publish his name for legal reasons – actually admitted to three senior priests in Sydney in 1992 that he sexually abused young altar boys but was not sacked by the Church until 2005.
The inquiry came in the wake of allegations aired on an ABC television report and then substantially reported in this newspaper in July this year.
The parents and family of one of those boys, the Jurds who live in Tamworth, have since spoken candidly and emotionally about the events surrounding the abuse their young son reported to them at the time.
Damian Jurd committed suicide in 2011 at the age of 28.
His parents and brother have spoken at length about what Damian went through and the subsequent pain and trauma they went through, especially with a court case in 1987 – reported by The Leader at the time – which saw the magistrate dismiss charges against “Father F” because he thought Damian, then a teenager, was not as credible a witness as the priest.
Other alleged victims have come forward too.
The inquiry by Mr Whitlam was announced and organised by the Catholic Bishop of Armidale, Michael Kennedy, along with his counterpart from Parramatta. Bishop Kennedy has vowed that victims of abuse and their families will receive justice and be treated with compassion and respect.
Bishop Kennedy has also undertaken for the report from that inquiry to be made available for public access.
Since the inquiry began there have been wider issues and reports of other abuse allegations in other areas, not least in other parishes.
This has led to a push for a royal commission into the Catholic Church’s handling of child sex abuse on a statewide scale.
Those calls have reflected widespread dissatisfaction over what many see as previous internal church investigations that have been wholly inadequate in achieving justice for victims of child sexual abuse.
Advocates for a complete and utter transparency to the Armidale/Parramatta inquiry will expect no less than that from this inquiry but what comes from that will be critical.