For too long Australia has allowed the Catholic Church to protect sex offenders, and any information the Church holds on its own illegal activity, through its formal diplomatic recognition of the Vatican. It is the only religious body to be given these extraordinary protections.
Diplomatic immunity has hindered the Royal Commission from obtaining crucial church documents concerning repeated instances of child sexual abuse and it protects any senior church official from being extradited from Rome to stand trial for criminal offences.
Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“The Catholic Church’s protection is a historical artefact that should have been addressed decades ago.
“For too long Australia has let the Vatican avoid scrutiny, avoid providing crucial evidence it has on systemic instances of child sexual abuse and avoid holding its senior officials accountable.
“If the Vatican didn’t have diplomatic protection, the Royal Commission could have subpoenaed the Vatican’s Australian office and demanded that every email, file and other relevant document was handed over.
“If the Church didn’t comply then the Australian Federal Police would have the power to ensure the Royal Commission’s investigators could obtain the documents directly for the Church.
“Instead we are meant to be satisfied with a polite request being stubbornly refused, senior officials being immune from prosecution and an organisation not able to be caught.
“Can you imagine if Australia decided to grant Sunni Islam, or Scientology or the Anglican Church the same level of immunity as the Catholic Church?
“Until we remove diplomatic immunity from the Church and its senior officials we will continue to fail to achieve justice for people who we’ve already failed once.
“It is well and truly time past the time that we make the Catholic Church equal before the law and equal, at last, with its victims.” Mr Shoebridge said.