More and more schools across the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat are choosing to recognise victims of clergy sexual abuse, not through erasing their perpetrators from history but rather in highlighting the failings of church leadership.
Warrnambool's Emmanuel College became the latest school to recognise this failure by unveiling a plaque this week .
Emmanuel College principal Peter Morgan said the plaque was to acknowledge a past failing and the terrible consequences of failing to act.
He said it was now understood that former Bishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns did not act when complaints of sexual abuse were made.
Mr Morgan had earlier recognised St Patrick’s College in Ballarat and the precedents set by headmaster John Crowley in the difficult task of balancing competing demands while respecting victims of abuse.
Mr Morgan’s tribute this week focussed on the survivors and the failings of Bishop Mulkearns who repeatedly failed to address the issue of clerical offenders in his diocese.
"As a result children and young people were preyed on and submitted to physical, emotional and sexual abuse," he said.
"His failure to provide the protection that is the right of every child, left the door open for damage to occur, damage that destroyed the lives of individuals, of families and sometimes whole communities."
Mr Morgan said that over time society had come to understand that the wounds caused never disappeared.
He said it wasn’t possible to turn back the clock or right the wrongs of the past.
“But, as a place of learning Emmanuel College knows it can shape this generation and future generations to be people of integrity, people who care for one another and people who act when another’s safety is at risk,” he said.
“We have reached this step today following 12 months of deliberations.
“I acknowledge the courage and the generosity of one local victim who provided me with guidance and insight.”
Mr Morgan said those conversations assisted in asking the crucial question – what is the right thing to do?
“So, we take this step today not because we seek approval or recognition but because it is the right thing to do,” he said.
At the unveiling event, In Good Faith Foundation president Paul Holdway spoke on behalf of victims and congratulated Emmanuel College.
In Good Faith Foundation president Paul Holdway said it should be a victim/survivor speaking but it was a measure of their shame and pain that they were not prepared to attend the unveiling of the plaque.
He thanked the college for recognising the pain caused in the past, saying it was a step in the healing journey.
"This school’s being honest, it has responded by telling the truth and the truth will set you free," he said.