THE royal commission on child abuse is about "10 years overdue" but will be challenging for already-damaged victims, an ex-seminarian says.
Ringwood resident Bob Munro, convener of fortheinnocents.com — a website that apologises to abuse victims on behalf of the seminary — said last week's announcement by Prime Minister Julia Gillard was a much-needed move in the right direction.
However, it also posed the question of how victims would respond.
"I think because the truth will come out they will get to see the different cover-ups over the years," he said. "But there will be some who, just being reminded of the memory of what happened, won't be able to cope as well."
Mr Munro said incidents of abuse within the church ran deep, and the commission would not be completed for years to come.
"It's a huge job. It's a very big problem on many levels . . . what's happened to victims and their families is tragic. Many organisations tried to protect their good name in the process."
Mr Munro, who launched the website with other ex-members of the seminary [theological college], said it was significant the commission would not just focus on the Catholic church but other religious and community groups: "It needs to cover everything. This is important."
Mr Munro said one of the most disappointing aspects was that the history of child abuse within the Catholic church had changed people's relationship with God.
"Many people have left the church. They've said, 'Blow this, I'm not coming back'," he said.
"Unfortunately, people have become fed up with the message being sent out by those within the church. They equate the person with the church."
Mr Munro described those involved in fortheinnocents.com as "ordinary people who want healing for those victims of abuse within the church". "We need to be able to listen. Just by listening to their story we can see the healing process taking place."
The website's welcome page includes an apology to the victims and families impacted by the "sexual or other abuse by clergy, religious teachers or workers". It acknowledges that "any apology we offer is in another category to that which might be offered by those who have committed the offences", but "it is offered in the hope that it will be but one part of the healing you need and are entitled to". Mr Munro hopes the commission will give more victims the courage to stand up and speak out about their experiences.