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Archdiocesan response to The Age investigation into Corpus Christi Seminary

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Media and Communications Office 
 
 The Archdiocese of Melbourne was approached by The Age on Wednesday 11 September with questions concerning a number of historical assertions, some of which focused on Corpus Christi College, the Catholic Seminary for the Province of Tasmania and Victoria.
 
The Archdiocese acted quickly to ascertain the facts of what was being claimed, and answered the newspaper on 13 September, working with a short deadline and limited information provided by the newspaper.
 
On Tuesday 17 September The Age published a story in relation to this topic.
 
Abusers were named, all of whom are already known by the Church, and in many cases by civil authorities. A number are directly associated with the Archdiocese of Melbourne, while others were trained for a different Diocese or Religious Congregation.
 
The article alludes to information about inferred behaviours to which the Archdiocese is not privy.
 
Should new information be raised, the Church in Melbourne will examine any related claims thoroughly. Anyone with relevant information or concerns is encouraged to raise them with the relevant civil authorities.
 
Below is a copy of the media response from the Archdiocese of Melbourne in response to questions posed by The Age:

MEDIA RELEASE
Friday 13 September 2019
 
Corpus Christi College
 
Corpus Christi College has been the place of formation (‘Seminary’) for men preparing for the Catholic priesthood since 1922. It is a provincial seminary owned and governed by the five dioceses located in Victoria and Tasmania. It has never been operated exclusively by the Melbourne Archdiocese, although most students for the Archdiocese have been formed there. Historically, the College has been located at four sites: Werribee (1922-1973), an additional faculty at Glen Waverley (1960-1973), Clayton (19741999), and now Carlton (since 2000).
 
Contemporary Seminary Formation
 
Today, Corpus Christi College forms future priests in a professional environment that includes human, spiritual, academic, pastoral and missionary formation. Unlike in past eras, seminary formation includes both female and male leadership and professionally qualified staff for a number of years. A comprehensive program of professional standards and safeguarding training is provided by the Professional Standards Unit of the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
 
The contemporary seminary is a place of learning-in-community and formation for leadership, where the screening processes, testing and orientation, models of learning, training in co-responsibility and preparation is under constant review. It is intended to be a place of excellence so that our future leaders will be bold witnesses to their faith and true Pastors of their people, especially in the protection of the most vulnerable.
 
As seminarians progress through their training (usually over a seven-year period) they undertake undergraduate and graduate studies at the Catholic Theological College (CTC), an affiliated College of the University of Divinity which was approved as Australia’s first specialized university from 1 January 2012. CTC offers an environment that combines theological study with pastoral placements. It is a colearning institution, with significant numbers of lay academic staff, non-seminarian students, and which offers opportunities for ecumenical and secular learning.
 
Selection and Screening
 
The Dioceses of Victoria and Tasmania have insisted for many years that every seminarian who enters into seminary formation undertake a thorough psychological assessment administered by a registered independent clinician. The seminary in consultation with its consultant psychologist has developed a further assessment of its students toward the end of their formation in response to the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards.
 
There has been a tendency to overlook that seminary formation was one of the issues considered in Case Study 50 of the Royal Commission. As the Royal Commission showed, the history of seminary training has not always been consistent, and in some instances major failings of care are on the public record. This is not the case today. In Corpus Christi College, psychological expertise is engaged in both the screening of men chosen to be seminarians as well as for their ongoing care, maturity and development.
 
The inadequate standards of the past are not the reality today. The Catholic community, and our wider Australian society, has a right to expect the Church to choose and prepare its leaders with a capacity to serve parishes faithfully, build a culture of safety for children and vulnerable people, and respect the law.
 
Allegations of Abuse in the 1970’s
 
Questions have been asked about a number of priests. All those identified have substantiated findings of abuse against them either by courts or Melbourne Response. All of them are either deceased, in jail, laicised or removed from all public ministry. The Archdiocese encourages anyone with information to inform the relevant authorities.
 
Safeguarding and Child Safety
 
The Archdiocese of Melbourne has fully adopted the national Child Safety Standards, has developed and implemented a comprehensive policy and framework of safeguarding, is rolling out ongoing professional standards and training for its priests, seminarians, workers and volunteers, and works with the Commission for Children and Young People in building a compliant institution.
 
Safeguarding for children and vulnerable people is a major priority in the mission of the Archdiocese, which has a dedicated Professional Standards unit currently undergoing expansion.
 
As a member, the Archdiocese fully supports the work and direction of Catholic Professional Standards Limited. 
 
A comprehensive policy on safeguarding and professional standards is applicable across the Archdiocese of Melbourne and child safe training is conducted for priests and parish staff in parishes. Ongoing training and review of relevant policies constitutes a key part of the day to day work of the Church so that compliance and excellence in protecting children and vulnerable people are maintained.
 
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