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Catholic Church sets up new standards body

AAP logoAAP 21/11/2016 Megan Neil

An independent company will "name and shame" Catholic Church entities that fail to adhere to new national standards to protect children and vulnerable adults.

Catholic Professional Standards Ltd will hold the Catholic Church in Australia accountable as the church seeks to rebuild the trust destroyed by its handling of the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests and other clergy.

Among the church's many failures has been the lack of a whole system of accountability and clear, consistent and comprehensive national standards, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge says.

"CPS is the church's considered response to a crisis that has been heartbreaking for so many people," he said.

Tuesday's announcement is an attempt by the church to act ahead of further criticism from the child sexual abuse royal commission, which will hold its final public hearing on the Catholic Church in February.

"We have learnt many, many things through the agonising journey of the royal commission and we have in this case been prepared to be proactive," Archbishop Coleridge told AAP.

CPS will develop and then audit and report on compliance with professional standards to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable people involved with the church and Catholic service providers.

It will not have the power to force any church authority to change the way it operates or sanction those who fail to comply with the new standards, but Archbishop Coleridge said its public reporting of any failures would amount to a naming and shaming.

"They won't have the power to impose a penalty other than the public identification of failure, which in itself is a fairly potent thing," he said.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference vice president said there remain other forms of accountability within the church, including intervention by the Pope in cases of very dramatic failures.

The new company will not handle abuse complaints.

The plan is that it will work alongside the federal government's proposed national redress scheme and the church's much-criticised national Towards Healing and the Melbourne archdiocese's Melbourne Response protocols for dealing with abuse complaints.

Archbishop Coleridge said there could be further changes longer term.

"Towards Healing and the Melbourne Response may well undergo a seachange but I can't say that with certainty," he said.

"I think it's a time when we have to review all that we have done to ensure that it is best practice and if it's not, to take the kind of decisions and initiatives that are required."

Catholic Religious Australia president Sr Ruth Durick said CPS was a significant development in how the church operated in Australia.

"It is a decisive step forward for the church as we move beyond the royal commission," she said.

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