The Newcastle Herald's Opinion, Thursday, August 20, 2020: The Altar Boys will reopen wounds for some, and provide vindication and salvation for others

Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, Reverend Bill Wright. The diocese he has led since 2011 is again under the spotlight with the publication today of The Altar Boys. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Julia Gillard - who as prime minister ordered the Royal Commission that did so much to calibrate the extent of the problem - thanked the Newcastle Herald's Joanne McCarthy for convincing her of the need for an investigation.

Others, too, played substantial roles, including Sydney journalist Suzanne Smith, whose reports for ABC's Lateline program were crucial in attracting the attention of a national audience.

As we indicate in our front-page report, it is not a comfortable read. It was not intended to be.

What's more, Smith has put her investigative abilities to good use and come up with new evidence about the cavalcade of abusers who hid - and were hidden by others - within the supposedly sacred spaces of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

Anticipating the publicity and attention The Altar Boys will necessarily bring, diocesan management yesterday wrote an alert to its clergy, parish leaders, agency and school staff.

The book, it said, dealt with "particular aspects of historic child sexual abuse" and the "reality that some of our past leaders failed to protect the children from such abuse".

To its credit, while the diocese described the subject matter as "historical issues", it acknowledged that "the pain and harm caused by that history is present today for some survivors and their families".

Sadly, that pain is felt not only in Catholic families.

The Anglican Diocese of Newcastle was similarly exposed by the Herald, and by the Royal Commission, and it, too, is being looked at by an "outside" voice.

Melbourne writer Anne Manne - wife of the acclaimed Robert Manne - was in Newcastle for the commission's Anglican hearings and expects her book on that church's crimes to be out in early 2021.

Such scrutiny, while uncomfortable, no doubt, for some, can only benefit us all in the long run.

For it was the turned blind eye and canonical secrecy that empowered such abhorrent behaviour in the first place.

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