Bible reading prompts walkout at inquiry

(File: AAP)

A Gospel reading by a Catholic Church lawyer has prompted some to walk out of an inquiry into the handling of child sex abuse claims.

"What an insult" was the response of some people when the Catholic Church's lawyer quoted the Gospel of Mark at the opening of a hearing into how the church dealt with abuse victims.

About six or seven people left the royal commission hearing room in Sydney as Peter Gray, senior counsel representing the Catholic Church's Truth Justice and Healing Council, made his opening statement.

"This is a searing and decisive moment in the history of the Catholic Church in Australia," Mr Gray said.

"The sacred place of children, their innocence and their trustfulness, is central to the Christian tradition and to the Catholic faith. Many will remember from their own childhoods, ageless words from the Gospel of Mark."

He went on the quote the gospel, including the lines: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck, and he were cast into the sea."

It was then that people became upset, and the phrases "goodness me" and "what an insult" could be heard as they left the hearing room. They gathered outside, some in tears.

Mr Gray went on the say that the Catholic Church came before the royal commission "acutely aware of its failures in this fundamental part of its mission".

The Church "fully and unreservedly acknowledges the devastating, deep and ongoing impact of sexual abuse on the lives of the victims and their families", he said.

Before Mr Gray made his statement, the commission, which is examining the church's Towards Healing process, heard from Gail Furness, senior counsel advising the commission.

She said the data supplied by the church was incomplete and still coming in.

Data from January 1996 to September 2013 showed 2,215 complaints were received and 1,700 people agreed to participate in the Towards Healing procedure, although not all of these were pursued or substantiated.

The hearing continues.

Source AAP

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch