Churches `right place to start'

STARTING the royal commission into child sexual abuse by looking into the church is the right thing to do, the Anglican Bishop of Tasmania said yesterday.

Bishop John Harrower made the comment yesterday after the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, accused the media of making ``general smears'' on the Catholic Church in its coverage of inquiries into institutional sexual abuse.

``If the media have been able to identify cases in churches then so be it, let's throw open the books to a royal commission,'' Bishop Harrower said. 

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse on Monday.

The terms of reference are yet to be determined, but Ms Gillard said it would examine the actions of churches, sporting groups, not-for-profit groups like the Scouts, state care, schools and police responses to reports of abuse.

Bishop Harrower said discussions with Beyond Abuse spokesman Steve Fisher and other victims of child sexual abuse at the hands of the Anglican clergy in Tasmania convinced him a national royal commission was required.

``If they want to start with us, that's fine with me,'' he said.

Mr Fisher welcomed Ms Gillard's announcement.

He said Australians would be horrified by the extent of abuse and that it could implicate former members of several Tasmanian churches and Tasmania Police in covering up or ignoring abuse.

The Catholic Archbishop of Tasmania, the Most Reverend Adrian Doyle, said he also welcomed the royal commission and acknowledged that the church's handling of complaints had not been perfect.

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