A display of protest placards sit outside the Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse Feb. 23 in Sydney. (CNS photo/David Moir, EPA)
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SYDNEY (CNS) -- Five Australian archbishops testified before a government commission on child sexual abuse, reiterating apologies and taking responsibility for actions that occurred before they were church leaders.
They also said they believed the culture of church and society had changed enough that it would help such abuse from occurring in the future.
The abuse of children in the church was "a catastrophic failure in many respects, but primarily in leadership," Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth told the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Feb. 23, near the end of three weeks of public hearings.
Gail Furness, the counsel assisting the commission, asked four other archbishops if they concurred with the assessment, and all agreed.
The commission is wrapping up more than three years of investigation into the Australian Catholic Church's response to child sexual abuse. During the initial hearings Feb. 6, the commission reported on summary data showing that between January 1980 and February 2015, 4,444 people made allegations of child sexual abuse that related to more than 1,000 institutions. The statistics did not differentiate between allegations and proven cases.