Sunday, 1 April 2012

Sex abuse, sexual immorality and hypocrisy

As come into this Holy Week it seems a particularly appropriate time for us all, individually and collectively, to consider all of our sins of the past; all the things we need to change going forward.

Symptoms rather than causes

The recovery of sexual morality, both inside the Church and in society at large, is surely one of the biggest issues of our time.

Its subversion, within the Church and outside it, in favour of the cult of pleasure - the exaltation of the needs of the individual over the good of society as a whole - is at the root of so many of the issues that plague us today: the child sex abuse scandals and their appalling cover up within the Church and outside it; the millions of deaths legitimized under the guise of abortion; the homosexualist attack on marriage and more.

Child abuse and Melbourne

Yet instead of seeing these issues as part of a greater whole, we continue to deal with symptoms rather than causes.  The current calls for a Government Inquiry into the handling of sex abuses cases, a call allegedly supported by some Melbourne priests, by the Archdiocese of Melbourne are a case in point.

Melbourne, like many other dioceses, has a shall we say less than stellar track record in this area.  And on the face of it it is been slower than most to acknowledge the fact and move on, insisting instead on sticking (alone out of all the Australian dioceses who generally have adopted the 'Towards Healing' Process) to its much criticised 'Melbourne Process' despite a seemingly never-ending stream of complaints about it, from its psychological services, claimed conflicts of interests of the various parties involved, slowness to act against priests found guilty, and much more.

Recovering citizenship

But the real issue in Melbourne and elsewhere is surely not just child abuse, it is the failure to preach both in words and deed, particularly on the part of those appointed especially to the task, what the Church professes to believe not only in the area of sexual morality, but also in relation to personal responsibility and accountability for sin generally.

Let's be clear.  The person found guilty of a crime has no right to a good reputation!

It is not enough to say sorry collectively. 

It is not enough to assert that we are handling these matters better now.

What is needed is an all out program that starts with priests and then engages the laity to recover the idea that Christians are promoting the common good of society, that Christians stand not for short-term pleasure and self-indulgence but for the future of our children and their children.

We need to acknowledge that there will always be sinners and deceivers in our ranks.

But we also need to show that our leaders are held to a higher standard of accountability, because by virtue of their office they must show us the correct path, show us as well as tell us how we should act.

Society is failing

And because the Church has failed to clean out its own house in this area, it is failing society at large.

Consider these appalling secular cases in just the last week:
  • the man jailed for abusing his step-daughter as a child but who has had his identity suppressed (despite the victims wishes) lest it jeopardise his business when he gets out of jail in NSW;
  • the case of the Adelaide paedophile finally brought to justice, protected for decades by a series of State Governments who refused to abolish time limits on cases that blocked pre-1980s cases from coming forwards;
  • the former senior SA MP facing child pornography charges, but whose identity has been suppressed (though easy to find using google and wikipedia!).
In fact South Australia remains something of a low spot in Australia on this front:
  • the Adelaide judiciary still don't appear to have quite come to have fully come to terms with the concept of prosecuting members of the establishment - the case mentioned above was tried in closed court with all transcripts suppressed, and even after he was found guilty his name was suppressed for eight months;
  • then there was the case of the teacher husband of local celebrity author Mem Fox, who avoided jail altogether;
  • and no one has ever been charged for The Family's crimes, despite the fact that 'everyone' over there, including the police, claims to know exactly who they are...
Secular hypocrisy or a failure of Christians?

There are those who would argue that these cases illustrate that the Church is being unfairly attacked in this area given that abuse is just as widespread outside the Church, and often far worse crimes given far less attention and lower penalties for those caught.

There is a grain of truth in this of course.  But the better view, in my opinion, is that this sort of hypocrisy can only prevail because the Church is failing to do its job, undermined by its own cover ups, failure to appropriately discipline its priests, and failure to insist on its own teachings in all areas of sexual morality.

The role of the Church is not to assimilate, whether to 'the Adealide way of doing things", the Melbourne way, or any other. 

The role of the Church is to show radical, challenging, prophetic leadership.

To attract and convert by the example of the holiness of its members and the power of its teachings.

Let's reflect on how we might take the Church's true mission forward this Easter.

4 comments:

A Canberra Observer said...

I am trying to finalise my submission to the Senate Inquiry on the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010. Looking around, there are well argued sumbissions from quite a lot of organisations(wrong but well argued within their own philosophical frame of reference).

What's there from the 'leadership team' of the Catholic Church I have to ask? Well, didley squat. Have a look at the ACBC website and you would think it is an organisation for crochet and craft. While some of them do act in their own dioceses, and others talk tough but do little, it seems collectively the only things they can do publicly are beyond parody.

I fear that this legislation which will make the unnatural 'normal' is going to overtake us. And what leadership have we had from our leaders? And will we end up in a Tudor situation where to cling to the faith will mean risking all?

Kate said...

It is strange (and telling) that the ACBC website and blog (ironically still busily promoting its own how to use the new media confernece instead!) have no reference to the Victorian initiative or any submission or other material on this topic.

Nor is there any mention of the issue on the Canberra Archdiocese site.

But have a read of Cardinal Pell's submission, and a look at the Melbourne website which does have some supporting material - both quite gooding points at least, and I thought Bishop Prowse was doing a good job in his various media pieces.

John Fisher said...

Absolutely true. Look at the way the Stannies abuse has been handled. Have the Vincentians used canon law to remove members of the province found guilty of abuse in the civil Courts...have the Vincentians done anything to expel members who they know are guilty even without the law...NO.

A said...

Kate,

Thanks for your comments.

Canberra Observer: It is truly disappointing that the ACBC website is totally lacking in information in this regard. Attention is elsewhere obviously.
The Victorian bishops came out with some resources with their letter on Palm Sunday.

John Fisher, I would just say from experience that the Canon Law processes when comes to removing a religious are extremely lengthy and require an arduous amount of bureaucratic work.
It seems the Curia in Rome is never satisfied and will often take their own sweet time on these matters.

Jim