NSW - A Royal Commission?
The case with potentially the most far-reaching consequences is the decision to charge Maitland-Newcastle priest Fr Tom Brennan for failure to report the case of John Denham to the police, effectively making it a test case for coverups. He has also been charged with physically assaulting two boys who reported being abused, and sexually assaulting one of them. Fr Brennan was school principal at the time, but was subsequently Vicar-General for the diocese. You can read Bishop Wright's statement on the case here.
The Newcastle Herald is also running a campaign for a Royal Commission in New South Wales - follow the link above and you can sign the petition if you wish.
Certainly given the unresolved and to date unsatisfactory investigations, particularly when it comes to accusations of failure to act and coverup, that have occurred in too many cases - such as those against Broken Bay Director of Schools Brother Anthony Whelan - the case for a Royal Commission looks stronger every day.
Meanwhile in Victoria, a reader tells me that the Parliamentary Inquiry has extended the date for submissions for another month, to September 21, in order to ensure that everyone gets the chance to have their say.
Meanwhile in the 'they just don't get it' file...
And for further evidence of the nature of the problem, there was a curious interview featured this week on the US National Catholic Register with Fr Benedict Groeschel of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
The friars, which he founded, are one of the new conservative orders who have a done a lot of good work.
But Fr Groeschel, a psychologist by training, made an unfortunate comment about some priests being the victims of teenager seducers, and not necessarily deserving jail for a first offence!
First this seems just naive - as some have pointed out in various places, perpetrators often develop a narrative that they truly believe to justify the unjustifiable.
More fundamentally, though, even if it were true, who is the adult and who is the child! That someone makes sexual advances to you can never justify responding to them, particularly where they are minors.
And that a priest who should know better can still come out and say things like this suggests just how far the Church still has to go on the learning curve...
The newspaper, friars and Fr Groeschel have subsequently apologised and pulled the article, but that it could be said and get printed at all is surely telling.
**Update: And now I see assorted blogs providing defences and calling for prayers for Fr Groeschel in his terrible hour of trial! And being promoted on the very sites that linked to the original interview without comment.
Please, folks, think a little harder about this. He said something at the very least, very silly and hurtful and he said it very publicly; he's rightly being taken to task for it.
Are some of the comments and speculation unfair? Perhaps. Probably.
But in my view, not as unfair as the pain the victims have and continue to experience, particularly when they come across comments of this type.
Moreover, when comments from a priest appear to reflect a certain mindset, it is only natural to wonder whether this is yet another sad another case where appearances have been deceptive. Once burnt, twice shy...
On the more positive side, there is a rather more realistic appraisal of the depth of lay anger over this issue and the problems for the bishops of regaining trust in a talk by Bishop Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on the subject which should be compulsory reading for all Australian bishops. It doesn't really offer any solutions, but it does point out that the kind of responses offered to date have not been effective and are not likely to be.
In particular, he reports that in a recent US survey, the bishops basically got a fail mark:
"The bottom line, though: thumbs down for the bishops. For example, 59% of the respondents said that the bishops have done the bare minimum, while only 9% think that the bishops have done a good job of being transparent about past cases of abuse. 55% say the bishops are less likely to cover up abuse cases today than in the past. Remarkably—and this will certainly disappoint you—34%--just over one-third—believe that "parishes and schools are now safer for children thanks to safeguards implemented in the last 10 years."
Would the results be any different here? I very much doubt it...