Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Why bishops find it hard to act....

If there is one thing the reaction of the laity to the Hepworth case illustrates, it is just why our bishops find it so hard to act decisively in abuse cases.

Springing to the defense

Go around the comboxes and discussion boards - including to the posts on this blog - and you will find many condemnations of Archbishop Hepworth's decision to go public, and of Senator Xenophon's decision to name the accused priest.

What does he hope to achieve, they ask?

Well, a serious investigation for one thing.  And appropriate precautionary action in the meantime.

What level of proof is necessary?

Acting on an accusation does not mean you think they are guilty.  It does not mean that the accusations will ultimately pass the 'beyond reasonable doubt' or some other test of proof.  It merely argues that there is a claim that needs to be properly tested.

The instinct to defend our priests is a natural and good one.  Our first instinct when someone we know or respect is accused of doing something that seems wildly out of character is naturally to spring to their defense.

Nothing wrong with that. 

But even as we offer them our support we have to be careful to allow proper processes to work.

Resistance to proper action

And that can't happen when the laity's first instinct is to resist even acknowledging the remote possibility that there might actually be a real problem that needs to be addressed.

It is precisely this kind of reaction that has made it difficult for bishops to take decisive action when known problems have occurred in the past.

It is precisely this reaction which has seen priests shuffled from parish to parish, or moved into quasi-administrative positions rather than actually removed from the ministry when they were known paedophiles or guilty of other serious crimes.

We need to let the light shine in on these cases with transparent processes. 

We need to urge bishops to take decisive action, whether precautionary or where guilt is reasonably established.

If we don't, we ourselves bear the guilt for any future crimes committed.

Not that support or otherwise appears to be much of factor in this case, as the latest updates suggest that since AB Hepworth went public, the archdiocese hasn't even bothered to make official contact with him, preferring instead to defend it and the accused priest in the media rather than by instituting an actual process...


little79bear said...

Glad to see you back posting, I really enjoy reading your blog.

Joshua said...

Ditto and Amen - where else can we get any Australian coverage, since CathNews and worse sources are so unworthy?

Anonymous said...

Kate, you are the best, so don't dare leave us again! We definitely need you especially seeing there are numerous bishop positions to be filled in Australia in the next 2 years which will hopefully alter the balance in favour of orthodoxy within the ACBC. Also, the province of Queensland now has the opportunity of once again becoming a fully fledged member of the Catholic Church in Australia with three new bishops (Brisbane, Toowoomba and Rockhampton)to be appointed by end of 2012.

Joshua said...

Exactly: don't dare close this blog again (apart from any other reason, you'd be acting like Dame Nellie Melba!) - you are needed; and the fact that you do discomfort some Traddies simply proves that your analysis is incisive, and that some Traddies do lack charity.

Kate said...

Too be honest folks, I've mostly lost interest in all that stuff, just occasionally stirred up enough to post.

And I think I've probably already had more comebacks then Nellie!

As for my reasons for not posting, they really have as much to do with where I am at personally (see the quote in the blog header!)as the lack of charity or other serious sins of either traditionalist cult members or the liberals of pseudo-church.

I got sick of having my posts mocked and misrepresented each week over at Cath News; and while lots of people read, few commented and actually engaged me (without getting personal and nasty).

But I appreciate your support and we'll see!

Nicholas said...

Kate, can I appeal to you to offer up as penance any of the mocking and other offensive stuff as all that really means is that you are having a good effect due to the truthfulness and integrity of your writing. It's the same as a good bishop - you know when you've got one based on the viciousness of the opposition. You've been given this wonderful gift, and with this you help others to see the truth. There is no compulsion on any one to read your blog, so if they quote you and then mock you publicly then all I can say is you must be doing it exceptionally well. After all, if you were unintelligent, uninformed, poorly educated in the faith and totally boring to read, who would bother to take notice of what you write?

Kate said...

Well actually there are lots of nutters on the web, some of which get taken a great deal more seriously than they should be! And the problem is always knowing whether or not you actually are one of them.

Bishops and priests are in a somewhat different situation, they have an official endorsement; lay people spout off may have a genuine charism/knowledge/experience to share, or not!

But I agree that there is an element of hypocrisy in urging others to take up their crosses when you are reluctant to do so yourself. Which is why I've been focusing on the mote in my own eye rather than the ills of the Church in general, and am inclined to continue to do so in the main until I actually am persuasive enough and gifted by grace enough to take my own advice (and those more authoritative than me) rather more consistently than I tend to...

Gabriel Austin said...

Bishop Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, has a simple solution. To a reasonable sounding complaint, call the cops. The actions, if true, are crimes. Let the secular authorities handle it, with all the protections given to those accused.

Kate said...

Not that simple Gabriel - Not everythng the Church regards as a sin is a crime, and in the case of the word of one person over another, not that simple to determine. And in this case the cops have long been part of the problem, not solution.

Gabriel Austin said...

It is that simple. Indeed, not every sin is a crime; but sexual abuse and harassment is a crime. If it were known both to the accused and the accuser that the legal authorities would intervene, certainly it would reduce the number of crimes.
Note that it is a sin to want to abuse, but not a crime.

One person's word against another is a common reply [generally by the guilty]. That is why it is better to call upon the experts.

That the police are often ineffective is a red herring. Should I not report a burglary because the police are often ineffective?

Kate said...

Sorry Gabriel but this approach simply doesn’t cover all of the possible situations, and certainly not the one I’ve been writing about here.

There are certainly cases where police action is appropriate, but it will never be always the case.

First, some sins such as sex between late teens and a priest may be perfectly legal, yet still an abuse of position.

Second, in other cases, the victim might decide they do not want to have their name dragged through the media in a public trial. That doesn't mean that their claims can't be tested though, and appropriate action taken.

Thirdly, the problem in some cases (take Adelaide for example) is not that the police are ineffective, but they are alleged to be part of the problem. In that city, forty years ago police allegedly ran vigilante squads (tossing homosexuals in the river, leading to one drowning), and victims could reasonably worry they might suffer a similar fate. More recently they have allegedly been involved in covering up for prominent paedophiles and facilitating their escape from prosecution...