Monday, 23 July 2012

The way forward on handling abuse cases...

The abuse story bubbles on. 

The dioceses of Parramatta and Armidale have released the terms of reference for the Inquiry into the 'Fr F' case.  They look to cover the ground appropriately, while leaving it open to be able to comment on any other matters of relevance.

The Age has a story today of another failure by police to pursue action against a priest, this time Melbourne's infamous Fr Pickering. 

Based only on what is in the public domain, it is pretty clear that there are several more of these, highlighting the need for the Church to get in front of the issue, and pro-actively and transparently identify any cases that may not have been handled properly in the past.

On the more positive side, it is not often I can recommend an article over at Eureka Street (or agree with many of the commenters over there!), but today's article on this subject by Fr Peter Day of Canberra is a very constructive contribution indeed.

The bottom line, as the article suggests, is that:

"It is not good enough to adopt a siege mentality by blaming an 'aggressive anti-Catholic media'. It is not good enough to say 'that happened a long time ago under someone else's watch'. It is not good enough to say 'that's an Irish problem, that's a Boston problem', or that it is 'disloyal' to raise these matters publicly.

There has to be a collective, universal response: to remain silent and passive is to perpetuate the effects of the abuse on both victims and the Church."

Fr Day makes a number of concrete suggestions, all worth considering.   And some of the commenters add some important points to that.  Fr Mick Mac Andrew in particular, notes that:

"There has to be a collective, universal response..." and it can only begin if us priests are seen to be doing it, renewing our own personal lives of belief and action. We need to be seen and known for taking days of prayer, attending spiritual direction and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, engaging men of our parishes in asking their support as we live chaste lives..." "


Robert said...

Hmmmm, Fr Day's comments are indeed worthwhile.

Now you had better batten down the hatches and prepare for the screams of foam-flecked rage from all the usual suspects (female, in my experience, more often than male) who blame the entire problem on lies disseminated by the Protestants, the Freemasons, the Fairfax media, and (absolutely essential for your street-cred in trailer-trash land) the Joooooooooooooooz.

As for the "all the trouble occurred on somebody else's watch" gambit so popular within the episcopate, that reminds me of the proverbial Irish Communist who said, when asked how he could possibly retain party membership after Lenin's and Stalin's massacres, "It was a long time ago and it never happened anyway."

Let our bishops be reminded that if American law prevailed in Australia, it is highly likely that every last one of them would be at least facing trial and perhaps in prison already.

Tancred said...

I've repeatedly attempted to point out that this is a campaign on the part of people who themselves aren't clean with regard to child abuse.

The same weapons were employed against the Catholic Church in Nazi Germany during the 30s in order to drive Catholics out of education, and I'm afraid the same thing is happening again.

I'd trust a Catholic priest long, long before I'd trust a psychologist, a rabbi, a public school teacher or a policeman.

What there needs to be is some honesty about what the problem is, and it's not with faithful priests who have normal sexual inclinations.

Kate Edwards said...


While I agree that the campaign is in part being waged by those who are themselves implicated, there is an underlying reality here.

The reason the child abuse scandal continues to get fuel is not that it occurred, it seems to me, but the way it was covered up, the problem exacerbated by shuffling between dioceses, the somewhat half-hearted expressions of empathy with the victims until recently, and the continued lack of transparency around handling of cases.

And when it comes down to it, child abuse is not the only issue, but a symptom of a much broader one of a certain generation of priests who continue to reject the moral teaching of the Church over a range of issues, including homosexuality, contraception and co-habitation, and reject the requirement of obedience when it comes to the liturgy.