Friday, 9 November 2012

Sin city updates...

The NSW Premier has announced an inquiry into police investigations into paedophile priests limited to the Hunter region, in response to this morning's claims by a senior police officer to the effect that Church continues to obstruct police investigations of child abuse.

The Inquiry will have the powers of a Royal Commission, but be strictly limited in its terms of reference.


That is obviously a disappointment for those who have been campaigning for a Royal Commission, but not an unreasonable response given the very serious claims, and quite specific that were made.

And if it is done properly, it should indeed disentangle and expose any connections between politicians, police and the Church establishment in the ways these events were handled.

But the real issue with paedophilia and its cover-up goes way beyond the Church, and into the sickness in society that developed in the rebellion against morality in the 1960s, and infiltrated and destroyed so many institutions.

Personally I still have mixed views about the case for a Royal Commission: on the one hand, the Church seems incapable of reforming itself; on the other hand, it is far from clear that a Royal Commission will have, on balance, a positive effect (the views to the contrary of Newcastle's Bishop Wright notwithstanding).

Either way, the overblown statements by assorted campaigners is not helping their cause.

One MP called on Cardinal Pell to resign for failing to fix the Church's problems in the state today.  That's just overblown and silly - not least because on the face of it Sydney Archdiocese has been handling this particular issue rather better than of its near neighbours (though it has to be said that the bar is not high on this count!) or the Cardinal's former Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Others in Victoria have suggested today that the Church should altogether abandon its own internal investigative processes.  Those processes clearly do need to be overhauled (again).  But for obvious prudential reasons, not to mention ensuring victims who cannot sue the Church in the courts do in fact receive some assistance, to abandon any internal investigation at all would be madness.

The comment today on Detective Chief Inspector Fox's claims to the effect that his comments relate to events that took place long ago, and yet he continues to talk as if it were still happening, made by Bishop Wright though seems less than helpful.  Not least because far from being about events that happened 35 years ago, as the Bishop claimed, some actually occurred in 2010...

Meanwhile on the St John's front...

Justifications for action (or inaction) continue to flow

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the story, I really have to say that attempting to spread the attack to include the other (Protestant) colleges on campus, as the story carried on the archdiocesan website  does, doesn't seem to me like the best PR tactic. 

Citing Germaine Greer (of all people's) comments on Wesley College, and noting that its been like this for fifty years just makes the whole situation worse not better in my view. 

Nor does the smirking face of well known alumnus (and shadow Treasurer) Joe Hockey do anything for the college's cause, though the story fortunately doesn't mention that other famous former 'Johnsman', Mr Misogynist himself, Opposition leader Tony Abbott...


R J said...

If Germs Greer hates Wesley, then perhaps I was unduly harsh in my earlier criticisms of that institution ...

Joshua said...

I beg your pardon - how dare you refer to the Opposition Leader as "Mr Misogynist"! That sort of character assassination is despicable. Shame on you!

luke172 said...

Hi Kate,

I'm a former student of John Denham, the Catholic priest who is serving more than a decade in jail on dozens of child sex abuse charges, and of Tom Brennan, the priest who was Denham's principal during that time and who was convicted of lying to police about complaints made against Denham.

I found out this morning that two of Denham's victims, both schoolmates of mine, are dead. One took his own life a couple of months ago after writing a suicide note which detailed the pain he suffered more than three decades after Denham abused him.

I fully support the call for George Pell's resignation. The man gave an interview to The Australian yesterday which perpetuates the backlash against child sex abuse investigations: claims that it's mostly in the past, it's not a systemic failing in the Church, it's anti-Catholic prejudice, nothing to see here, move on.

These distortions are a grave injustice to those young lives destroyed by the Church's silence.

Keeping a lid on the blight is what allows monsters like Denham to continue to hurt children in ways which lead them to hurt themselves. If those who are able to end the silence refuse to do so, they are equally as guilty as those convicted of the crimes.

The behaviour needs to change. The leadership needs to change. If George Pell won't lead the charge to open the archives and name the abusers and those who enable them, then Australian Catholics need him to be replaced by someone who will.

“It would profit him more that he be hurled into the sea with a millstone around his neck than that he should offend one of these little ones.” - Luke 17:2

Kate Edwards said...

Thanks Luke for commenting and drawing our attention once again to the real and continuing human costs of the abuse scandal.

And for pointing me to that article (I don't have a subscription to the Oz!).

What many victims seem to want, as you suggest, is those responsible being held accountable.

It truly is a disgrace that those in authority don't seem to understand the depth of the problem, the impact of the failure of those who carried out the coverup to be held accountable, and the continuing manifestations of the mentality in the here and now.

The Cardinal is right, I think, in suggesting that the Church is far from the only institution that was affected by the coverup mentality and that failed to deal appropriately with the sin.

But the Church is a more serious sinner by virtue of its status, by virtue of the trust placed in it, and by virtue of the ease of access to children it provided to paedophiles.

Moreover, I have to say I get tired of the line he put forward that suggests the Church traditionally thought once you repented and confessed that was the end of it.

Traditionally, those guilty of crimes, whether within the Church in society more generally faced serious punishments as well.

It was one of the false ideologies of the sixties that punishment went out of vogue, both in terms of the secular justice system, in the refusal to use the Church's own system of ecclesiastical penalties for those guilty of crimes, and in the confessional, where the 'one Hail Mary' for a serious sin mentality is surely part of the problem.

It is indeed deeply disappointing to see Cardinal Pell trying to sell this line.

All the same, while I'm no great fan of the Cardinal, there are more than a few others in the Australian episcopacy I'd like to see resign in front of him on this issue.

PM said...


I also spent much of my youth in Newcastle, and can attest that Catholic schools there were overrun with 'it all depends how you feel about it' pop psychology in the 1960s and 70s. Anyone who believed there was objective truth in matters of either faith or morals was written off as a fascist fossil.

And the clergy were by no means the only paedophiles in town, no matter what the ABC/Fairfax axis would like us to believe. If Cardinal Pell really is the Machiavellian he is made out to be, all he has to do is start outing judges, lawyers, politicians and arts, media and entertainment celebs. The ABC will then start tut-tutting about fascist homophobic witch-hunts.