Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Betrayal of Trust: Victorian Inquiry Report

The Report of the first of several inquiries into Child Sex Abuse in Australia, by a Victorian Parliamentary Committee, is now out and it's damning.

The full report is two volumes long, and I haven't read it yet (assuming I can bear to do so), but the Executive Summary gives a taste of it.

Why was the seriousness of the crime not appreciated by the Church?

It devotes several paragraphs to putting child sex abuse into context.  Here is the opening one:

"Conduct of this kind has been condemned by society for centuries. It has attracted severe penalties under our criminal law for a long time. Up until 1949 buggery of a child under the age of 14 and rape were offences that carried the death penalty. Expert knowledge of the effects of child abuse has been in the public domain since the 1960s..."

 And the judgment on the Church flows from that:

"In regard to the Catholic Church specifically, the Committee found that rather than being instrumental in exposing the criminal abuse of children and the extent of the problem, senior leaders of the Church:

trivialised the problem
contributed to abuse not being disclosed or not being responded to at all prior to the 1990s
ensured that the Victorian community remained uninformed of the abuse
ensured that perpetrators were not held accountable, with the tragic result being that children continued to be abused by some religious personnel when it could  have been avoided.

Analysis of the Catholic Church’s past handling of this problem shows that as an organisation it had many of the internal features of an organisation at high risk of its personnel perpetrating criminal child abuse. These features include its:

trusted role in caring for children
culture and power
complex hierarchy and structure
teachings and beliefs
processes for responding to allegations—including the failure to report abuse to the police
response to alleged offenders—including the relocation and movement of offenders and failure to suspend them from their duties."

The inadequacy of the Melbourne Response and Towards Healing

The Report is also highly critical of the way the Church and other organisations have handled complaints since the 1990s, listing out several features of the process that have contributed to victims sense of dissatisfaction.

It makes a large number of recommendations, including changes to the law around mandatory reporting, the liability of those in charge of organisations, compensation and more.

You can read more on the Report and early responses to it here:


Joshua said...

Two phrases, evidently insufficiently reflected upon by our hierarchical superiors, come to mind: "Mortal sin" and "everlasting damnation". What foully sinful priest or heartlessly negligent bishop would not tremble at the judgement to come when they go to meet their Maker?

You'd think that, if any sin would be perceived, even by the most wishy-washy liberal, as deserving of punishment in hellfire, it would be raping children; and that if any sin would demand condign punishment, not to mention instant removal from the service of the sanctuary (which ought be for the purest of the pure), it would be this.

Indeed, why were too many complacent about such priests – who had again and again broken their vows, let alone in a grossly immoral and utterly illegal manner – to the extent that they didn't even stop them from saying Mass? I am tempted to add that they would certainly have stopped innocent priests from saying Mass in Latin, evidently in their eyes a far more wicked crime than being a pedophile.

It beggars the mind to try to see how such outrageous evil could ever have been tolerated, much less winked at or connived in.

I suspect that few of those bishops and priests who either covered up or committed these crimes seriously believed in the awful fate awaiting unrepentant sinners, or ever reflected on those words to the effect that it would be better for those who offended the little ones to have never been born, or to have been thrown bound hand and foot into the sea, so terrible will be their fate.

And to name names, Bishop Mulkearns of Ballarat is one who should be degraded from the episcopate - yes, even now in his extreme decrepitude - and subject to strict canonical sanctions, told to fear and tremble and beg forgiveness, that mayhap he may be saved in the Day of the Lord: for I would hate to have his sins of omission and commission on my conscience. He is one bishop whose soul is, to be frank, in danger of perdition. Let the ACBC say THAT, rather than some pious puffery of their usual variety, and I'll think it rather more Catholic than it appears to be.

And Frank Little ought be dug up and dumped in a pauper's grave for much the same reason: a bad, bad man if ever there was one.

Clericalism is at fault here - and I mean this in a totally orthodox sense! - since no lay person, let alone a parent of children, would permit even one such detestable act to pass unpunished. Priests are expected to be holy men who pray, not devilish monsters who prey.

James said...

I dare say that various of the local masterminds who call themselves "Catholic" will soon be parroting the 2002 verdict (30 Giorni, May 2002) of Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga - one of the more reliably ignorant, insolent, and self-pitying members of the Third World hierarchy - that the clerical sex abuse scandal is a beat-up invented by ... Jewish media bosses.

R J said...

It would seem that Manny Waks and his family (Manny Waks has been extremely active in the fight against homosexual abuse among Orthodox Jews) are getting from many of their co-religionists the same stone-walling, and worse, which we Australian Catholics who want to bring perverts to justice are getting from ours:

Matthias said...

Thank you Joshua for your comments. What we have here are church leaders who should and must be replaced,publicly repent and then retire. They have shown a willingness to cover up crimes whilst being more interested in stopping the Old Rite rather than doing the right.

James said...

Matthias observes of church leaders that they have been "more interested in stopping the Old Rite rather than doing the right."

While this is often true, mere support of the Old Rite is not in and of itself a guarantee that a priest will never be a pervert. Consider the case of Fr Ronald Denis Pickering, long active within Melbourne's Latin Mass circles:

And Pennsylvania had its own clique of Latin Mass perverts, many of whom broke away from the SSPX:

PM said...

To add to James's point, one of hte worst offenders in Austrlia, Denis McAlinden, was sent out from Ireland in the late 1940s and taken in by a bishop who was an old-school Irish Redemptorist. (Classic Irish clericalism: fire and brimstone for the laity and sweepign it under the carpet for ourselves.) This isn't an issue for partisan point-scoring.

Rob Stove said...

In March 2013, for what it is worth, I wrote the following words:

"Our Dennis Altmans and Bob Browns have no fear of serious Catholic pressure, when again and again the Australian hierarchy's purported opposition to perversion has been as theoretical (not to mention damnably cynical) as H.V. Evatt's purported opposition to communism. Evatt, at least, could plead insanity. What's the bishops' excuse?"

There is not a syllable of the above quotation that I would now, in the aftermath of the inquiry, retract. Its concluding question, of course, remains unanswered to this hour, despite - or, for all I know, because of - attempts by me and innumerable others to seek elucidation from certain hierarchs, not to mention NCC operatives, on this very topic.

Anonymous said...

I must say that I was a bit disappointed with this investigation.
Yes, it did tell us the sad news that children were abused in non-government institutions, particularly the Catholic Church. This was not something new as we have been repeatedly made aware of it many times.
It also told us that the Church acted irresponsibly. Nothing new again!
A number of Bishops and even Pope Benedict acknowledged this and apologised.
I was disappointed that the investigators blamed the Church for the wrongdoings of a few. There was an insinuation that this abuse was somehow connected with Church teachings and beliefs – which is false.
I was disappointed also because it did not address child abuse in all institutions, including government ones. Do not those who were abused elsewhere deserve the same attention?
Someone very dear to me was abused at a very early age by a pervert because of the negligence on the part of officers in a government institution. He is still going for therapy and pays for it himself. Do officers of the government get special exemption?
Of course, the fact that the Bishops behaved just like people in charge everywhere did, does not justify their actions.
The committee did suggest imposing criminal responsibility where “a person in authority, intentionally or recklessly fails to protect a child from harm or abuse”, and also for “failing to report a serious indictable offence against a child”.
Our lawmakers were found wanting as well.