But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:14

One of the truly horrible things to be emerging from the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is not just the way that organisations, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, effectively aided paedophiles by doing nothing about them, but the disgusting defence being offered up.

The Royal Commission has at least twice heard the defence from senior Catholic clergy that they did not know if it was a crime for an adult to molest children. The same defence was offered up in 2014 by the Bishop of St Louis in the USA.

In the matter of a seemingly notorious member of the Marist Brothers order, Gregory Sutton, a former principal of the Marist Brothers school where Sutton was enjoying his proclivity to sexual molest boys was made aware of the allegations. But did nothing. When appearing before the Royal Commission, the former principal, John Holdsworth, retreated to the disgusting “I didn’t know” defence.

“It didn’t enter my head to involve the police…I saw it as serious but I’m not sure about the criminality.”

“Do you mean you didn’t know it was a crime [to molest a child]?,” Royal Commission Chair, Justice Jennifer Coate asked.

“I’m unsure, it could well be the case. I’m unsure of that,” Mr Holdsworth replied.

Harbouring these rock spiders is not just a one-off aberration. For example the Marist Brothers sheltered and protected another serial offender, Brother John William Chute, for decades until a victim’s family took matters to the police which saw Chute found guilty and sentenced to prison in 2008 for offences in the Australian Capital Territory. Further charges were then laid against him in New South Wales in 2015. And the Chute cases demonstrated very clearly that the Roman Catholic clergy and other orders had zero interest in taking any meaningful action, always seeking to protect the Church ahead of all other concerns.

Former Catholic bishop Ronald Mulkearns - photo source abc.net.au

Former Catholic bishop Ronald Mulkearns – photo source abc.net.au

And now we are seeing it all yet again. Only yesterday Ronald Mulkearns, former Catholic bishop of the Ballarat diocese in Victoria from 1971 through 1997, informed the Royal Commission he was not sure if he knew child abuse was a crime during his time in charge of the Ballarat diocese, but he knew it was wrong. So did he actually do anything about the fact that there were priests molesting children in his diocese? According to Mulkearns, yes he did. But he didn’t actually ask the suspected offenders about it, he just sent them off for counselling before moving them on elsewhere. Why? Because we are supposed to believe that he did not know it was a crime for an adult to have sexual activity with a child.

Is this now the standard defence from the Roman Catholic Church? “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realise it was a crime for an adult male to stick his erect penis into a child’s orifice.” Is the rest of the world assumed to be so thick that we are expected to believe it? More importantly, what is going to be done about it? The case against the Catholic church really has reached mountainous proportions – many, many years of not just refusing to do anything about serial paedophiles but indirectly aiding their proclivities by sending them around to yet more parishes. Why? Because the shepherds were at all costs to be defended ahead of obligations towards their flock. Or in the case of Sutton and the Marist Brothers, promoting him to the position of principal of one of their schools. Isn’t it a crime any longer to be an accessory before or after the fact?

Somehow I am pretty sure that Christ’s message according to the Gospels was not intended to be taken to mean ‘send the kids here for our sexual pleasures.’

I am a writer, reviewer and troublemaker. To keep up with my rabble rousing, why not follow this blog as well as Words by Ross and A Writer Goes On A Journey. And don’t be afraid to share this if you like it.

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