Posts Tagged ‘child sexual abuse’

Only days ago I read this article about the Roman Catholic archbishop of St. Louis, Robert Carlson, claiming that he didn’t always know it was a crime for adults, including priests, to have sex with children.

He testifies that he’s not sure when he learned that it was illegal. He testifies that he’s not even sure he knew as far back as the 1970s that sex with children was illegal.

I was outraged. Furious. Either he was serious, in which case he should not ever have been placed in any position of authority at all, or he was lying his pants off in which case he should still never have been placed in any position of authority. And I have to also admit that there was an element of ‘only in America’ in my mind. But I was wrong.

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I had intended a more organised post expressly for #MondayBlogs. Unfortunately I am so distressed by a number of things it is going to be hard to be coherent .

Australia has just had its new Budget announced last week. The mantra accompanying it is that we all have to do ‘heavy lifting’. Despite repeated economic assessments that Australia is not in a position of budget crisis due to debt, that has continued to be their justification. Despite claim after claim after claim that there would NOT be any increased in taxes or cuts to welfare if this government was elected, it has been promise after promise after promise broken. This evening Treasurer, Joe Hockey, showed some guts in facing a large, hostile audience in a special edition of the current affairs program, Q&A. He did make some valid points. However he also revealed his blatant ignorance of a lot of life’s realities. He ducked the hardest questions by changing the response to addressing something a bit different. And he consistently dodged the matter of the less-affulent being expected to do the ‘heavy lifting’ while the upper end of town are better off under this Budget. Yes, there is a Mickey Mouse ‘deficit tax’ being levied on higher income earners. But that was also accompanied by other preferential treatment which lessens that impact of a temporary 2% increase which would only be introduced in a staged process over time (at least that is what we were told) in what is essentially an additional income tax. And the really high end of town continue to receive big bucks in things like continuing fuel concessions while the ordinary people face an increase in petrol excise at the bowser – not a big increase but an increase all the same while the likes of billionaires Gina Reinhardt and Clive Palmer continue to have ludicrously big fuel concessions. Every monetary gift to people like that simply drives up the profits they are making to their direct financial benefit. Not much ‘heavy lifting’ there.

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In Australia last week, the Federal Government announced the setting up of a Royal Commission to investigate child sexual abuse. This was a surprisingly prompt Governmental response in the wake of a New South Wales police officer going public with his concerns and allegations about the extent of the Catholic Church hindering investigations into allegations of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy. There was a significant public outcry calling for some realistic action at last.

The Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, generally referred to as the most senior member of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia, was quick to cry foul. His reasons over time for claiming any investigations of the Church would be unfair have variously included that they are already investigating such claims themselves, that they are already taking it seriously, that it is nowhere near as bad as claimed but a beat-up by the media and other interested parties, blah blah. Consequently Pell made a pious plea for any Commission to be more wide-ranging than just targeting the Catholic Church.

Not surprisingly, the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, a former seminary student and ardent supporter of the Roman Catholic Church, also supported the call for something far more wide-ranging than examining the Church. I am left with the opinion that the resulting Commission, the specific parameters of which are yet to be finalised, has been made far wider than the Church thus pandering to the likes of Pell.

In the wake of all of this, last Thursday Pell came out with the startling public statement that he believed the majority of Australians supported or at least had no problem with the way that the Church was handling matters of alleged child sexual abuse.

My immediate reaction was what bloody planet is Pell actually living on?

I was hardly surprised when the results of the latest Nielsen poll were publicised yesterday, Monday November 19th. According to that poll, 95% of Australians supported the establishment of this Royal Commission. Now even if you allow for the margin of error that is inherent in any such poll due to the very small population sample size that is utilised, that is still a majority of Australians by any definition. Does Pell really believe that the majority of that majority are supporting the establishment of this Commission while at the same time being so supportive of the Catholic Church? What’s going on – do we have about 20 million schizophrenics running around Down Under?

The reality of course is that any right-minded person is not happy with the actions of the Roman Catholic Church. Over the years we have seen strenuous denials of what was becoming blindingly obvious, investigations going nowhere, ‘civilian’ former employees of the Church revealing damning information such as direct knowledge of Church officials (ie clergy) deliberate hiding incriminating evidence where it would not be readily found etc etc. If the Church was, as Pell insists, taking matters so seriously, then why has it insisted it should be allowed to continue with its own internal investigations rather than being open to external criminal investigations that would happen pretty much anywhere else in the country? Why is the Church so vehemently opposed to being held accountable?

One of the real obstacles facing this Royal Commission when it comes to investigating the Catholic Church is the convoluted structure of the whole mechanism. The legal status of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia was strenuously tested in the Courts with an unsurprising finding in 2007 that the Roman Catholic Church cannot be held accountable for anything in Australia for the simple reason that there is no single entity as such. Every diocese (I believe there are something like 34 of these) are set up as individual, legal entities, entirely self-contained. There is no single point of accountability. The closest to such is the national Council of Bishops but that is still an unincorporated organisation hence the lack of any actual, legal national entity that may face prosecution or be sued. Then there are the various other Catholic enterprises that are not even accountable to any diocese or Church authority in Australia but instead report direct to the Vatican.

This entire structure is quite unusual and it is hard to see this serving any other purpose than to make it so very difficult to ever pursue any part of the Catholic Church for anything. There is a heap of at least anecdotal evidence of trying to take civil action against dioceses only for them to cry poor because their funds have gone to ‘the church’. Except, yet again, there is no entity to account for anything beyond that specific diocese. Pell was recently in the public eye over this as well. A particular Catholic organisation that allegedly has an outrageously high incidence of allegations of child abuse being made against it, received a large sum from the Church in Australia – specifically where from is unclear, yet again, due to that convoluted structure. Insiders have since reported that this fund was required to pay off people making such allegations. Pell denied this, claiming that the funds were required to ensure that organisation’s financial viability. Unfortunately the two are not mutually exclusive. But then Pell did a Pontius Pilate with the metaphoric washing of his hands – he insists that they have no knowledge of that entity’s internal dealings or authority over them as they are accountable direct to the Vatican. So, we can only assume that some vague, indeterminate body that somehow represents the interests of the Catholic Church in Australia had no problems with handing over large sums of money without any actual details of what is was really for or any accounting for how it was used. No, I don’t believe that either.

I am not anti-Catholic as such. Some of the loveliest human beings I have ever known have been products of the Roman Catholic Church. When I was in a hard place, I had some people from the Society of St Vincent de Paul come to my aid. But those sorts of people are not the ones that are the targets of these heinous allegations. They are not the decision makers who appear to go to ridiculous extremes to hinder investigations. They are not the ones trying to keep the Church free from any form or sense of socially and legally acceptable accountability.

The more we hear of this obscene situation, the nastier it is looking. The way I see it, judicial authority has to rule damned quick that no interference with the Commission or other legally instigated investigation is to be tolerated by any member of the Roman Catholic Church; that any person interfering with any investigation is to be subject to the full extent of the penalties of the law; that any person taking actions such as deliberate hiding or even destruction of relevant records is to similarly face the full legal penalties.

Finally, if George Pell is genuine in saying the Church as (informally not legally) represented by him is genuine about not accepting any child abuse within its ranks, then all he has to do is stand back and let it a proper external investigation go ahead without continually trying for the attempted pity vote by crying foul.

Sadly, judging by past experience, Pell and the rest of his bishopric mates will continue to propagate a system that holds itself above genuine accountability, especially for the destruction of young lives that has resulted.

Somehow, this aspect of the Christian Church, supposedly abiding by Christ’s teachings, seem to be ignoring the admonishment “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” But, Georgie-boy, don’t let your spiritual leader’s insistence that you be accountable to the temporal stop you from continuing to be as convoluted and uncooperative as possible and continue to deny any sense of legality, justice or even basic human decency.

Is it any wonder that for many people, the Roman Catholic Church is not so much a religion as it is a shining example of disgusting hypocrisy.

 

 

 

 


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Ross C. Hamilton – author and reviewer

Ross is a compulsive writer and reader. He never seems to be far from either something to read or something to write with. His other writing includes his blogs Words by Ross, Funny Shite and Ross’s Rant. www.rosshamilton.net.au
He is the author of the award-winning novella It Hides In Darkness and Conversations with Myself
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