Nov 12, 2012

Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church

A break in your usual reading and a topic that is neither pleasant or in line with this blog’s purview.  I rarely comment on religious issues anymore but I can’t not pass comment on this topic.

I beg your indulgence dear reader and hope to stir within you some feeling that will lead to action.

I am an ex-Roman catholic, the church’s behaviour in regards to the abuse of children was not a consideration in my leaving, though on reflection perhaps it should have been.

Though never the victim of abuse, the church allowed myself and other students to come into close proximity of a known abuser, my junior high school Principal, Brother John Dyson. If you want to disgust yourself with the lack care displayed by the Church Officers (some of whom I knew ) for students and the callous disregard for the congregation, let alone the victims, go to Broken Rites a victim advocacy site.

What’s really got my fired up is the response to the calls for a Royal Commission into the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). When I refer to the RCC I am talking about the clergy.

But where to start, because the level of pressure being brought to bear seems to have have flushed a number of powerful people out who if not defending the church are certainly not acting with any great urgency or concern.

Who’s Calling for a Royal Commission:

  1. Victims groups like Broken Rites representing those who feel they can put themselves through the pain of standing up in court and reliving the experience(source).
  2. Police like Detective Chief Inspector Fox (source) and his open letter here
  3. Many others over a number of years
  4. The general community, fed up with hearing about the abuse and nothing being done.

What’s sparked it off this time?

  • An inquiry in Victorian where it appears some children in church care may have been raped and  murdered and the crime covered up.
  • Detective Chief Inspector Fox’s open letter to Premier Barry O’Farrell that have sparked an inquiry in NSW.

The Response

And this is where it gets sinister and you have to be careful not reach for the tinfoil hat.  Cardinal Pell has claimed that an apology is sufficient (for those whose cases that have been dealt with by that internal process that forces claimants to waive other rights) and that an inquiry into just the church is targeting his organisation disproportionately. That a commission should have a wider purview, that they are in essence not the only offenders.

Really! I mean REALLY!

Sounds reasonable to begin with.  I mean abuse occurs in every strata of society, in state organisations and in private, in families.  But the difference is that there is mounting evidence that the church exacerbates the problem by creating a safe haven for abusers, and providing them with more victims.

But Pell’s callous disregard aside, his pointing the finger at other unnamed institutions and the calls for a widening of scope give me cause for concern because other powerful figures seem to be echoing them.

Widen the scope and you do to things

1) dissipate the ire of the community and make the problem seem too big to handle(the public has a short memory/attention span)

2) you increase the time, staff i.e. costs

The RCC doesn’t want this inquiry. The want to ride out this scandal like every other one.

But I expect that from Pell and the RCC.

These sentiments were parroted by Liberal MP Joe Hockey a staunch catholic -  almost as if he were running a party line.

Hockey felt a royal commission was “ridiculous” that the problem was wider than the catholic church ( I see him making no other moves to tackle the problem though).  He also decided to speak for victims saying that he knew people who had been abused and they wouldn’t want to be put through the pain(source).

I’m sorry but the I have friends who are >Insert demographic here< and they agree with my view is a much over used rhetorical device. Speak only for yourself Mr Hockey.

Listening to Victims speak for themselves or via advocacy services you get a different picture(source). 

Labor Front Bencher and apparently a non Practising Catholic Bill Shorten, just wasn’t sure that a Royal Commission was the right thing to do. Saying that it wouldn't fix the faults.

Please! Fix the faults? 

One hopes that there’s no abuse currently underway, a royal commission is about determining culpability and gaining Justice.  If abuse and cover up is known to be on going, well…I just don’t know what to say.

Other politicians like opposition front bencher David Johnston raised the issue of expense and effect on the victims. Mitch Fifield said one denomination shouldn’t be singled out.(source)

To which I say, the RCC is not being targeted because its a Christian denomination, it’s being targeted because their appears to be substantial evidence that the institution is/has been involved in the abuse, alleged murder and of children and its subsequent cover up.


Damn the bloody expense.  Doing nothing will be more expensive in the long run – over 40 suicides in Victoria have been linked to clergy sexual abuse.  Think not only of lost lives and mental anguish of those left behind but of lost potential and lost productivity.

The victims, let’s hear them speak for themselves.

The Prime Minister seems non committal, one has to wonder what pressures the RCC can bring to bear on an atheist Prime minister when she can’t act to redress crimes committed against our most vulnerable.

Those that don’t want the inquiry, want to ride out the commotion knowing that we will all have other worries. Those that prevaricate over the decision need to be told in no uncertain terms that the Australian populace expect something to be done.  We need to give victims the confidence that should they have to give evidence and be cross examined that the pain will be worth it.

Thankfully there appear to be a number of back benchers, Greens and independents willing to push for action.  There’s also a petition being put forward by Lawyer Josh Bornstein, Catherine Deveny, Fr. Bob McGuire.

Please consider signing it.


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