I am concerned about Gillard’s Federal Royal Commission into institutional sex abuse. The media have concentrated on the Catholic Church and whereas they have a lot to answer for and should be a part of the RC they are not the only perpetrators and, evidence might suggest, they are not even the largest perpetrators.Reading The Drum, the enclave of Leftist debate, it’s all about the Catholics, yet in my experience, and I have some, the Church does a huge amount of good works with tens of thousands of Teachers, school kids, Priest, parents and laymen all contributing to the community in positive ways. What we are getting from the media, understandably I guess given that the anti-religious Left hold sway, is an emphasis on the minority who besmirch the Catholic name. If the Commission names and shames these people and they eventually go to court and are convicted then well and good but we need to keep in mind that the target is institutional sex abuse and not just the Catholic Church. State run orphanages, schools, youth groups such as Boy Scouts and Girl Guides and other religious institutions need to get a run as do the Indigenous community. Which raises the question – are the Indigenous communities an institution – will they be included in the TOR. If not, and I suggest that will be the case, then in my opinion the Commission will not be broad enough. Mal Brough, a previous Howard Government Minister reports on sex abuse within the Indigenous communities;
“And those who have not read the report, Little Children are Sacred, its two authors visited 45 communities in the Northern Territory. They didn’t find sexual abuse in some of those communities, they didn’t find it in most of those communities, they found it in every single community; 45 out of 45. Think about that, the enormity of that for a moment. “Let me take you to Kalumburu. Kalumburu is up in the East Kimberleys. It is a town of about 300. There are only 90 males in Kalumburu. It’s isolated by the wet for a good part of every year. The wet will set in some time this month. “Of those 90 men, in the last two months 15 have been charged with child sex offences. Fifteen out of 90 men. These are the charge sheets. Not one page, not two pages, not three pages, four pages. “They’re all an offence against a child, predominantly penetrating a girl or a boy under the age of 13. Who were these 15 men? They were the mayor, the deputy mayor, two other councillors, the police liaison officer, a truancy officer, two wardens. “What does that tell you? These are people of authority. These are the people that white fellas like me and bureaucrats turn to, who go to consult with about answers to their communities, who we give money and more empowerment to and we walk away saying, haven’t we done a good thing.”Scott Prasser, in today’s Australian has a well written piece on what Royal Commissions can and can’t do and recommends that;
The Gillard government must avoid any perception that there is any political advantage being derived from appointing this royal commission.But I’m and old skeptic – I’m afraid it will turn into a witch hunt and I don’t believe the ALP do anything for altruistic reasons. I suspect they will drip feed ‘leaks’ over the course of the Commission whenever they need distraction from their own incompetence and if Tony Abbott ever walked past a Catholic Church or went to Mass where there is or was or might have been a questionable Priest who might have, or might not have abused children, then rest assured we will hear about it. I truly hope it works as there are a lot of damaged people out in the community but I guess only time will tell. Disclaimer: I am not a Catholic but was born a Methodist. I became non religious but subscribe to the ethics and moral compasses espoused by the religious bodies.
I doubt very much that the Drum has any anti-catholic bias. What may exist within the ABC is a sense of disconnection with the values of the church which have changed markedly since the advent of the current Pope.
Vatican II back in the mid sixties set the course of the church in the direction of inclusion, liberation and encouraged dialogue and flexibility. Many liberation movements saw their origins in Vatican II. Notable amongst these was the rise of Solidarity in Poland, and many Social Justice movements in South America. Out of it grew Liberation theology which is a Catholic political movement which interprets the teachings of Jesus Christ in terms of liberation from unjust economic, political, or social conditions. It has been described by proponents as “an interpretation of Christian faith through the poor’s suffering, their struggle and hope, and a critique of society and the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor”, and by detractors as Christianized Marxism.
Like many other Catholics of my generation, I was brought up in this tradition. Much of my political viewpoint is based on Liberation theology because it matches neatly with my belief and value system. I work in my local parish in the social justice group. We work with migrants and refugees.
Pope Benedict (Joseph Ratzinger) a man of the Right, also known as the Vatican’s Rottweiler when he was a Cardinal is seeking to reverse many of the trends set during Vatican II. Recent evidence of this was the sacking of our local Bishop (Bill Morris). It’s no coincidence that Toowoomba diocese has more social justice infrastructure than any other Australian diocese. Bill Morris also handled an incidence of child abuse in St Saviour’s school in Toowoomba in an honest and open manner by making an immediate and very public apology and ensuring that there was no contest by the Diocese to any of the claims. In doing this, he ignored George Pell.
All of this is relevant in terms of the Royal Commission. Institutional abuse needs a culture (a medium for growth) in which to thrive. Any institution characterised by hierarchical power structures, rigidity and a mono gender makeup is at risk. Moves to open the church up to married clergy and women in the priesthood have been stoutly resisted by Ratzinger. This was one of the issues that got Morris booted, and all he did was write a letter about it to his diocesan laity.
Like many other practising Catholics, I see a connection between the power structures grimly held on to by the old guard in the church and child abuse. I welcome the enquiry, and would like to see some recommendations at the end of it that look at institutional structure. My church needs to be liberated from its medieval roots, and move back to the political centre-left where it fits best.
I don’t argue your points about the Church joining the 21st century but of course I would want them to be apolitical. Re ABC bias: Leigh Sales seemingly indignant that the RC isn’t just targeting the Catholics is a case in point. As a general rule if I think religion is OK then the ABC wont.