TRUE OPINION: The Catholic Church – which has enabled the rape and sexual abuse of thousands of children and brought upon the world arch-villain paedophile, George Pell – is still claiming that its so-called special relationship with God means priests shouldn’t report incidents of child abuse told to them during confession. The hypocrisy and evil is maddening, writes Tim Kent.
Across the world religion is fighting for credibility.
In defending that fight senior elements of institutions like the Catholic Church are creating the illusionary war of ‘victimhood’: us vs them, under siege from external and nefarious forces. Worse still, they are trying to drag true Christians and other everyday Aussies into this religious war illusion which is nothing but another distraction.
A little while ago, the former Howard Government Minister and Liberal Party heavyweight, Phillip Ruddock, was commissioned at great expense to conduct a review into religious freedom. Yet, even he failed to find evidence or support the hypothesis that religion is under siege and therefore requires additional protections.
However, that wasn’t the answer the likes of Christian happy clapper and charlatan, our prime minister Scott Morrison, were hoping for. So, we’re at the point where his government of no-hopers and hypocritical frauds is trying to squeeze through a religious freedom draft bill.
Now, we’re all front row witnesses to a long-running culture war battle and media debate over “religious freedoms” and the accompanying shoddy and usually made-up stories about how brave Johnny couldn’t have a Christmas party at school because Abdul the scary, little, whiny Muslim kid and his ISIS terrorist parents weren’t happy about Jesus being better than Muhammad. It’s a go-to story each festive season for the likes of the Daily Telegraph, 2GB and the weirdos who hang around the Australian Christian Lobby.
The truth is religion, including Christianity, has done a fine job trashing itself. Child sex abuse and other scandals historically and internationally have made it abundantly clear that the Church has failed and is still failing to address its credibility issue. There is no war against the church. This is justified public disgust and contempt for the reality of the institution and the crimes committed under its watch.
To suggest greater freedoms are required is an assault on public morality and sensibilities if not ultimately an absolute show of contempt and disregard for the victims. In addition, should such a bill go ahead in Parliament, it will provide greater discriminatory flexibility. Yes, let’s allow these child abuse enabling institutions even greater freedom to discriminate. Great idea, indeed. Yes.
Here is the Catholic Church, an institution despite its many human sins asking for the public and its government to transfer upon it greater freedoms to discriminate in the name of religion, yet is not even willing to compromise one iota when it comes to the important issue of protecting children from abuse.
Earlier this month, the Church yet again provided yet another example of the disregard, contempt and resistance to reform that comes from senior members of the Catholic clergy. This time, these brave Christian soldiers were decrying moves by state parliaments in Victoria and Tasmania that will see priests face “possible jail terms if they do not report information regarding child sexual abuse made during the sacrament of confession”.
Among these fine men we can count the likes of Melbourne archbishop Peter Comensoli as well as his predecessor, Denis Hart. It was Hart who just two years ago when the laws were first flagged declared he would rather go to jail than report incidents of child abuse related to him during confession.
To that glorious list, we can now also add the archbishop of Tasmania, Julian Porteous. A fortnight ago just after the laws were passed by Tasmania’s parliament, Archbishop Porteous declared that he and his church would be “unable” to follow the laws.
“I believe the Tasmanian bill will not strengthen protections for children and vulnerable people, but it will have the opposite effect — as offenders will be less likely to come forward to confess serious sins for fear of being reported,” Archbishop Porteous said.
“This will deny priests the opportunity to encourage offenders to report themselves to police.”
On display, yet again, was a blatant act of arrogance and contempt for common law and child protection act principles. It is further mind boggling in light of the the George Pell conviction and the track record regarding prosecutions of clergy all over the world for child sexual abuse. Across this nation there are relative and uniform laws regarding mandatory disclosure when it comes to child abuse including sexual. Every health worker, nurse, teachers, police ambulance officer and the like are required by law to make notifications of abuse even if it is suspected intuitively.
What is not being asked of the Catholic Church is to broadly expose or reveal the sanctity of the confessional. What is being implicitly asked of them is that when details of child sexual abuse are revealed in the confessional either by the perpetrator or the victim then the Church is required by law to fall into line with the mandatory notification requirements. So what is the big problem?
“Unable” to comply with new child abuse laws: Tasmania’s Archbishop Julian Porteous (Image: Supplied / Twitter)
This resistance is deeply suspicious. Its rationale is weak if not brittle and smacks of the type of control the Church not only feels comfortable but still wishes to pursue. If allowed to continue it will no doubt bolster the perfect platform for a continuing concealment of one of the most if not the most heinous crimes against some of the most vulnerable members of our community, our children.
One would be hard pressed to calculate the sheer number of people – young people – over time that would have attended the confessional and divulged that they had not only been sexually abused but identified their attacker, perhaps a member of the clergy, and the information has gone nowhere.
Similarly, perpetrators it is alleged have not only used the sanctity of the confessional to erase their guilt via prayer and penance but have also enjoyed the anonymity that Canon Law gifted them.
At the groundbreaking Royal Commission into Child Abuse, there was a clear finding indicating that dialogue in the confessional had indeed been hypocritically broken by the priests rather cruelly, conveniently and selectively in order to silence the victims by way of ‘pay back’ that involved an escalation in sexual and physical abuses. At times, priests hearing of abuse during confession would simply warn their paedophile colleagues that one of their victims was dobbing them in.
This issue needs to be addressed pragmatically and without ambivalence for it should never have been about the protection of the Church. It is an issue of child protection. Denis Hart, Peter Comensoli and their ilk, in their dogged resistance to change have forfeited their claims to be truly Christian. And it appears in doing so they are desperate to protect their brand, even if it means breaking the law. Refusal to comply with the common law should result in incarceration if that is what Denis Hart and his mates like Archbishop Porteous want.
There is no wriggle room for this debate, period. The Church has failed, failed and failed again with their ‘in house reforms’ which are akin to getting the fox to guard the hen house. Indeed, they placed a paedophile rapist in the form of George Pell in charge of the Church’ response to child sexual abuse. Each time it is left to the Church to sort this out, and the result is each time they want their “deal or no deal” which benefits not only them but keeps their power base intact and perpetuates the control and mythology it is their last bastion of survival.
The Church’s counter debate is of the papier mache variety and must be called out on the grounds of child protection because they and even their God have done nothing to save these poor children from these monsters of the abyss. There’s been close to Zero, Zilch from the Pope himself in outright distancing or condemnation of Pell’s actions or a specific initiative from him to ensure this does not happen again.
The right-wing media enablers are no better. We still have selective empathy from the likes of Andrew Bolt to Miranda Devine, who are desperately telling all and sundry that Pell has been “wronged” and it’s a “witch hunt”. Again, these self-aggrandising columinsts bankrolled by a cretinous billionaire show an almost sociopathic disregard for everyone; particularly victims and their families who have been done wrong.
The devotees who actually abide by the basic tenets of their faith such as kindness, compassion, social equality for all without judgement on race, socio-economic status and sexual preferences should be very angry. They are not responsible for the trashing of and the credibility crisis that has befallen the Christian doctrine. Their holy men such as George Pell and his backers betrayed them big time, lied to them and they – and only they – have plunged Christianity into the sewer pit.
We need decent Christian people to speak up and make a stand. Yes, against their own church leaders too. I have seen their anger and sadness at the situation. But not having a clear voice heard by others runs the risk of them being viewed as not only complicit but supportive of the actions and behaviour of the Church and its hierarchy. If they wish for a credibility restoration then there is no better time and place than now to deliver that voice.