Pastoral priests decry clerical culture that fostered abuse

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Priest in dog collar with hands spreadRecently I led the priests of the Diocese of Ballarat in their annual retreat. I was conscious of the burden these priests were carrying in relation to clerical sexual abuse. Yet as an outsider, I had no words of wisdom to impart to a group of men who had agonised over the issue for some time. So I invited them to share with each other their thoughts, feelings and experiences around this painful and shameful time in their lives as priests.

Each priest was painfully aware of the terrible harm done to victims of abuse, their families, the wider community and the Church. They spoke of the need for healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and continuing examination of ways to see that the climate in which such abuse was perpetrated would not continue. Later, I had a heart-rending conversation with one of the priests who said 'I am not a paedophile and I am not a bishop, but a priest who feels he is carrying the can for all the sins committed and mistakes made by others.'

Most priests believe the Royal Commission or something similar was very much needed to face up to a terrible episode in the Church's history. They also believe that sexual abuse took place in an environment of clericalism which was imposed by the highest authority in the Church, and which they felt powerless to confront. 'Father is always right' operated from the Pope down and any questioning of it was seen as disloyal or even heretical.

One of the most blatant expressions of such clericalism is propagated in an Instruction of the Congregation for the Clergy (the congregation of the Roman Curia responsible for overseeing matters regarding priests and deacons not belonging to religious orders), 'On certain questions regarding the collaboration of the non-ordained faithful in the sacred ministry of the priest'. This was issued on 15 August 1997 after being approved by Pope John Paul II two days earlier. It can still be found on the Vatican website.

In many ways it became the basis for the Statement of Conclusions presented to the Australian Bishops following the 1998 Oceania Synod of Bishops. Generations of Australian priests have shared the lives and aspirations of their people, listening to their stories and responding to their needs. Yet this document criticised such attitudes for being too egalitarian.

Good priests across Australia were and still are appalled at such expressions of clericalism. Many, myself included, believe that unbridled and unquestioning acceptance of authority in so many aspects of Church life is one of the key factors contributing to a climate which gave rise to clerical sexual abuse.

That is precisely what angers my friend quoted above. He and so many dedicated pastoral priests believe they had no say in the direction Church authorities were dictating, yet they are bearing the brunt of its consequences. Even now they witness individuals and groups calling for reform being ignored and treated as troublemakers.

My friend suggested that I and my fellow bishops collectively submit to the Third Rite of Reconciliation for our part in this whole sorry episode, acknowledging the pain caused in so many lives. Such a penitential act would demonstrate the collective and social nature of the sin involved. Clearly the victims of abuse are those from whom we should ask forgiveness first and foremost, but we must also be aware of the countless good and faithful priests who are caught in the crossfire and must daily give an account of themselves.

Pope Francis has so often been described as a breath of fresh air in his gentle, down-to-earth pastoral love and care. His denunciation of all forms of clericalism is unequivocal. Throughout the retreat with the Ballarat clergy, I quoted consistently from the Pope's recent Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, which I had earlier described as the most enriching and life-giving papal document which I have read since Vatican II. May Pope Francis' inspiring words and example give hope and direction in these troubled times.


Pat Power headshotPat Power is retired Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn.

Priest image from Shutterstock

Topic tags: Pat Power, Royal Commission, clergy sex abuse

 

 

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Thank you Bishop Pat for your frank appraisal. I agree with all of your remarks. I might add that Canon Law needs a thorough revision to remove references to secrecy which contributed to cover-up. I see no possibility of a just closure until this happens.
John Casey | 13 February 2014


It is indeed a terrible burden for innocent priests to be tarred by the actions of a few, especially when it involves the crime of paedophilia. But it’s a bit disingenuous to simply blame Rome with the charge of clericalism and to then suggest that if only she had listened to the dissenters in the Church, everything would have been fine. For instance when the chief dissenter in the USA church, Archbishop Weakland of Milwaukee, was invited to Melbourne in the early 1990s, an article was published detailing the sexual scandals within the Milwaukee dioceses, the Archbishop’s involvement, and the jailing of some of his priests for paedophilia. Yet I can’t recall a single bishop being critical of the visit. The only people criticized were the people who had written up the truth. And it came out in the Royal Commission last year that Archbishop Weakland’s inviter, Archbishop Little of Melbourne, had failed to keep records of sexual complaints and had simply transferred offending priests.
Ross Howard | 13 February 2014


while sympathetic to Bishop Power's (and Pope Francis') concerns about clericalism, I think it a bit simplistic to see this as the major problem. In my experience abusers cross the conservative/liberal divide. Both sides have their share of abusers. I've know some very "with it" anti-clerical priests who have abused the trust of people in their pastoral care thru sexualising relationships. Narcissist work out the rules of the game and play them to their own advantage. What is amazing is the inability of formators, the priestly fraternity, and bishops to recognise the traits. At times processes of formation and church culture seem to encourage them, and the church has acted to protect them when they abuse. it is not clericalism but the group bias which says "he's one of us so he can't be too bad" that must be addressed.
neil ormerod | 13 February 2014


Mr Ormerod the task for formators re Narcissists is increased: "The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , and known as DSM-5) has eliminated five of the 10 personality disorders that are listed in the current edition. "Narcissistic personality disorder is the most well-known of the five, and its absence has caused the most stir in professional circles." [NY Times] [Imagine narcissists ignored even by DSM-Traumatic snub if ever!].
Father John George | 13 February 2014


One view from the rear window. How is it that all these priests were able to allow this to happen? Was it because they were too caught up with "being special" and refused to believe the witness of the children and their parents? Were they just following orders? No Pat you can't get away with such a comment. You need to talk about the Papal Nuncios and the Elite (like yourself) who allowed this to happen and are still not naming those in the structure who assisted the abusers to operate. In so many places still in Australia these abusers and their protectors are operating in the institutional church. Why? They are not dismissed as the current Pope says should occur . You as a bishop most probably know why this is happening. Make the call and tell the Royal Commisssion. And by the way make sure there is no confession except third rite for children and vulnerable people. This is where the abusers operate in a free zone; just look at the evidence. Why not mention to the Royal Commission what you know of the system and how it is still operating?
Laurie Sheehan | 14 February 2014


To assume that Rome is guilty is to purposefully omit the fact that Rome is not always listened to by the Australian Bishops in this and other matters.
Tony | 14 February 2014


Thank you Bishop Pat. This was pretty amazing and encouraging to read. But, I guess it's still not enough is it as many who could be supportive will remain silent. The road is long and full of potholes. especially for the victims.
Mary Maraz | 14 February 2014


Bishop Power, "the highest authority in the Church" is the Family.
Oliver Clark | 14 February 2014


I recommend to everyone the 2013 book "A Question of Conscience" by the Irish Redemptorist Tony Flannery. His heresy was to question whether the priesthood was initiated by Jesus, but just when he had managed to find a theologian to compose a form of words that got him out of that, they got him for his writings on sexual morality and women in the church. Now in his late 60s, he is barred from any form of ministry. His other sin was setting up the (Irish) Association of Catholic Priests, now more than 800 strong and viewed unfavourably by the bishops. He joins five other priests in a similar "barred" situation - another Redemptorist, a Capuchin, a Passionist, an Augustinian and the saddest of all, an 82-year old Marist priest in poor health - no diocesan clergy! The most extraordinary part of Flannery's story is that all correspondence with him (through the Superior General of his order) was on unsigned, unheaded A4 paper; it was assumed to be from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, the CDF. Anyone upset by the treatment of Bill Morris in Toowoomba would find much to ponder in this book. The hope is that Pope Francis may live long enough and be strong enough to change the culture. One further point: at least one comment here has implied criticism of Pat Power - I assure all readers that any such criticism is unmerited - Fr Pat is unequivocally one of the good guys.
Frank | 14 February 2014


Thank you Bishop Pat. Admirable. I have just finished reading Fr Gerald O`Collins memories of his times in Rome,and interactions with CDF. Just Incredible! How difficult life must have been for you and those who are like-minded over the last 2-3 decades. But you have been an inspiration to those of us trying to "hang on in there".
Eugene | 14 February 2014


Thank you Bishop Pat for having the courage, once again, to speak out. The article raises both positive and negative issues. The pain of the "good guys" is so evident. Paedophelia is the major crime of great shame in the Church, but I still feel that clericalism enhances the "Father knows best" syndrome that still permeates through parishes where wasteful spending and other excesses continue, and those who raise concerns to the priest about such behaviours are labelled as disloyal or troublemakers. Thank God for the "good men". Pope Francis is providing the humble, honest leadership for which many of us have been hungering. Such leadership gives new heart to those men whose primary vocation is their pastoral outreach to their people through liturgy , sacraments and "being there" when needed.
Marie Hardwick | 14 February 2014


'Father is always right' operated from the Pope down and any questioning of it was seen as disloyal or even heretical. This is a miniature picture of the attitude of the whole Church, which for so long saw itself as the one and only path up the Mountain of God We accept that “In my father’s house there are many mansions”, (John 14:2), but are reluctant to admit that There are many paths up the Mountain that leads to God. Probably only when this less exalted status is embraced will the hubris of all the 'established' religions decline sufficiently for their ambassadors to accept that their role is to be not masters, but 'servants' of the people.
Name | 14 February 2014


Thanks Pat. It is so tragic for those who bore the heat and burden of the day and tried to do a decent professional job. Maybe it is time for decent priests to march in protest against some of the others. The point I make in the paper I presented to the Royal Commission is that the abuse was systemic, there are many causes and many vested interests involved in the cover ups. These include parents, teachers, doctors, police, Knights of the Southern Cross and lawyers etc. Clericalim, yes certainly, but clericalism supported by many non clerics.
Michael D. Breen | 14 February 2014


Frankly 'name' I humbly adhere to tthe magisterium on your issues without "hubris": "22. With the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity (cf. Acts 17:30-31).90 This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism “characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another'”.91 If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.92 However, “all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged" http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html
Father John George | 14 February 2014


Once again, Bishop Pat, thank you for 'having a go', a timely representative of last Sunday's gospel's challenging and affirming metaphorical magic about salt and light. We might be rising out of the swamp and quicksand of some testy baggage of the past, yet there is still a long way to go out of the ugliness into the cleaner and purer air of what wholesome Catholicism is all about, from you comes a hand holding a candle of light. Thank you.
paul goodland | 14 February 2014


++Patrick, Your pastoral care for fellow priests the overwhelming number of whom are without blame as well as your sensitivity to and care for the victims of clerical child rapists are without question. It is clear to me though, that the self-defensive and self-preserving manoeuvrings by the Catholic hierarchy from the papacy, generations back, to many the incumbents today have been unmasked and exposed by the secular, morally relativistic media, so despised and vilified by the crusader bishops and apologists of the JP II, Benedict Ratzinger era. Kieran Tapsell in his series of articles on the John Menadue blog, 'Pearls and Irritations' has now, I suggest, blown the doors off the cities of sanctuaries. We now wait for the book to follow shortly. As for the omnipresent moralising dullard John George, he has done nothing for constructive debate or conversation. The best he can manage is to trot out pre-digested, pre-programmed ratbaggery. Even his mates back at his own blog won't talk to him.
David Timbs | 14 February 2014


Thank you, Bishop Pat for so often speaking out the truth, despite some criticism.Your words have often given me hope, well before Pope francis was elected.
Maryrose | 14 February 2014


Fr John George. 14 Feb. "I humbly adhere to the magisterium on your issues without "hubris":.......?????.. When you say followers of other religions.." are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.".. It all sounds like hubris to me,
Name | 14 February 2014


'My friend suggested that I and my fellow bishops collectively submit to the Third Rite of Reconciliation for our part in this whole sorry episode...'? May I suggest that a few mea culpas from certain members of the hierarchy swiftly followed by their resignations would make a greater impression on the abused than all the collective submissions to the third Rite one might muster? But don't hold your breath.
Ginger Meggs | 14 February 2014


I have just read Donald Cozzens' Sacred Silence. Bring on Vatican 111. Thanks Bishop Pat
Trish Taylor | 14 February 2014


Seems to me, especially since my 'laicisation', that the Church could (impossible dream) gain much by a new concept - a new theology - of 'priesthood'. By 'sacerdos in aeternum' the author of Hebrews identifies Jesus - and Him alone, through his sacrifice as eternal 'Priest' within the ancient tradition of the people of Israel - the only sanctifier, sacrificer (sacrum facere) we needed. First Christians opted to name their pastors presbyters, from the Greek for 'elders.' As authors such as Hans Kung ('Why Priests?) have pointed out, this title seems to have evolved to 'prester' and thence to 'priest' - a name now entrenched even in secular language, whose connotations befuddle the statements even of the Roman Curia to which you refer, Pat. Language, like other symbols, can, unbeknown, set the categories of our understanding. Let's call them and understand these good guys as 'elders', with all the implications of experience and wisdom that this beautiful, ancient word implies. And let them arise by 'vocation' (calling) from within God's people. Clericalism arises from an on- high concept of 'sacerdotality'.
John O'D | 14 February 2014


I have abandoned my religious practice as a member of the Catholic community, in the main because of clericalism and an evident lack of belief in universal priesthood. Having experienced clericalism at its worst and the dismissal of the power of Sophia, I believe that there must be another reformation in the Catholic Church, something Bishop Power clearly understands to his credit.
Caroline | 14 February 2014


Thank you Bishop Pat for those insightful and encouraging words. We certainly do need a change of culture within the Church where people feel free to speak their truth without recrimination or judgement
Marjorie carroll | 14 February 2014


As long as I can remember, it was drilled into us that the hierarchy was not to be questioned, The word used was 'obedience'. Many saints were cruelly treated by superiors, St. Bernadette is a good example..Her obedient silence was a highlight of her story and this silence was commended by the Church. I suspect 'obedience' can be a two edged sword as it appers that clergy 'kept quiet' on instruction from above.
Len Williams | 14 February 2014


I think the current Pope demonstrates, in a very Christlike way, the difference between having and acting with the genuine authority of Almighty God as against the exercise of a mere empty authoritarianism. The outdated clericalism and authoritarianism of a past age, which helped bring about the terrible crisis of paedophilia which engulfed the Catholic Church worldwide, need to be confronted and exorcised. I think Pope Francis is attempting to change the nature of Church bureaucracy so that it serves the Church and not vice versa. In this he needs to act with the genuine authority he inherited from Christ. I would not like to either deny or water down this authority. Some sort of penitential act across the entire Church is almost de rigueur to exorcise it from the terrible stain of this appalling sin. I think, besides all the institutional, personal, psychological and criminal failings involved here there was also the presence of real evil. Good priests can actually be part of the healing process. Priests need to gain back their genuine authority here. This is actually their role. They should not feel, or be made to feel, impotent.
Edward F | 14 February 2014


Spot-on Ginger Meggs! Recently a Fairfax journalist urged two senior prelates to resign. He did not go far enough. I suggest at least four bishops and a similar number at the next level down should go "for the good of the church".
John Casey | 15 February 2014


Me Timbs Pope Francis encourages fidelity to doctrine[hardly your "ratbaggerry" of an "omnipresent dullard"]. Pope Francis has said that "fidelity to Church teaching is a fundamental part of belonging to the Church and that we cannot use Church doctrine “as we please.” Speaking during his homily at daily Mass today at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis defined the three ‘pillars’ of belonging as ‘humility,’ ‘fidelity’ and ‘special service.’ Pope Francis said that fidelity was the ‘second pillar.’ He said: “Fidelity to the Church, fidelity to its teaching; fidelity to the Creed; fidelity to the doctrine, safeguarding this doctrine"[Catholic Herald,30/1/2014]
Father John George | 15 February 2014


To blame 'clericalism' for sexual abuse doesn't explain why the majority of priests, somewhere in the 95% vicinity, are not implicated in any acts of sexual abuse. These are the priests that Pat Power suggests were oppressed or ruled by 'clericalism ' and yet most did not fall into acts of sexual abuse. There is a lack of consistency in his theory. Also, the vast majority of sexual abuse is perpetrated by members of a family - people certainly not subject to the rigidity of a 'clerical' type life. We must constantly come back to the role of personal choice and personal sin and not make excuses like: its 'clericalism' that is to blame. Also I have witnessed risky , inappropriate behavior by priests I would describe as very anti-clerical and anti-authority, who have disposed with the formality of clericalism and enter into intimate relationships with women and men, that threaten their vow of celibacy. Clericalism can provide a structure for relationships between priests and others - it is not always a bad thing in my observation. It can provide parameters and guidelines.
A lay woman | 15 February 2014


A challenge to Eureka Street and others: Just as the Royal Commission has decided to 'publish' victim's stories, I'd like Eureka Street (and others) to give a space/format for victims to simply tell their stories. Too often we have those within the clerical classes and such as the Truth, Justice and Healing Commission speaking for victims/survivors and all the while, victims/survivors are almost screaming in the background that what they are getting from almost everywhere are mere words with no practical application to the everyday lives of those victims/survivors. Unless one hears the actual experiences of victims/survivors, so much declines into mere talk and talk still controlled by those in the power positions. As such they still dictate the agendas. For once, let those within the Catholic Church allow the victims/survivors to direct the conversations. One area, for example, which keeps getting ignored, even by those on the liberal side, is the area of adult abuse (see my article to the right). Why? Because these victims/survivors feel that no one will believe them, take them seriously. One reason for this is that many of the clerics are indeed high up in either their orders or the diocesan church structure. And somehow, clerical sexual misconduct with adults is somehow more 'acceptable'. Trust me, it's not if only for the deception of the laity. But then there's the total destruction of lives of those who get caught up in such misconduct, too often very vulnerable adults to begin with, often with backgrounds of some previous abuse. Their stories so need to be heard. Then better conclusions about the clerical abuse scandal could be made; better because based on real lives. One more thing: One conclusion that I at least have drawn in my study is that one of the MAIN reasons why clerics/bishops don't speak up is because so, so many, like Weakland, have skeletons in their closet and a sort of silent blackmail reigns supreme. He was, however, not so thoroughly condemned because he was seen as a liberal and gay - as such, somewhat padded by the dominant culture. Clerics know all about this but few speak up. If they do, well....
Stephen de Weger | 16 February 2014


And Neil Ormerod, excellent observations re liberal/conservative: This problem has no 'sides'. And one more thing, one doesn't have to have a 'clinically' narcissistic personality disorder to have narcissistic traits. We all start life with narcissistic 'personalities - we have to, to survive. Maturity is about growing out of that early phase in development into being other centred while still caring for ourselves. Thing is, when you have a 'theology' of ontological clericalism that (albeit hopefully unintentionally) promotes a narcissistic attitude, what else should we expect but to have clerics trapped in their early psychological narcissism but not even aware of it. And what goes for the individual in a group, goes for the group as a body. But, one of the hardest things for a narcissistically inclined person to realise is, that they are indeed, narcissistic - except for the 'really good ones' who know so well how to play the game and those 'beneath them'. Sadly, church, politics and business all but seek out and/or attract such people.
Stephen de Weger | 16 February 2014


Does "Fidelity to the Church" include hiding the sexual misconduct that goes on beneath the surface, in order to 'prevent scandal'? Seems to me, this is the now most dominant context and meaning that 'fidelity to the church' has taken on, in everyday life. What about “fidelity to the church/body of Christ"? You know, the laity which make up 95.5 % of "THE CHURCH". Don't you think fidelity to them/us means being honest about such statistics as the following: Based on interviews of 1500 priests or their sexual partners; 6% were sexually involved with minors, 20-25% with adult women and 15 % with adult men. "10% of priests report that they had some sexual contact with a priest or fellow seminarian in the course of their studies. Such activity forms a basis for a network of priests aware of each others' sexual proclivities and behaviour. This forms a formal and informal tangle of possible blackmail". Fidelity without honesty is NOT fidelity. I often read religious magazines which tell the 'faithful' about the postings/movements of their clergy: What would be really honest would to include in those articles the whereabouts or 'postings' of clergy that have been involved in sexual misconduct. Tell us about them as well. Otherwise the 'power-based clerical church' continues to try to promote (and therefore have to maintain) an image to the laity and society that they are so good and provide the answers to all the world’s ills. Perhaps a lot more everyday, open 'humility', that other pillar, is desperately needed before this church can again be believable. Meanwhile, many still work in 'special service' for those Christ reached out to, only to be sacked, silenced, ignored or labelled liberal, crazy, sinful, whatever. .
Stephen de Weger | 16 February 2014


Stephen, no one would believe them, in fact I doubt if the some of the stories would be fit for reproduction and Pat Power would be aware of some of them too.
Lynne Newington | 16 February 2014


#Forget vague generalities,Mr de Weger sir. #I have been associated with priests of all types since minor seminary in 1958 plus ministry here and O/S.. #Be assured anecdotally there are a rich variety of temperaments, and personalities[healthy introverts,extraverts,obsessives etc and no doubt a sprinkling of narcissists but thin on the ground #Nonetheless I am reluctant to make 'off the cuff' mass psycho diagnoses of 400000 priests globally[or even locally and nationally] Such requires high professionalism [ eg diagnosing one person requires a battery of tests[sometimes taking hours] #Re narcissistic bubs!-check DSM-5] #[As for clergy cover ups: no child has complained to me about clergy sex abuse in my vast ministry of 39 years[yes a stint in Ballarat diocese-[ in day and boarding schools,parish youth groups,youth retreats,hospitals,parish missions etc[
Father John George | 16 February 2014


Thank you Bishop Pat for your moving and thoughtful article. Perhaps we need hymn / prayer resources for parishes and groups at this time. I have written one such hymn. Words below, Melody and words available free from my website at www.maristmusic.org.au Hymn of Healing for the Church 1. Here we stand in silent witness To the church we love and name. Hearing pleas of children’s voices For our part in sin and shame. Father, we have hurt so deeply, Trust betrayed, dark secrets kept. Now the truth cries out in daylight, Tears of old, now freely wept. 2. Stir in us a deep compassion, Firm resolve to heal the past. Help us understand the darkness, Lest again it comes to pass. Lord we pray for those so wounded, Hear the cry of victims’ pain Help us seek the path of justice, Help us see the light again. 3. Finding hope in Jesus promise, ‘I am with you; do not fear’ Striving on through storm and struggle, Knowing still our God is near. Loving God, your mercy send, And like the fires that rake this land, May new life in wondrous colour Through the ashes, bloom again.
Br Michael Herry fms | 16 February 2014


In reply to 'A lay woman', was the writer of the article actually 'blaming "clericalism"' for the abuse? Wasn't he rather blaming it for the cover-up and concealment of abuse, the protection of abusers, and the silencing of those priests who knew full-well what was going on and wanted it stopped but who felt too intimidated by the 'clericalism' to actually go out and blow the whistle when the hierarchy ignored the concerns that they raised? One of the most important outcomes of the Royal Commission will not be the exposure of the extent of abuse that has taken place (will anyone be surprised?) but rather the deliberate process of cover-up, concealment, and protection, all in the name of protecting the status and power of the institution (the responsibility for which is still being denied).
Ginger Meggs | 17 February 2014


Ginger no hierarchical clericalism ever intimidated me on any issue[one tried but lived to regret it] Forget fantasia! Aussie priests are sui generis rock solid.
Father John George | 17 February 2014


Dear JG, I am simply referring to the ones that ARE abusive, underdeveloped/narcissistic and secretive. The rest need to speak up as they, too, are vicarious victims of this whole tragedy which the hierarchy have allowed to develop and get way out of hand - and sadly, continue to do so even though they think they aren't - or maybe it's a façade. I need to see evidence not just words, frankly spoken or not, which continue the 'image' of a caring church. And JG, you say that "no child has complained to (you) about clergy sex abuse in (your) vast ministry of 39 years. [yes a stint in Ballarat diocese-[ in day and boarding schools, parish youth groups, youth retreats, hospitals, parish missions etc[". Well, they obviously chose others, those who they feel might believe them. Your claim, in itself, is a huge worry given the sheer numbers of victims/survivors (especially in Ballarat). No one really believed children before, especially priests – have you not been reading victims’ stories or reports. Your assumption is that because no one disclosed to you is that therefore, there was little or no abuse happening. Surely you realise how naïve such a statement is. Well, others are now listening because the church and its Christ representatives wouldn’t – others such as lawyers, the media and the Royal Commission. And the church cannot blame them for the lack of its own inaction. And now it's the adult victims to start being believed as well. In order for people to do this they need to believe that they will be heard and not judged. Are there members of the clergy/hierarchy really willing to do this in regards to adults. How many? A majority? I don't think so. No, go to the police or a lawyer instead might be a better way.
Name | 17 February 2014


Thank you for, like Francis, exemplifying "hope and direction." We all know priests who are heartbroken at living with the scandal of clergy abuse of children. Public confession of guilt by hierarchy would indeed be hope-giving—and is, of corse, only just! Thank you for your words.
Donna Dening | 17 February 2014


John George, You are not in the least 'rock solid' with at least three priests: Bishops Robinson, Power and Morris, whom you have constantly attacked an vilified on 'your' blog. You have repeatedly accused these Bishops of being self-interested (even financially) in supporting the victims of CSA by clerical rapists, favouring the more comfortable denial propaganda of Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.
David Timbs | 17 February 2014


FATHER GEORGE, I know lots of narcissists who don't abuse children, By the way, there is no objective blood test or scan that proves the existence of psychology pathology because, as with matters relating the the soul and religion, it's all subjective.
AURELIUS | 17 February 2014


#'Name' at the time in 1980s I had no evidence of clergy sex abuse, but some years later read of such! #As for motives of victims not telling me neither you nor I can pontificate on that [especially you not being in situ with me in varied ministries.]
Father John George | 17 February 2014


Good on you laywoman, it would be virtual suicide to denounce a religious entity whether brother, priest or bishop. Morrie Crocker a priest in good standing was a good example of that, a man among men.
Lynne Newington | 17 February 2014


#Actually Lynne Newington, in the afterath I know of a contemporary priest friend who delated a notorious pedophile priest. The former is still living. The alleged pedophile died as media closed in. # A religious headmaster. I knew took an offending brother straight to the police and headmaster didnt suicide,..and remains a highly esteemed religious brother. # The suicide of Father Maurie[sic] Crocker in 1998 was an horrific tragedy. #[there are anecdotes and anecdotes-"innocent till proven guilty" still stands] Meanwhile 4.5 million public school kids were sexually molested in USA public schools[no media hype mere 'bridges under the water'![cf Carol Shakeshaft report on USA school sex abuse--no priests involved] Shakeshaft published Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature for the United States Department of Education. The report indicated that nearly 10% of U.S. public school students, or 4.5 million students, had been the victims of sexual harassment, rape or sexual abuse. The review described the prevalence of educator sexual misconduct, offender characteristics, targets of educator sexual misconduct, and recommendations for prevention of educator sexual misconduct. http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0403733.htm
Father John George | 17 February 2014


It would have been naive of me to suggest that any one single factor was responsible for clerical sexual abuse. During the discussions at the Ballarat retreat, it was acknowledged that there are no simple solutions to what is a highly complex question touching people at the very core. Even with a limited expertise in psychology, I know that there is a host of forces which contribute to abuse. I simply wished to make the point that unchecked clericalism is a major factor in the equation and that its destructive outcomes reach beyond the terrible spectre of sexual abuse. Pope Francis is absolutely clear that clericalism has no part in a Christ-centred Church. It is my hope that we can all learn from the findings of the Royal Commission as painful as they may be; that we need to do everything possible to bring justice and healing to the people who have been abused; and that we will work to implement the structural reforms needed at every level in Church life.
Pat Power | 17 February 2014


Personally, I have so had it with 'nice' catholics no matter from what side of the fence.
Ed | 18 February 2014


FR JG, I hope you shook the hand of the one who did have the courage to stand up and be counted on the basis of his conscience formed by his faith........the part that's based on the scriptures.
Lynne Newington | 18 February 2014


Why is clergy sexual abuse any more complex than crimes committed by bikie gangs, drug syndicates, mafiosos etc in the past present of future? It's an insult to victims and unChristian, and it really highlights the need for conversion, repentance and a return to gospel values. The first step is to acknowledge sin - otherwise it is left to the language of a psychopathology as chilling and horrifically evil as the worst and violent serial killers.
AURELIUS | 18 February 2014


It is my close at hand observation that the clerical culture crosses liberal and conservative boundaries, is defined chiefly by an assumption of entitlement, is portrayed through symbol of dress, manner of deportment, style of language and presumption of superiority, both ontological and anthroplogical. Used loosely these days in terms of explaining sexual abuse within Church circles, it provides an overall milieu of description and action within which to understand and witness the narcissistic traits encouraged, fostered and allowed by this clerical culture. In my experience it holds no positive place or purpose in ordained roles within the Church and is not necessary and only damaging to this ordained role.
Jennifer Herrick | 01 March 2014


"If a branch on the most splendid and ancient tree is rotten and can not be medicated, is it not better for it to be cut off so as not to infect the whole of the tree"
Magdelena | 20 August 2014


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