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Doogue, Brereton on keeping faith in the face of the abuse crisis

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A few months have passed since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse sat in Ballarat. Witnesses there, including paedophile and former priest, Gerald Ridsdale, spoke of some of the most horrific cases of abuse in the Catholic Church.

The Commission will continue hearings about the situation in the Ballarat Diocese in November. It confirmed at the end of last week that former Bishop of Ballarat, Ronald Mulkearns will be compelled to take the stand. Cardinal George Pell is also expected to give evidence then.

The ongoing revelations about sexual abuse in the Church have had a drastic effect on believers, forcing some to turn away from the institution, and demoralising many who remain.

In this edition of Eureka Street TV two journalists who are practising believers — one a cradle Catholic and the other a recent convert — speak candidly about the effect of the sexual abuse crisis on their faith. In their professional lives, both have reported on different aspects of the crisis.

Geraldine Doogue is one of Australia's most highly respected journalists. She was born into an Irish Catholic family in Perth. Her parents were pillars of the Church, and it formed the centre of their social and spiritual lives. She attended Catholic schools and has remained a committed Catholic all her life.

Her career as a journalist and broadcaster began in the early 1970s with a cadetship at The West Australian newspaper. She went on to have stints at The Australian, Radio 2UE, Channel 10 and ABC TV and Radio. She currently hosts Radio National's Saturday Extra and ABC TV's Compass.

27-year-old Adam Brereton is opinion editor of The Guardian Australia. Before this he wrote for a student paper at the Australian National University in Canberra and for New Matilda.

He was born in Hong Kong and baptised into the Russian Orthodox Church. He grew up in Braidwood near Canberra, and in Sydney where he attended the Uniting Church's Knox Grammar School.

For most of his life he was an atheist, but in his early 20s, largely through reading Catholic writers like G. K. Chesterton, Les Murray and Graham Greene, he became interested in Catholicism.

In 2012 he entered the RCIA Program (Rite of Christian Initiation as an Adult) in Brunswick Catholic parish in Melbourne. But in the course of reporting on sexual abuse in the Church he became disillusioned, dropped out of the program and began attending a High Anglican Church.

This year however, mainly under the influence of some Catholic priests who have become mentors, he returned to the Catholic Church, and will be received formally into the Church at the end of this month.

This interview is in two parts — Part 1 above, and Part 2 below:

 


Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood, Geraldine Doogue, Compass, Radio National, Royal Commission, child abuse, Gerald Risdale


 

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Existing comments

How did abuse affect me? It made me odd, withdrawn, afraid of sex, afraid of men, but mostly, it made me super religious and spiritual. I don't say this was a good thing - it was escapism into fantasy - in order to alleviate my guilt and shame I had to be holy. How did dealing with my abuse, dealing with bishops after I eventually cracked and lost my career and future, all this after losing my past? Dealing with the church authorities, my catholic bosses, that's what made me lose my faith. I'm as good as an atheist now, and my dear bishop doesn't give a damn.
Ed | 04 August 2015


The term "Keeping Faith in the Church", can mean different things. It can mean remaining 'Loyal' to the letter of old 'Traditions', even when changing circumstances render those traditions obsolete. Or it can mean maintaining the loving inclusive evolving Spirit that inspired the first Christians, seeing the path to God not just as an expression of one particular limited culture, but adaptable and ready to embrace all, as it did until it was embraced and retricted by the Emperors and politics of 'Roman' culture.
Robert Liddy | 05 August 2015


Geraldine, articulate and passionate, as usual. And new convert Adam's words are much appreciated. The standards of doctrine and worship are bedrocks of the Christian faith and sources of comfort and hope in times of uncertainty. I have a battered copy of An Australian Prayer Book (1978) and it's a constant source of nourishment for me. From The Preface of this book: "If we listen to one another with patience and understanding, our love for God and our neighbour can be enriched and enlarged."
Pam | 05 August 2015


Thank you Geraldine and thank you Adam. I found your conversation very helpful and the insights a way forward in the struggle to hold the good and the shameful with humility.
Mary | 05 August 2015


And an even bigger thank you to Ed for your comment, in which you speak from the real world of the abused, and hopefully give a lesson to all of us majority who have never been abused.
Ian Fraser | 05 August 2015


Perhaps the voices of the families of the abused and the abused themselves would give a more authentic response to the issues being discussed here. The opinions of people who have experienced the destruction of their lives, elimination of trust in clergy and religious, and personal vilification by the Towards Healing process would give some insight into what needs to happen. It is doubtful they are finding anything of value in the current liturgies of denial of the abuse being conducted by the Church.
Carmel | 05 August 2015


the whole clergy sex scandals and the constant cover ups and denials and in which ever country makes me sick it is so disgusting. How on earth do the hierarchy. Expect to be listened to and obeyed. pope Francis has his work cut out. There are so many against him and that's the far right goody two shoes Catholics. Are they blind to what is going on n front of their noses? The utter lack of compassion and decency. Just today in Milwaukee the bishop dares to say we are at a new Pentecost because of hey have finally paying some poor damaged humans some money, but rejecting at least 200 others deaf children. Included who were damaged. he laity need to stand up and demand that the right thing be done and not put money on collection plates. That will do it.
Irena | 05 August 2015


The Doogue-Brereton dual interview gave a good idea of what they, as Catholic opinionati, think. Sadly, that sort of "What I (still inside) think" apologetic lacked the sort of prophetic and penitential vision which someone like Fr. (now Bishop) Robert Barron, a respected theologian and former Rector of the largest seminary in the USA, expressed in a wonderful clip entitled "The Prophet Ezekiel and the Sexual Abuse Crisis". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OE00MMOh_z0 It was part of his Word on Fire podcast ministry. If ever there were a time the Catholic Church needed a prophetic voice it is now and on this situation. The Church will survive but in a far humbler, less triumphalist way than the past. I am interested Adam attended a High Anglican Church for a time after the paedophilia scandal broke. From my knowledge of the Anglican (as well as most other Churches) Church in Australia it certainly did not escape being engulfed in the paedophilia scandal. The whole Christian community has suffered and it suffered most in the justified disgust and distaste of those such as Ed it betrayed again and again. There is no simple "Kiss it better" solution. It will be a long, hard road back. Sackcloth and ashes are the appropriate garments.
Edward Fido | 07 August 2015


Thanks Geraldine, Adam and Peter! I think the tension Geraldine refers to, in somehow holding the good the Church does alongside the evil of clergy child sexual abuse, reflects the terrible tension faced by loyal parishioners when they discover their priest who did good things, has also sexually abused children. It creates an almost impossible dilemma in how to regard that priest. Is the good negated by the abuse? Should it be? This situation happened in our parish. Also Geraldine made a reference to the early church in Australia and how it flourished for 40 years without a priest. A good reminder that in fact we are the church, as those of us who were young adults in the 1970s came to realise. It can exist without priests or popes or bishops, but not without us. Never again should we relinquish our communities of faith to the power of clergy.
Beth | 07 August 2015


"40 years without priests."!! For centuries without priests the Krishitan[persecuted Hidden Japanese Christians after St Francis Xavier] hungered for Mass and priests and came down from mountain tops after the clergy influx in 19th century. A female member of the group spoke to a French priest, Fr Bernard Thadee Petitjean, and confessed that their families had kept the Kirishitan faith. Those Kirishitan wanted to see the statue of St. Mary with their own eyes, and to confirm that the priest was single and truly came from the pope in Rome. After this interview, many Kirishitan thronged from mountains and knelt on the beach for Fr Petitjean's blessing[after verifying his bona fide.] He investigated their underground organizations and discovered that they had kept the rite of baptism and the liturgical years without European priests for nearly 250 years. Petitjean’s report surprised the Christian world; Pope Pius IX called it a miracle..[But Beth how they hungered for priests and Mass and Sacraments beyond baptism, noting their fidelity to celibate priesthood and Papal hierarchy!!!]
Father John George | 08 August 2015


Very refreshing discussion. I am an Nth Irish Catholic living in Australia. I have always had to defend my faith since early childhood. I work with victims of sexual abuse. I have witnessed the physical, emotional and more importantly the spiritual loss they have suffered, and not always at the hands of clergy. I have been challenged many times on how I could possibly defend the Church. Geraldine you explained it beautifully, I also remember the thousands of Catholics' living the teaching of Christ within the Church and this sustains me. I agree we must not abandon the Church but we must challenge, fight and demand that our leaders stand up and become strong advocates for the truth of Christ's teaching. Most of all we must demand JUSTICE and SPIRITUAL support for our sisters and brothers who have been abused by those within the Church. I have been personally devastated by those leaders who have not stood with their parishioners shoulder to shoulder and demanded that those who have committed abhorrent crimes should be brought to justice before the Law. Good luck for the Future Adam, I pray we have a lot more brave souls like you coming forward.
Maureen GILBERT | 08 August 2015


While in Japan in 1984,I visited a Nagoya Buddhist monastery dedicated to praying for those persecuted dead priestless Kirishitan, i was shown a 'shoe-box'][fumie] with crucifix atop. The monastery cemetery still had some remaining headstones of those who refused to stand on crucifix, including a 12 year old girl. The head monk showed me the Maria Kannon statuette with Buddha on front and Our Lady on otherside to deceive persecutors. Due to lack of priests, some cultural oddities needed purifying under later Father Petitjean The Blessed trinity, for example, comprised Deus, his son and Mary. "It bears out the author’s thesis about the inclinations of the Japanese to sanctify the maternal". Dougill, John (2012-03-10). In Search of Japan's Hidden Christians: A Story of Suppression, Secrecy and Survival (Kindle Locations 2688-2689). Tuttle Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Father John George | 09 August 2015


The incongruity of Japanese Buddhists praying for Christian martyrs has historical roots and functional evolution #kirishitans used Buddhist prayers and ritual for dead at temple to avoid arrest. # Furthermore In 1661, during the era of the Edo Shogunate’s “Prohibition of Kirishitan (Christianity) Policy," the second-generation lord of the Owari feudal Clan, Mitsutomo Tokugawa began to carry out mass arrests of Kirishitan (Christians) and in 1664 executed over 200 arrestees at the Senbonmatsubara execution ground. However, just one year later, Mitsutomo Tokugawa moved the execution ground to Kawarakeno and erected the Seiryo Hermitage (existing Eikoku Temple) in its place, to pray to Buddha for the repose of the souls of those executed. Thus some liturgical interbreeding[acculturation] between Buddhism and Christianity #Pope Francis recently extolled the Kirishitan as models for those today under persecution[Fr jg suggests vat 2 type acculturation was in overdrive] # Indeed some wrongly assumed the secret chameleon Kirishtan were a harmless Buddhist sect-but when it came to the crunch acculturators could die martyrs
Father John George | 10 August 2015