Why the Church should thank the media


Priests with bowed headsThe Royal Commission into child sexual abuse can only be a good thing for the Catholic Church. It is a chance to account for the betrayal and crimes of priests and other church representatives who committed acts of abuse against the vulnerable, and for the careless, even callous way in which many church officials responded to complaints against their own. This will be a long overdue first step in moving forward.

However, while victims have been calling for a Royal Commission for a long time, and while the bishops have welcomed it, the fact that it has taken government intervention for a proper account of the crisis to take place represents in part a failure of the Church's response.

The Church's defenders point to the policies and procedures put in place to protect children, the establishment of the National Committee for Professional Standards, and the Towards Healing processes for providing compensation and support for victims unwilling to make complaints against abusers through the legal system.

Most abuse cases today are from more than 20 years ago, indicating a change in Church practice and in cultural attitudes, providing better protection for young people. The Church's current procedures are part of a laudable move towards a response centred on the needs of victims, and a greater awareness of the problem in general.

But its response has fallen short in other areas.

When Church authorities first got together to address the issue of abuse by clergy at the beginning of the 1990s, they developed a nine-point plan. One of the points was to research whether or not there were particular issues in the culture of the Church that might contribute to people abusing.

Yet more than 20 years later, we're yet to see a serious study of these issues that has grown out of the lessons learned. Nor have we been given an adequate account of the number of abuse cases the various dioceses and religious orders have dealt with through their formal processes, or the nature and distribution of the cases.

While changes have been made in the processes for selecting and forming priests and religious, and while there is a greater awareness of the nature of abuse and paedophilia, we're yet to see a serious institutional effort to explore whether the Church's approaches to sexuality, power and authority, allowed a climate of abuse to occur. Independent contributions such as that of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson have been marginalised and largely ignored.

In addition, while there have been apologies to victims — including the 2008 apology from Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day, and various efforts by bishops and congregational leaders — the Church is yet to find a structure where true reconciliation can take place.

The Pope's 2008 apology in many ways echoed Pope John Paul II's speech to Indigenous people in 1986. That speech proved to be the beginning of an era of reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the rest of the Church.

It saw the establishment of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council, the creation of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday on the liturgical calendar, and a greater awareness and acceptance of Indigenous culture and peoples in Catholic schools, parishes and other institutions.

The 2008 apology saw no such follow-up for victims of abuse. What formal recognition is made each year for the victims of abuse by clergy? Where are the Catholic bodies for these victims? Where are the priests and religious dedicated to ministering to them and advocating for them both within the Church and in broader society?

In terms of its ability to continue to minister to the Australian people with any integrity, this crisis is the biggest to face the Church. As well as providing protocols for complaints against clergy to be heard, the bishops needed to be leaders in publicly recognising the issue and providing spaces for victims to have their voices heard. The fact that we're still talking about this issue today shows that the Church has failed to do this adequately.

Cardinal George Pell argued this week that the Church has been unfairly vilified by the media. But the media has done the Church a favour in bringing this issue to light and campaigning for a more compassionate response to victims. The Church through inaction has lost its moral authority when it comes to this issue. Until it can provide a proper account of its misdeeds and point to real commitments to victims, the attacks will justifiably continue.

Michael McVeigh headshotMichael McVeigh is editor of Australian Catholics


Topic tags: Michael McVeigh, Royal Commission, clergy sex abuse



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Existing comments

I am in agreement.
Bernstein | 15 November 2012

George Pell is a dead loss in front of a TV camera. Could someone persuade the media to find another spokesman or woman whose views represent the church more accurately. What the Cardinal Archbishop has tried to say in the last couple of days is not general Catholic opinion.
grebo | 15 November 2012

I would like to agree with Michael McVeigh, but since the announcement on Monday evening, the patina of the Royal Commission has quickly shone through that it is very likely to focus, not on improving the protection of children (and adults) from sexual predators, but on other issues, including the Catholic Church as a whole. Sexual assaults and abuse - for children and adults, is a societal problem. What the Royal Commission should be about is showing the bad structural response to such abuse and assaults and that includes any bad responses in the name of religion. Part of a societal structural support for children, and adults, in relation to sexuality is opting for a common good understanding of what sex is and what it's for. I doubt if the Royal Commission will be allowed to go as far into the issue as that, so really, maybe Cardinal Pell's warning has some truth to it.
Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 15 November 2012

I'm not religious but I applaud both Michael and the Bishops who have shown total decency and humanity by acknowledging the dreadful wrong done to so many. While it is true that abuse has occurred in other institutions, it did George Pell no credit for speaking the way he did. Were it not for the good work of many Christians working within the Catholic church, Pell would be fuelling the fires of irreversible cynicism.
bill hampel | 15 November 2012

Cardinal Pell stated (Age,14/11/12), "The seal of confession is inviolable. [But] I would never hear the confession of a priest who is suspected of such a thing." By 'thing', of course, he means the predatory sexual/physical abuse of young persons. The seal of the confessional IS inviolable, according to church law. This law also states "All to whom by virtue of office the care of souls is committed are bound to hear the confessions of the faithful entrusted to them who reasonably request confession." The cardinal unites a sacred truth of the Roman Catholic Church with a lie which states he may be, if he desires, selective of penitents from whom he will hear confessions.
Caroline Storm | 15 November 2012

That the media has been responsible in Australia and elsewhere for highlighting the problem is true. But it is also true that the media's reporting at times has been one-sided and partial in pointing out both extent of the phenomenon and number of perpetrators. Let's not santify the media either.
Tony | 15 November 2012

"Cardinal George Pell argued this week that the Church has been unfairly vilified by the media." Cardinal Pell needs to remove the mote from his eye before he accusses the media of being responsible for his failures. Yesterday I said it was 'refreshing' to read the views of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, and it was, but, as with the editor of this 'Australian Catholics' there is no point in leading from the rear. Unless and until those Roman Catholics who do not support the clerical abuse of people take charge of the Pope's notion of the Church as being 'his own church' and turn it into their own, by actions that extend well beyond this tearful handwringing and the repetition of what the vilified and abused victims have been saying for years, they will remain complicit in this cover-up, every bit as guilty as those bishops who have brought this shame down on you all. I watched one of the last pillars of support Pell was clinging to appear on Lateline, withdrawing his support for the current process and pointing out that the abuse continues even today. Nothing, nothing at all, has changed.
janice wallace | 15 November 2012

While the Church position on all of this is totally indefensible,there is only one way a Royal Commission can be called - and that is by the Government. Media pressure has certainly aided the call - but it has taken a great deal of time and the cynic in some may wonder whether politics has played a part as well. What will be revealed may hurt and damage clergy who are innocent but this has to be endured in order that those who have abused and those who were abused have the full force of the law and the support of the law in order to clean out the house. No wonder our young ones are so disenchanted with the Church. One young man I know told me he rarely goes to Mass - it makes him sick to think that the House of God has been such a den of iniquity - yet the person of Jesus Christ continues to drive his life. Sad reflection of the broader damage this has caused. God help us all!
Jane | 15 November 2012

Good article, Michael. There are, as you and other commentators here say, things a Royal Commission can do and matters the Catholic Church needs to do at the very highest level to heal this terrible cancer. It will require a person of incredibly high calibre to instigate what the Church needs to do. The Royal Commission will, I suspect, continue for years, probably after Cardinal Pell and a number of prominent Church leaders retire. Perhaps, given their age and mindset, they are really not up to it?
Edward F | 15 November 2012

Carolines response raises some questions for me. I'm no theologian What is meant by " reasonably request confession?" Does that mean if a priest hearing confession suspects that another priest has confessed in order to silence him he is not bound by the seal.? I'm also wondering about the form of penance and absolution. Could absolution require the offender to report to his bishop or the police. How does render unto God what is God's and Caesar what is Ceasar's fit with the seal. If Caesar says you have to look after God's children how do the two fit
john | 15 November 2012

Thank you for your honesty, Michael McVeigh
Helen Martin | 15 November 2012

The royal commission should be extended to all abuses by priests and others in positions of power--and especially spiritual power.
jo | 15 November 2012

"Most abuse cases today are from more than 20 years ago, indicating a change in Church practice and in cultural attitudes, providing better protection for young people." No. McVeigh misses the point. This is a recurring problem in the recognition of the time frame of victms coming forward. It generally takes 20 years for a victim to be able to first recognise internally and then second articulate externally, their abuse. There will be plenty more coming forward for a long time to come.
Jennifer Herrick | 15 November 2012

Please do not think that the abuse cases are all over 20 years ago. Victims of abuse often take years of counselling before admitting to being abused. It is not an indication of less abuse to say the cases are mostly over 20 years ago. The newspapers say that less than 25% of current abuse cases are reported to Police.
Noeline Champion | 15 November 2012

I agree with Michael McVeigh, we should thank the Media for bringing the church to account, we as Catholics are shamed about all these terrible crimes against children. I am sure the Bishops are likewise shocked, but we need much more transparency and much more involvement from all the "People of God" (Vatican 11) If there was more inclusion of married men & women and women generally these matters would have been handled very differently. We need more humility and concern for victims there are some great role models, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, Bishop Bill Morris Father Kevin Dillon of Geelong, and Bishop Bill Right and others. Margaret M.Coffey
Margaret M. Coffey | 15 November 2012

Thank you Michael for a balanced piece. The continuing tragedy of this saga is only sharpened when leaders like George Pell spill insipid evasion into our homes via the television. I was so embarrassed by his comments a few nights ago. The hierarchical bubble is blooming more transparent and larger each day. I pray for the time the Cardinal says one thing to the camera and one thing only. In other words I pray for a decent media advisor to have the courage to tell it how it is. Then all is needed is a snippet of ecclesial humility (yet this may be a contradiction in terms). The pew is getting harder to sit in, yet could it be that this intervention by the Spirit in the form of the State, is a sign of the times and a sign of hope.
Vic O'Callaghan | 15 November 2012

Michael McVeigh writes: "Most abuse cases today are from more than 20 years ago, indicating a change in Church practice and in cultural attitudes, providing better protection for young people." At face value this sounds plausible. However, there is clear and repeated evidence of a significant gap between sexual abuse and the reporting of it. Professor Patrick Parkinson found in his study of sexual abuse in the Anglican church "that the average length of time between boys being abused and boys disclosing was 25 years" (Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry (19/10/2012). There are good reasons for this extraordinary time lag. If we want evidence of change in contemporary church practices and cultural attitudes, we have to look a bit harder for it than Michael McVeigh does, I'm afraid.
Frank Golding | 15 November 2012

The concerns that Cardinal Pell has expressed about the mass media's handling of the child sex abuse crisis and the forthcoming royal commission are justified. Reasonable voices in the media share his concerns. The editorial of today's 'The Australian' (15/11/12) is worth looking at: 'Those who see an opportunity to discredit the Catholic Church...will milk it [the royal commission] for all it is worth... If radical secularists want to propose a separate royal commission to consider the abolition of the Catholic Church, they are welcome to put the arguments forward. But this subversive game being played by the usual suspects, with the connivance of the ABC, is a distraction the real victims of abuse could do without... The revelations of child abuse are ugly enough; let us leave politics and sectarianism out of this.'
Cristoforo del Nero | 15 November 2012

The real tragedy here is not the actions of Church leaders but the impact of our secular society on us all. I have heard figures indicating 18% of convicted sex offenders are from religious organisations of ALL faiths. The major sources are family and friends; - which supports Pell's view the Church is being made the scapegoat? Sexual abuse is rife in our Society and its done by people abusing their positions of control. What's crying out for attention is the PRACTICE of the Catholic Faith, which is why the Pope gave us a Year of Faith; - to get real; - as we all live in a society where self-indulgence is rife; - and we are all influenced. Christ, on the other hand, gave us the Cross and invited us to follow him; - but it's becoming harder and harder, given society values and media influence. We also kid ourselves if we think our clergy should be immune from this self-indulgent culture! We now have Bishops saying they would break the seal of confession. Wow; - how we need this year of faith? We need to reflect on our Creed, live it, and pray for our priests and Church!
HARTLEY | 15 November 2012

I agree, Michael. Many people say the Age has got it in for the Catholic Church. Maybe it has. However, it is only through the Age and other papers that the bulk of ordinary Church members discovered the horrifying extent of the damage suffered by victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy: lives ruined, victims resorting to suicide, families devastated. If it had not been for the efforts of the Press most of us would have been ignorant of this cancer in the Church, because various bishops hushed up the problems, shifted offenders around, and were never reported to police. Now, the bishops cannot afford to leave things as they are. They must deal with the victims in a much more humane and adequate way as you point out. The revelations have caused decent Catholics much pain and concern. Ironically, we have been praying in the Year of Grace instituted by the bishops, for the transformation nof the Church. Hopefully, the necessary reforms will proceed quickly and our prayer be answered. Maybe even Cardinal Pell will agree that it should happen, once the Federal Enquiry furnishes its report when it concludes its hearings.
Tony Santospirito | 15 November 2012

Carolyn Storm His Eminence has not told a lie,but applied the law with sound common sense in accord with canonical jurisprudence-there are well known occasions when a priest may decide to postpone or not hear a confession: priests should not refuse reasonable requests to hear confessions. What would be a good example of an unreasonable request? If someone were to approach a priest as he is putting on vestments for Mass – not a rare thing, by the way – he could select to decline to hear the confession at that moment. If a priest did not, for example, know the native language, perhaps he could decline etc.
father john george | 15 November 2012

This is a good article thanks Michael, for an excellent profile of George Pell see today’s article by Barney Zwartz: ‘What George doesn’t understand’ (theage.com.au/opinion/society). Fr. Mick Mack Andrew has indicated one of the problems associated with the Royal Commission: but its focus on the plight of abused children within the context of religious institutions is necessary since Human Services has jurisdiction over society abuses. Clerical abuse flourishes within the culture that George Pell claims so dearly. In his article Zwartz has identified a major problem with this culture: ‘Pell is homo vaticanus, a Vatican man almost before he is homo sapiens’. He then cites the Irish Prime Minister following the Cloyne Report : it highlights the dysfunction and narcissism that dominates the culture of the Vatican to this day. The Royal Commission will have a huge task in hand.
Trish Martin | 15 November 2012

The lag between abuse and reporting by victims is indeed well established. But the John Jay Report into abuse in the American Catholic Church found that even accounting for such a lag, there is a definite 'peak' of abuse rates in the 1970s, which then declined into the late 80s. The report is worth reading: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/upload/The-Causes-and-Context-of-Sexual-Abuse-of-Minors-by-Catholic-Priests-in-the-United-States-1950-2010.pdf
Zac | 15 November 2012

The victims voices and the media have helped to expose this horrific abuse of power. Church officials' biggest fear is having to answer to the media (public opinion)...They are not used to having to answer to anyone, and now since they are backed into a corner, their responses are showing their true selves. They still do work harder to protect their image and their institution, rather than protecting innocent children. To the church officials, children and victims of clergy sex abuse are just collateral damage. Thank you to the brave victims for speaking up and for the media finally listening to them. Judy Jones with Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Judy Jones | 15 November 2012

I think it is beyond the scope of the Royal Commission but the point about the examination of the Australian Catholic cultural weaknesses is a good one. I don't think people within the culture can do this, as Bishop Pell demonstrates. Is there a cultural connection between the Catholicism of Ireland, Australia (particularly in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle) and Boston which brough these things on? We need cultural experts to help. As an Australian born Catholic from a continental European culture there are things within the wider Australian culture (not just the hierachy) that I just don't get: mateship, "dobbing", male aggression and fear of intimacy, gossip as a means of dealing with issues. I have also heard that it was quite common to push a homosexual son into the priesthood out of shame. I know that I would be ostracised for suggesting that the, relatively new, Catholic school systems need to be looked at. Have we created non-Eucharistic Catholic ghettos? I have heard the term "OUR kids" at Parish and Diocesan levels too many times to count.
Andrew De Sol | 15 November 2012

What is it about the culture of the Catholic Church that has led to this particular Church leading the field in child sexual abuse? The Catholic Church needs to find this out before it can engage in really meaningful reform. Does compulsory priestly celibacy have anything to do with it? Whatever the causes, the Church should investigate these with urgency, with humility and in a search for truth, and it needs outside professional help to do so!
George Allen | 15 November 2012

Zac, I've read the report you recommend and it does not help your argument nor Michael McVeigh's case. Sure it shows a decline in reported cases from 975 (for the period 1985 to 1989) to 253 (for 1995 to 1999), and 73 (for 2004 to 2008). But given the average 25 year lag between event and report, there is no conclusive evidence of a real decline in sexual abuse by clergy or any improvement in the prevention or handling of cases.
Frank Golding | 15 November 2012

Jo, that's an important element hardly mentioned.
I know first hand the paralyzing terror experienced through abuse of spiritual power.
Thank goodness I wasn't reared as a Catholic seeing what the vulnerable are convinced of and what is asked of them.

L Newington | 15 November 2012

On the contrary, Frank, if you look at the Supplementary report referenced in the main report, you will find it devotes a chapter to this precise issue and concludes:

"The decline in cases in the 1990s that can be seen on all of the preceding charts is confirmed to be not simply a decline in reporting of cases, but in the incidence of unreported events."

The somewhat lengthy and technical chapter 1 of this document shows how the report arrived at that conclusion. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/reports/2006_03_John_Jay/Supplementary_Data_Analysis.pdf

Stats is not my field, but the authors obviously believe they've demonstrated a real decline in abuse rates.

Zac | 15 November 2012

I find myself thinking more and more these days that Catholics find enjoyment in being self critical (perhaps it comes from a deep spiritual desire to be self-sacrificing). They are willing to agree with, indeed to thank, the media and the Government (and anyone else expressing anti-Catholic sentiment) for making excessive demands on the Catholic Church, including that a Royal Commission be held. Not many Catholics seem willing to consider the possibility that a Royal Commission is a poor vehicle for dealing properly with allegations of child abuse or that it may provide a very effective springboard for further anti-Catholic sentiment and aggressive secularism in the Australian community (through the decision-makers making a disproportionate number of adverse findings against the Church which present a false picture). I don't think that anyone objecting to the Royal Commission would say that dreadful wrong has not been done. Rather the objection is to the Catholic problem being misrepresented as the biggest slice of the pie.
Elizabeth | 15 November 2012

Caroline Storm: my understanding would be that a priest may, indeed should, hear a confession; he might also offer valuable and constructive counselling and advice. However he has the (divinely appointed) authority to withhold absolution at that time after due consideration.
Julia | 15 November 2012

Those here who realise the problem reaches beyond child abuse are articulating a systemic problem: that of abuse and exploitation through clerical power and prestige which reaches to vulnerable adults as well as to children. If the media can assist to highlight this a further service will be wrought.
Jennifer Herrick | 15 November 2012

Andrew the problem of abuse is not is problem of sexual orientation. Offences have been committed within and across gender.

As a heterosexual and someone who directly knows abuse and those who have abused and been I can assure you gender preference is not the problem. Abuse of power is.

I am also eternally grateful to the good priests of of both gender bias who have supported me and my family and friends in our need to be heard.
john | 15 November 2012

I totally agree with Jo and L Newington.
Myra | 15 November 2012

Thank you, Michael, for this interesting slant on the current situation. If it weren't for the media, we would never have seen the interview on the 7.30 Report last evening, where Bishop Geoffrey Robinson alleged that George Pell was not a 'team player'. These are the exact words George Pell himself used about his brother Bishop when asked to comment on the matter of the removal of Bishop Willaim Morris.My how the worm turns.
Peter R Kenny - Toowoomba | 15 November 2012

It seems to me ironic that the Royal Commission has been announced during the Year of Grace and that it will commence during the Year of Faith. Perhaps the frailty of the 'human face of the Church' needs to be revealed and reflected on so it can be reunited with the 'Divine Face'.
Margaret McDonald | 15 November 2012

The argument for a 25 year delay in reporting ignores changes in cultural attitudes which have encouraged early reporting as in Victoria's mandatory reporting system. There may been a delay 1960-1990, there is no evidence that there are such delays today. In fact given the level of suspicion of the clergy one would expect over-reporting.
peter | 15 November 2012

Today is a better day than yesterday. A few more contributors support Cardinal Pell and know that the media is biased against the Catholic Church. There are a few parliamentarians in the Senate and the House of Representatives that have no hope of being re-elected in their Electorates, so they hope to win votes from anti-Catholics and dissident catholics. Today's contributors would be advised to read the Editorial of the Australian newspaper (a respectful newspaper "The Heart of the nation") and ignore the left wing media that is very anti-Catholic. We are blessed to have Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney. I don't live in the Sydney Archdiocese, but I know the good work Cardinal Pell is doing, the Seminary is flourishing, many Catholics especially young ones are attending Mass regurlarly. Also many young men and women over the age of 18 years old attend Theology on Tap to learn more about their faith. "Straight talk,hard facts and real answers on the Catholic faith and how it applies to daily life". There was a time when similar meetings were held in the pubs and the attendees were grey hair men and women and the topic was usually critical of the Vatican. I remember one evening, I was writing down what the speaker was lecturing and I was asked if I was spying. Things have changed in Sydney, Parramatta and many other Dioceses. The future is great for our Holy Catholic Church. AMDG.
Ron Cini | 15 November 2012

John, sexual orientation IS part of the problem of clerical abuse. Figures from North America show that around 85% of the victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests (ie., men) have been boys. This is hugely above the the median incidence of homosexuality in society generally. In endeavouring to find a therapeutic response to the problem, the Church would be grossly negligent if it were to ignore the scientifically-established sociological data.
Cristoforo del Nero | 15 November 2012

Zac and Peter, with respect the issue is that it does take twenty years very often for a person to psychologically recognise and be psychologically competent to report their own abuse. Yes reporting procedures can assist other people reporting, if and only if, they know about it. Peter, of course there is "no evidence that there are such delays today" because the persons concerned are in that twenty year time psychological lag! Elizabeth, I would be interested to know what alternative means you would recommend for the handling of abuse in the Catholic and other churches, given the systemic failure thus far?
Jennifer Herrick | 15 November 2012

To George Allen - no need for any investigations to find the cause of child sexual abuse, and it's got nothing to do with celibacy. What's stopping a celibate person seeking sexual contact with an adult? The abuse carried out on children is obviously committed by people with a sexual attraction to children, and with no regards for the lives they are destroying. It's evil and filth.
AURELIUS | 15 November 2012

Jennifer, if there is a consistent 20 year delay then the year-by-year allegations can be plotted and any change in allegation rates should emerge. In the U.S. there was a flood of allegations around 2002 when the crisis broke in the news. The distribution of these allegations spread across the preceding decades, with a peak in the 70s. If abuse were constant, then we would expect equally high rates for the 1980s right up to 1992, but instead the rate dramatically decreased. In addition, I understand that the 20 year delay is an average (correct me if I'm wrong), some people will report earlier (within a year of the abuse) while others will report much much later. It should be possible (I'm no statistician) to use the proportion of early reports to estimate the total rate - assuming the average of 20 years remains constant.
Zac | 16 November 2012

I think Zac, it is best if you read the some of the criticism of the manner in which the John Jay Report came to be both in terms of support and delivery. I am not going to get into an argument about one report amongst many reports. This report has not been deemed reliable by all who understand the difficult nature of reporting. That is well documented. Further, statistics and psychology are two different realms. Of course 20 years is not a consistent time frame. It is a median time frame. Enough of the statistics. The issue is that mandatory reporting has assisted others to report. It has not assisted the victim to report. That is the issue and that is why the statistics in Australia (not in the USA)will show over the decades to come that this so called peak in the seventies is entirely mythical.
Jennifer Herrick | 16 November 2012

From my point of view...

* Yup, Rome has hidden abuses of all sorts - sexual abuse here, but as Eire/Ireland has shown - many others,

* The problem is partly attributable to broader culture - specifically, heteropatriarchy.

* The problem is partially attributable to Catholic theology - and, ultimately, anthropology

* Finally, the fact that abuses - sexual as evidenced in Australia - and otherwise - as evidenced in Ireland/Eire - have been hiddent by the institutional church (as opposed to the Church understood as the body of Christ incarnate in the world now )

I believe that it is time that we undo the lack of transparancy that the Roman (and other) churches have operated under.

I believe that the Australian church needs to understand that it subject to Australian law, and that it must respect this communtity's belief that _all_ abuses are reported.

I believe that all figures in the Church should be held accountable before the law where they withhold evidence of sexual or other abuse.

But I want something more radical. Much more radical.

Rome's theology around human sexuality is based on Aristotelean anthropology. No matter where we look in the world, we see that this anthropology doesn't work.

So, I believe that our church needs to re-evaluate its anthropology, and in the light of that, change its theology.

If that means that it has to admit that the Church was wrong in the past - so be it.

Basically, Rome is pointing us to be hated - because our institution _has_ defended paedophiles - and to be irrelevant - because its ethics are built on outdated (and false) anthropology.

We need a VCIII to break Rome's addiction to looking after its own interests, and to completing VCII and forcing the church institution to deal with the modern world

DeC | 16 November 2012

The two key statements in MICHAEL MCVEIGH’s article are:
“…we're yet to see a serious institutional effort to explore whether the Church's approaches to sexuality, power and authority, allowed a climate of abuse to occur.”
“The Church through inaction has lost its moral authority when it comes to this issue. Until it can provide a proper account of its misdeeds and point to real commitments to victims, the attacks will justifiably continue.”
Broken Rites also believes that the “Towards Healing” process has not been particularly helpful for the victims: http://brokenrites.alphalink.com.au/nletter/page185-towards-healing.html

Frank S | 16 November 2012

The editorial from The Australian quoted by Cristoforo del Nero is a sign of the reverse psychology/manipualted being played out in this childish game. It's wording suggests it was written by a high-ranking cleric ghost writer with a political/power role at stake - and with no faith in due legal process. How could a newspaper from News Ltd talk about "radical secularists"? Does News Ltd sudden;y have some altruistic cause it's gunning for?
When it's all said and done, Jesus was the ultimate example of radical secularism - Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, give to God what is God's. (So Caesar is owed justice/compensation on behalf of victims, and God is owed an expression of repentance and conversion)
AURELIUS | 17 November 2012

Jennifer,so glad you raised the issue of abuse of adults by clergy.the problem is much wider spread than abuse of minors. In my experience,it can be a matter of the abuser availing himself of whoever crosses his path,child or adult. They are usually charming and clever and have an inbuilt radar for vulnerability. Often,the excuse when caught is"It was in a moment of loneliness".Years of such moments apparently in some cases.What a pathetic excuse!!!!!
dianne | 17 November 2012

Jennifer: I have looked for the criticisms you mentioned but have not found much that is compelling. Could you recommend any particular sources?

I don't think it is fair to discount statistics, and then assert the (statistical) claim that time will show abuse to have continued unabated since the 70s despite the efforts that have been made, the change in public attitudes and consciousness, and numerous incidental changes in society and the clergy. The John Jay report is not perfect, but it is better than assuming that the sex abuse crisis will repeat itself in 20 year cycles without regard to historical and social context.
Zac | 18 November 2012

Thank you for a fair and carefully measured commentary on the quite appalling problems faced by the Church which are made even worse by the failure of George Pell to accept the fact that serious sins of omission have been committed by the hierarchy in that it failed to take actions that would prevent perpetrators from being able to cause further irreparable damage to innocent victims of circumstance. Moving priests guilty of these appalling crimes from one parish to another beggars the imagination and all instances of such arrangements need to be exposed.
David | 18 November 2012

John, the point I was trying to make was not about the sexual orientation of the person but the aspects of Australian culture that I find peculiar, as a semi-outsider. To me, pushing your homosexual son into the priesthood was maybe a way of hiding a problem that you were ashamed about. It is the denial and shame involved in such decision making that I find interesting and wonder whether or not such aspects of our culture, combined with preference for gossip as a way of dealing with things (rather than confrontation of the problem), aversion to "dobbing" etc, created a fertile ground for the secrecy necessary for paedophilia to thrive in our society.
Andrew De Sol | 19 November 2012

Thanks Michael.Well said.
Benita | 20 November 2012

Dianne, you're welcome. Zac, trawl NCR and you'll find plenty of links to evidence.
Jennifer Herrick | 29 May 2013

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