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The Catholic wrap-up at the Royal Commission

72 Comments
Frank Brennan |  12 February 2017

 

Last Monday, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse commenced its three-week examination of the causes of child sexual abuse and cover up in the Catholic Church in Australia over the last 60 years. The statistics were horrifying.

Cardinal Pell with paper titled Sexual AbuseEvery case represented a person who claims as a child to have been abused by a person of authority in a Catholic institution — whether it be a school, a parish, an orphanage or a children's home.

Whichever way the statistics are interpreted in comparison with other institutions, they are appalling. The Catholic Church harboured child abusers in the past, and in numbers which now shock Australians, whether they be Catholic or not.

We need to hold the victims clearly in focus, not as statistics or as hard cases, but as individuals, erstwhile vulnerable members of the church community, citizens able to walk tall again because they have been heard, believed and affirmed. Francis Sullivan got it right when speaking for the Church's Truth Justice and Healing Council. With great compassion and insight, he told the commissioners:

'We are advised that the data does not distinguish those claims that were substantiated from those that were accepted without investigation. In an ideal world, the data would distinguish between the number of allegations where offenders made admissions, or were convicted, and those where an investigation substantiated the complaint.

'Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the proportion of priests since 1950 against whom even claims of abuse have been made undermines the image and credibility of the priesthood. Likewise, the very high proportions of religious brothers with claims of abuse only further corrodes the community's trust.

'The data tells us that over the six decades from 1950 to 2010 some 1265 Catholic priests and religious were the subject of a child sexual abuse claim. These numbers are shocking; they are tragic and they are indefensible.'

The next day, on the first regular sitting day of Parliament for this year, Bill Shorten took the opportunity just before question time to declare, 'It is past time for Cardinal Pell to return to Australia and to account to the commission in person.'

 

"Twenty years ago, I daresay there would have been a chorus of objections to the Greens' motion, led in the first instance by the various bodies representing the nation's lawyers. But this time, there was silence."

 

The Greens took the cue and introduced a motion into the Senate the day after, acknowledging that 4444 people made abuse allegations against the church in the last 35 years. Having noted that 'allegations of criminal misconduct against Cardinal George Pell have been forwarded to the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions by the Victorian Police', they called 'on Cardinal George Pell to return to Australia to assist the Victorian Police and Office of Public Prosecutions with their investigations into these matters'.

Pell came out fighting, as he has so often in the past whenever the Greens are agitating an issue from a perspective he finds most disagreeable. His office in Rome issued this statement: 'The Greens have opted for an obvious political stunt while knowing full well Cardinal Pell has consistently cooperated with the Royal Commission and the Victorian Police.

'The suggestion that Cardinal Pell should be accountable for all the wrongdoings of Church personnel throughout Australia over many decades is not only unjust and completely fanciful but also acts to shield those in the Church who should be called to account for their failures ... The Greens' anti-religion agenda is notorious and most fair minded Australians would see this motion as pathetic point-scoring.'

Whatever the Cardinal's concerns about the Greens' political agenda, it was the Labor leader Bill Shorten who opened the door on this approach the previous day. And once the Greens introduced the motion, not one senator raised an objection or qualification.

Twenty years ago, I daresay there would have been a chorus of objections to the Greens' motion, led in the first instance by the various bodies representing the nation's lawyers. But this time, there was silence except from the Australian Council of Civil Liberties. Their long-time president Terry O'Gorman issued a statement rightly claiming 'that the Australian Senate motion was yet another example of politicians politicising the criminal investigation and related court processes'.

O'Gorman warned, 'Great care has to be taken, particularly by politicians using the "coward's castle" of Parliament, to prevent the current Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse from becoming a witch hunt'. No other Australian has been as closely scrutinised and publicly examined by the commission as Pell. O'Gorman said it was 'imperative that politicians and other community leaders not whip up hysteria in relation to matters arising from the Royal Commission as that will negatively affect balanced and serious consideration by the community of the Royal Commission in respect of its final recommendations'.

 

"Even Rome needs to accept that a more transparent, accountable and inclusive hierarchy would have spared many children the horrors of abuse. The temptation to find excuses is always there."

 

I then appeared before the Royal Commission to discuss the most arcane of issues. They summoned me to meet with them as part of a panel to discuss the seal of the confessional as they try to determine 'to what extent has the operation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation contributed to the occurrence of child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions or affected the institutional response to this abuse'. Though not an academic theologian nor an experienced parish priest, I happily accepted the commission's invitation. I told the commission:

'We've all been confronted with these horrific statistics ... You as a Royal Commission put the spotlight on the Church, quite rightly. You ask, well, why are things out of kilter in the Catholic Church? You look at those things which are distinctively Catholic, particularly those which might look a bit weird to those who aren't Catholic, so you draw up a list of those things, including confession. Now, it seems to me that where we're all on the same page ... we want to get this right in terms of the future protection of children.'

The Catholic Church has had a problem with child sexual abuse and it needed state assistance and community pressure to acknowledge publicly the extent of the problem and all its ramifications. Hopefully the Royal Commission can formulate universal principles and standards which can be applied to all institutions ensuring better protection of children. The state has a legitimate interest ensuring that Church structures and procedures comply with the principles and standards set down in laws enacted by parliaments.

But it will be a matter for the Catholic Church to determine how best to comply with those principles and standards, consistent with Church teachings and structures. At the commission, I offered this suggestion to Justice McClellan and his fellow commissioners:

'You should separate out what you might recommend in terms of legislative change, but then, regardless of what you might recommend about legislative change, recommendations directly to the Catholic Church as to how to proceed to correct certain evils and abuses that you have become aware of in the historic practice of confession.'

 

"The Royal Commission has less than a year to run. Once it reports, the Australian Church will need to change radically, or become a despised, diminishing sect."

 

I then made this observation:

'Though most of you are not members of the Catholic Church, nor pride yourselves as theologians, you have been the de facto confessors of the nation on this particular issue now for four years. You have far more experience pastorally on these things than even all these learned professors and bishops I am surrounded by will ever have.'

Even Rome needs to accept that a more transparent, accountable and inclusive hierarchy would have spared many children the horrors of abuse. The temptation to find excuses is always there. Past victims and children in Catholic institutions now and in the future will be best helped if the commission can set down appropriate standards and protocols and if the Church, convinced that it is not being singled out for adverse treatment by the commission or politicians, can review its own structures, theology and doctrine to ensure compliance with those standards and protocols. This will be best achieved if the Parliament backs off and awaits the formal findings of the Royal Commission and if the Victoria Police and the DPP apply the usual standards to any allegations now surfacing about Pell.

The agenda for the promised 2020 synod of the Australian Church cannot be determined and managed only by those who cling to what they regard as the non-negotiable aspects of Church hierarchy and governance, when those aspects are shown to have contributed to past failures in transparency and accountability. Those failures then compounded rates of child abuse which were shocking, tragic and indefensible. The Royal Commission has less than a year to run. Once it reports, the Australian Church will need to change radically, or become a despised, diminishing sect.

 


Frank BrennanFrank Brennan SJ is the CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia.

 



Comments

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Submitted comments

Too little too late Frank, though incisive as usual. To revert to the request made to you, it is arguable that many priests may have used the anonymity of the confessional to identify vulnerable victims of either sex. And if so, perhaps the sacrament of penance should be excluded and removed from the administration of male priests and handed over to nuns to administer. There's precious little evidence of them abusing children sexually. As for our esteemed Cardinal, though the arm of the law is long, the wheels of justice turn mighty slow.

francis Armstrong 13 February 2017

Well said, Frank. With the practical measures already taken, ecclesial change is already evident in the willingness of priests and bishops to accept responsibility and implement policies and practices in collaboration with civil authorities, endeavouring to ensure every measure is taken to protect the vulnerable. Spiritually, the many priests innocent of paedophilia appear to be called through this crisis to imitate Christ's passion personally in taking on the burden of the sins of others. It is a heavy cross indeed, requiring prayer and support from all the faithful.

John 13 February 2017

This is a mortifying time for the Catholic Church in Australia. The statistics are horrific and your words, Frank, about the Church needing to change radically or become a despised, diminishing sect are sadly accurate. For so many people the Catholic Church is a beloved institution and that is why the community repugnance cuts so deep. The focus for the Church must, firstly, be on the needs of survivors and their families. And then, a long, difficult road to regain respect. No other way.

Pam 13 February 2017

The statistics presented are despairing but they cone without context. How many percent of what number? To say 17% of this group sexually offended you need to know is it 17% of 40 or 400. The Royal Comission does have the air if witch hunt around it. It has not given much attention to the range of institutions, it has let the states and their institutions go unexamined. It has become an anti Catholic exercise and hounds all who are good in our church.

Rosiejoan 14 February 2017

We should be consistently pointing out that it was the courage and integrity of Julia Gillard which set all the good work in train.

Jim Jones 14 February 2017

The Vatican (Pope Francis) refused to supply information requested by the Royal Commission. That shows the disdain that they have for victims and secular authority. Don’t be fooled by the Catholic Church’s supposed grief and regret at the royal commission results. These manufactured gestures mean nothing. The Church has known all about this and has been told over decades by other experts, and studies including Tom Doyle. The Church will continue to say one thing and do the opposite. Church leaders have disdain for victims and secular authority. They will keep choosing to be secretive over telling the truth and being open. They will protect the image of the church and the ordained over the safety of children and the healing of victims. They will act like they are changing but it will be just that an act. They have known all of this for decades and the only reason they have not changed is because they REFUSE TO.

Dan Ogrodowski 14 February 2017

To say "The Catholic Church has had a problem with child sexual abuse" suggests that the problem is past. It isn't. The surviving victims and the families and friends of those who have died continue to be the church's problem and must be acknowledged as its responsibility. That's to say nothing of the total collapse of the church's moral authority - a problem it's likely to have for generations to come.

OldG 14 February 2017

Some would sat the church in Australia already is a despised and dying sect. Look at the numbers and the age profile. The church has reasoned in self interested ways in the past, "to prevent scandal etc.", giving the laity a low priority in many things. Look how well that worked! it needs to be upfront now. There are many things it can take from its own tradition: confession in a public viewable area; a large lay input to the election of bishop candidates; withdrawal of Secrete Continere (?); married priests, the list goes on. What do you bet it will actually do very much at all?

Bob Young 14 February 2017

Excellent perspectives Frank. I agree wholeheartedly. At the risk of turning this into an advertorial, may I simply encourage bishops, Church trustees, counsellors, business and pastoral leaders and theologians to actively participate in essential Church governance formation, ongoing development and dialogue. We can and must do this, lest someone attempts to take it out of our hands. Here is but one great program example, where the Church is actively working to help reshape its governance culture, practice and accountability, always in a theological and doctrinal context: http://bbi.edu.au/ChurchGovernance

Greg Baynie 14 February 2017

I do not see the seal of the confessional being the harbinbger or cause of the shocking sexual abuse, but the sealing of mouths of those who could have, should have spoken up being more pertinent. The duty to protect and nurture children is sacrosanct and that was broken.

janelle Saffin 14 February 2017

"'to what extent has the operation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation contributed to the occurrence of child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions or affected the institutional response to this abuse'. There is no doubt that anyone capable of sexually abusing vulnerable innocent children would be capable of abusing the Sacrament of Reconciliation to silence critics of their behaviour. Remedies need to be installed to counter such abuse.

Robert Liddy 14 February 2017

Please let us all stay calm until the Royal Commission reports in coming weeks on all the other faith communities and institutions it has looked at. Then there will be opportunity for a broader perspective.

Tom Campbell 14 February 2017

Well said Father Frank. Calm and thoughtful as always. I would like to think that we could wait until the Commission's final report before passing judgement. After all, child sexual abuse didn't happen only in our faith. However, some of the comments here seem to suggest that people are unwilling to await the Commission's conclusions. Please everyone, keep praying for everyone involved: victims, perpetrators, innocent clergy and religious, the members of the Commission and those who still faithfully practise our faith. None of us can proclaim with certainty what is in another person's heart so we ought not try. Louise M Oliver

Louise M Oliver 14 February 2017

Re Bob Young's suggestion of lay involvement in selection of Bishops ,certainly has not occurred in last week's appointing of our new Bishop in Townsville . We have waited for over three years for our new man Tim Harris .I have questioned several of our priests & even they had zero involvement in the process (They saw result it in the local paper ). The positive note is that Tim has been passionate in his role as a pastor to his people ( a good shepard ) . So we are much looking forward to this experience.

john kersh 14 February 2017

Catholic Church requirements re confession: 1. Admit to all your serious sins. 2. Promise to amend ie not do it again. 3. Make restitution for your sins, if possible. Why cannot the bishops and clergy push this message. Non-catholics think confession is a get out of gaol free card.

Brian Wright 14 February 2017

On the singular issue of reconciliation, a possible way to, in part, defuse the issue is to repeal 'the ban' on use of the Third Rite.

Brian Larsson 14 February 2017

Much as I like Frank, the suggestion that the Parliament should back off is silly. And the Catholic Church in Australia is already a despised diminishing sect with governance arrangements that allowed these abuses to continue. Those responsible should all be in jail starting with Benedict. Furthermore the arrogance of the Vatican needs to be cut down to size. We should start by expelling the Papal Nuncio and withdraw diplomatic recognition from the Vatican. Nor should Catholics trust the hierarchy to reform itself. Reform needs to be taken out of their hands in a General Council of Australian Catholic Laity backed by the State. What is more childhood confession should be abolished forthwith along with altar boys.

leebold 14 February 2017

Fr Brennan is perfectly correct when he urges that close attention be given to the emotional anguish and psychological damage of the victims of paedophilia. One sacerdotal witness to the commission strongly suggested to the Commission last week that (with a very few exceptions) he believes that bishops and senior clerics have little of no grasp of that truth. As to Tom Campbell's plea for a "broader perspective", I think that's misguided if it implies that a perspective of the abuses of other religions and institution will somehow exculpate Catholicism. These current hearings are the "Catholic Wrap-up", which is providing that perspective (or over-view) of the Catholic story. That is so terrible that it needs no comparison with others. Furthermore, I believe that Rosiejoan is incorrect when she refers to a "witch-hunt". I have attended several of these Sydney sessions and -- though the calibre of the witnesses has been variable (two many have seemed like apologists), I have been struckk by the gravitas and quiet courtesy of the participants from the commission. There's not the remotest suggestion of a "witch-hut" and nobody who has actually seen the Commission in operation would make such a wild suggestion. On the matter of its statistics, as a scientist I have been impressed by the "conservatism" of the approach (some orders, such as the notorious Brothers of St Gerard Majella were excluded on account of their small size) and calculations and estimates have been done judiciously, I believe. Whether individual Catholics feel any "responsibility" or whether we should all "hang our heads in shame", making excuses is NOT the appropriate responses: then we would become (retrospectively, at least) complicit and, like so many clerics of the past, be guilty of putting the welfare of "the brand" or the "corporation" ahead of its members and those who have been so egregiously damaged. The real question is to decide what is truly Christian. On the evidence before the Commission, too many have seemed (and still seem) seem not to understand that question or incapable of asking it.

Dr John Carmody 14 February 2017

It is resoundingly true, Frank, that "The Catholic Church has had a problem with child sexual abuse....". It is also true that Western society generally has a problem with child sexual abuse and all other forms of physical and psychological abuse against both adults and children. So much of child physical and sexual abuse has its origins in the liberation of sexual practice following the sexual revolution occasioned by the contraceptive pill and the rise and rise of human rights over and above human virtue. Part of these "rights" allows the constant exploitative sexualisation of society in its living rooms via TV and the internet ( some 85% of our population watches internet porn. Most children have watched porn by the age of 15). Overwhelmingly, child abuse is centred in the home and perpetrated by family and close friends. The Catholic Church as part of Western society is simply a reflection of that society as are all other aggregations of human beings. All institutions have striven to hide their crimes. The sad thing is that the Church has also abandoned its stance on issues that affect the moral health of our society, although I do concede that the efforts of any religious group to proclaim a moral stand is hijacked by "liberation politics" in the media generally. The Church will survive only if it once again proclaims moral rectitude over "human rights" to live as one pleases and desists from falling over backwards to accommodate all transgressors under the umbrella of social justice based on the concept that God has replaced condemnation of sin with love of the sinner regardless of the absence of repentance. Sometimes I doubt that we are created in God's image. Why would anyone claim the human being as a reflection of his own godly image. I suppose the qualification is that God is strong enough to suppress his own flaws????

john frawley 14 February 2017

I think anyone, Catholic or not, who is interested in the history of the sacrament of Confession/Reconciliation and how it was and can be abused in many ways should read John Cornwell's 'The Dark Box: a Secret History of Confession'. This is a serious, non-sensational work and Cornwell was assisted in his research by many eminent, respected Catholic theologians. The Catholic Church in this country and overseas is being forced to confront its shadow side. How it deals with it will have serious consequences for all connected with it.

Edward Fido 14 February 2017

On the question of statistics referred to in Frank's article, the Greens stated in Parliament: "that 4444 people made abuse allegations against the church in the last 35 years". Based on the principle that this could be the tip of the iceberg, (seven eigths being below the surface), then it is possible that approximately 31,108 allegations never saw the light of day as "Towards Healing" , Catholic Insurance office window dressing Department, headed the balance off at the pass before they became serious claims. In truth the implications for abuse victims to claim monetary compensation must have the institutional church underwriters fearing an uprecedented explosion of claims.

francis Armstrong 14 February 2017

Australia’s justice is far from perfect but if people are so easily seduced into “lynch-mob-mentality” and public intimidation (as the Greens have promoted), such a seriously unjust mindset will prove a serious peril for carrying out due and fair process and justice. It will even endanger the nature of democracy and freedom of speech. We must never surrender our basic rights to unreasonable and unlawful vigilante groups , under any circumstances. Even journalist Paul Bongiorno, who group-shared a house with Pell and Risdale in Ballarat, says that no one even suspected Risdale could be a pedophile. All people, even the most foul criminals - under democratic laws - must be given the right to explain themselves. Pell - just as every other person - is entitled to the presumption of innocence until PROVEN guilty (a concept which in other circumstances many of his critics - even the Greens - espouse for other defendants). While some scepticism of our legal and judicial system is justified, to replace it with a wild-eyed unreasoning “lynch-mob-mentality” is improper and dangerously unjust.

Law and Justice must prevail 14 February 2017

Well said Father Frank. Somehow we ongoing Catholic Church goers and lovers are vicariously responsible for this horrific chapter in the life of our great Church. We need to stand firm but recognise and accept that there will be some in the community who will find it hard in their hearts and heads to forgive. My great hope is that this Royal Commission's report does not gather dust on someone's bookshelf but is acted upon decisively and effectively. The world will be watching and waiting on our response. Let's not let them or the victims of these heinous crimes down.

Peter Hoban 14 February 2017

Perhaps in the lead up to the 2020 Synod there should be a process within the Australian Church across the parishes and the various institutions of the church to have a serious assessment of what is required for us as a communion to deal with our failure to protect the children. The wider society and Governments will no doubt validate it own views and prejudices but we as a Catholics should step forward as a people of a shared believe and deal with he consequences of what we are all to be branded with and take responsibility for what has gone before and ensure that what we as a church do beyond the end of the Royal commission allows us to be reconciled with our God. Our church may be incapable of dealing with the challenge but we as individual Christians should not be so constrained.

Lurrnpa 14 February 2017

Thank you Frank. I feel someone or some in high positions of authority should take responsibilty. The Church seems to always escape the law, and situate itself removed from justice as a divine right, very conveniently. When Cardinal Pell likened the church to a trucking company he insulted all of us, brutal,traumatising and unfeeling. The church, foremost, is not a business, and there is the problem.Power and Finances.No. Morality is the bedrock , and this report has highlighted the pursuit of power. Someone has to make a clear and moral stand; bare contrition from someone having enjoyed the prestige,riches and protection of the institution ,as with this 'divine'command and high authority, there is a fundamental Christian life> responsibility.Otherwise, it is all false.

Catherine 14 February 2017

Those who are interested in justice should remind themselves ... there is no crime unless there is compelling evidence of a crime..., that is a bedrock tenet of western justice. To ignore this tenet leads to a witch-hunt. Because there emerges an underlying presumption of guilt. No accusation, without evidence, can ever constitute compelling evidence. Incidentally in thirty years, in one provincial parish, I never heard one hint that a priest had molested anybody, let alone a child.

malcom harris 14 February 2017

Tom Campbell :“opportunity for a broader perspective”..... To understand the eruption of abuse it is necessary to know the contributing influences. 1. The exaggerated esteem generated within the Church by its success in attracting so many followers. Success is a heady experience, and instead of realising that they had found ONE path up the Mountain of God, the Church assumed it was the ONLY Way. This was propagated strongly by the Church and accepted by most followers, thinking the Church was God-guaranteed and infallible. 2. When modern scholarship rejected this assumption, and with the almost simultaneous occurrence of greater education of the laity, the general collapse of Authoritarianism around the World, and better understanding and control of the role of sex, many Priests and Religious were left floundering, and deprived of what they had thought was their Vision, they reverted to basic instincts. A whole new rethink, an Aggiornamento, (a successful one this time) is urgently needed for Society, for the Church, and for Religions in General

Robert Liddy 14 February 2017

Thanks, Frank for your thoughtful contribution to the Commission's sessions. Sincere thanks, Julia Gillard. Thanks, Tom Doyle. Thanks also to all who have responded to this article. It says to me that respondents with a range of views see these matters before the Commission as serious, and not to be covered up. I wonder what is non-negotiable in terms of a heartfelt approach to change. The Gospel tells us that new wine needs new wineskins. That suggests that we require honesty, insight, prudence and a lot of healthy imagining / discernment to develop suitable new containers for the Gospel message and Church life. Abandoning hierarchy and patriarchy, the old wineskins that have contained and distorted priesthood and most institutions for centuries, will eliminate clericalism. New wineskins worthy of the Gospel can be imagined by the whole Church listening together to the Spirit of Life that moves through us. I hope a discussion and discernment process will be held in parishes throughout the nation. This is a time of grace, not punishment, being offered to us through the suffering of the little ones and the poor. It is not about saving our lost reputation. A new one can be created.

Alex Nelson 14 February 2017

"In an ideal world, the data would distinguish between the number of allegations where offenders made admissions, or were convicted, and those where an investigation substantiated the complaint." In an ideal world we would know the true number of children affected - I'm pretty sure that the numbers revealed so far are the tip of the iceberg: people have put that stuff behind them and don't want to remember it, to have other people know about it, or be associated with the whole sordid business. If the Church was genuine about being sorry it would be paying genuine compensation and I suspect at the end of that the Church would own nothing and be bankrupt - what an utterly terrifying thought for the hierarchy! I think most young people see the Church as a hangover from the past, and a sort of nasty cult. It can't sustain itself - the only reason it exists in Australia is because it imports priests from third world countries, and the schools that it runs. And those schools are paid for by the taxpayer. As one taxpayer, I resent having my taxes going to maintain Catholic schools, so my hoped for outcome after all these horrific revelations is that government stops giving money to maintain Catholic schools and they all become what they should be: state schools. We would then see the true size of the Catholic Church in Australia - vanishingly small.

Russell 14 February 2017

Well said, Frank. And while we're vaguely on the subject of villains, may we hear some applause for a true hero, Francis Sullivan? The Bishops picked the right man for the Truth Justice and Healing job - there aren't many who could carry it out with as much fidelity as he has.

Joan Seymour 14 February 2017

The victims have suffered in two ways. Firstly there was the original abuse, of power, innocence and of innocence. Secondly there was the abuse by those covering up; parents, teachers, Catholic cops, lawyers, social workers and bishops etc. Individuals, families and communities have suffered and continue to do so as OldG points out. As for Pell, he is a good target, as he seems alexythemic and a cold clerical careerist Vatican Man. But that does not make him guilty nor should there be unfairness or lack of due process. Overall this Commission may well be part of Church reform. Change comes from the periphery. Well reported and professionally manged the work of this Commission can form significant new ways to manage the care of children in the Australian Church which could be a model for the broader Church. Though looking at the statistics and the personnel appearing at the Commission one wonders either how many clerics or children there will be in the future of the organization.

Michael D. Breen 14 February 2017

Think of the "seal of the confessional " as akin to client confidentiality in legal and medical contexts...sacred unless a harm to the individual or some one else is at stake, then the confidentiality can be broken on the greater good principle. It would rest on the conscience of the confessor if further harm arises through non disclosure( in and out of the confessional) as it has done in the case of clerical sexual abuse of minors over a very long time.It is difficult to accept how this failure to protect could possibly be justified by theological sophistry.

john murphy 14 February 2017

the royal commission is not about the catholic church alone - the media have made it so - but that is totally incorrect - the medical profession have covered up brutal heinous sexual crimes against young girls for 60 years - and why didn't the medical profession report alleged sexual abuse when those males allegedly raped - needed medical attention - the biased reporting on the royal commission is conspiratorial intent to protect other sexual predators - the the royal commission regardless of how the media with their biased reporting - report it to be - why is Commissioner Murray so silent when he as Senator became aware of medical brutal and sexual crimes on non pregnant girls residing in institutional care and young pregnant girls in the late 1950's - mid 1970's - the royal commission has the evidence

Brenda Coughlan 14 February 2017

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom Frank. Can you also suggest some practical action which could result in radical change to the Catholic Church in Australia. Francis Sullivan, as I understand him, tells us it is up to the laity to ensure change occurs. I wish for this to occur in a respectful and collaborative way as soon as possible.

Patrick Kempton 14 February 2017

Moral Theology. The discernment of Good and Evil. If a child speaks to a priest inside or outside the confessional box, about any past, present and/or any possibly future sexual abuse at the hands of an adult. The priest for the spiritual, psychological and fiscal integrity, present and future wellbeing of the child, entrusted to his care in this grave matter, even momentarily, must immediately give a full report including the child and the abuser's names, to the police, child protection agencies and his church superior. Likewise if the abuser also speaks to a priest in the confessional box or outside. If the abuser has (previously) seeked and obtained absolution, or is intending to seek absolution, he will also wholeheartedly accept being questioned by the police, trialled and sent to prison to do time for his crime. If the priest who has been disclosed such crimes dose not report to the police, child protection agencies and his church superior. He must admit to his church superior, his grave negligence and be immediately defrocked. No exceptions. This way. Good: transparency, will overcome evil: silence and secrecy.

AO 14 February 2017

I am an Irish ex RC living in Australia! The Church, has harmed both of the countries that my heart is in! With the abuse reported in both of them I feel that the Church has no right to ask us to get some leeway to what is essentially an idea on how this Universe was formed! Just because there is a large bureaucracy around it does not mean that it should be given any special privilege. If a company of any other kind was selling a product that harmed or killed its customers the weight of the law would be brought to bare on it! Why is a church any different? Yes, there are good people in the Church, my parents being some of them as is my sibling! However, the Church as an institution is responsible for the product and the delivery of such! Forget about the other Churches, I will judge them individually just like I am judging the RC Church on its actions alone! I do not need to wait to have a perspective, it is formed now. Parliament has the obligation to protect its citizens and should do so regardless of whom causes that harm! Oh and the comment about "...it will be a matter for the Catholic Church to determine how best to comply...", no you play in our sandpit and you should comply with our rules!

Gerri Dee 14 February 2017

On the seal of the confessional, these were the dot points I provided to the royal commission before the hearing: • The statistics speak for themselves. The Catholic Church has had a problem with child sexual abuse and it needed state assistance and community pressure to acknowledge publicly the extent of the problem and all its ramifications. • Hopefully the royal commission can formulate universal principles and standards which can be applied to all institutions (including the Catholic Church) ensuring better protection of children. • The state has a legitimate interest ensuring that Church structures and procedures comply with the principles and standards set down in laws enacted by parliaments. • It will be a matter for the Catholic Church to determine how best to comply with those principles and standards, consistent with Church teachings and structures. • I am aware of only one case in which the operation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation by a deviant priest resulted in child sexual abuse.  I concede that the royal commission may have evidence of other instances.  If such evidence exists, I have not seen it. • I don’t think the operation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation has affected the institutional response to child sexual abuse. I concede that the royal commission may have evidence to the contrary. If such evidence exists, I’ve not seen it. • One aspect of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the seal of the confessional which prohibits the priest from disclosing details of the sins confessed by a penitent. • As a priest, I am morally obliged to honour the seal of the confessional. If I were to breach the seal, I would be infringing canon law and be rightly subject to loss of my faculties as a practising priest. • No one has ever confessed paedophilia to me in confession during my 31 years as a priest. • In 2012, the Irish Parliament legislated to require reporting of child sexual abuse. However the law provides a defence when the child (over 14 years and able to make the decision) does not want the report to be made. The law also provides that it ‘is without prejudice to any right or privilege that may arise in any criminal proceedings by virtue of any rule of law or other enactment entitling a person to refuse to disclose information’. • I have not been able to adduce any evidence from the Republic of Ireland that the seal of the confessional is no longer in practice inviolable. I understand that the Catholic Church in Ireland still instructs its priests that the seal is inviolable. • I have not been able to adduce any evidence from the Republic of Ireland that the 2012 legislative change has affected the operation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation contributing to a decline in the occurrence of child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions or enhancing the institutional response to this abuse. • If the law were to change overriding the confidentiality of the confessional, Catholic priests would be placed in the invidious position of having to choose conscientiously between their religious duty and obedience to State law. I would conscientiously refuse to follow the amended law in the most unlikely event that a penitent were to confess criminal child sexual abuse. • In secular /legal terms, I view the seal of the confessional as akin to a privilege similar to legal professional privilege. • Statements made by a penitent to a priest in the sacrament of confession made for the dominant purpose of receiving absolution should remain privileged. Just as lawyers maintain secrecy about matters disclosed to them by their clients when seeking legal advice, priests can and should maintain the secrecy and confidentiality of any sin confessed to them in the sacrament of confession. The seal of the confessional ought be viewed akin to legal professional privilege because to do otherwise infringes religious freedom which is a fundamental human right. • Of course, were a child or any other person to disclose wrongdoing by a third party, that would be an altogether different matter.

Frank Brennan SJ 14 February 2017

I watched the Royal Commission today. Why and how are nuns expected to guide young male seminarians through their sexual problems to chastity?That's just creepy. No wonder they come out weak willed. A lay mother with young teenager boys, would have more knowledge and life experience to guide them by. Do priest instruct young women wanting to became nuns, in the issues regarding their sexuality and chastity? If so, what do they know about a young womens body? Doubly creepy.

Sorry - No Nun can Know 14 February 2017

Interesting to hear a priest say on the Commission that if a child spoke to him in confession and told him that he had been abused by a priest, that he, the priest would suggest that he would offer to go with him to report it. Does anyone think a child who had been abused by a priest would go off with another priest (no matter how good and kind the priest is) when it has been a priest who abused him! Come on think about it.

Diane Cowie 14 February 2017

I don't believe that the Catholic Church is capable of reforming itself. Caesar appealing to Caesar. The hierarchy has too much entrenched power for it to happen. The fact that the Vatican refuses to release evidence to the Commission is the telling point. I have said before that reform will be forced upon it in Australia by secular government. That is the only realistic hope for the church's survival though as a poor church, perhaps closer to what Jesus intended. If we are paying for the crimes of the paedophiles, then we may not have much if any property left and no money left to pay for the lifestyle to which some of the hierarchy has or would like to become accustomed. The hierarchy and the power structure of the Church has failed us badly. An authoritarian Church that facilitates and encourages abuse of power by a ruling class of clerics is the cause of our problems, and besides having no place in today's society, must be eliminated if there is to be any future for a true church of Christ. Our new parish priest is a prime example of this passé clericalism. I may now leave if he stays.

Frank S 14 February 2017

I strongly urge everyone either to try to listen to the hearings or read the transcript , which appears only a couple of hours after the hearing finishes for the day. Even the wisest of commentaries is not an adequate substitute.So much insight is being offered through this process.We ignore it at our collective peril.

margaret ker 14 February 2017

I agree with George Pell that the Greens are anti Christian bigots, or perhaps it's mainly the North Korean faction in NSW. If they ever get near the levers of power, Catholic Schools beware. Poor politics, as many Christians share the Greens’ values about care for the earth. Bill Shorten should know better than to weigh in with a zinger that sounds like it was written by Tim Minchin. The Royal Commission also has a whiff of anti Catholic bigotry about it. The commission’s claim that 25% of Marist Brothers were paedophiles doesn’t match my experience at school. Qui probat nimis probat nihil? I would like some scientific rigor in determining whether Catholic teachers and priests have more than their share of paedophiles than others in similar professions? The prevailing Australian culture is convinced that religion is deviant and celibates are sex starved threats to our children. Already there are calls questioning the safety of Catholic Schools. One good result of the commission is it publishing enlightening submissions, most recently at http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/exhibits/261be84b-bec0-4440-b294-57d3e7de1234/case-study-50,-february-2017,-sydney They include Kieran Tapsell on the Vatican’s canon law persistence to this day of forbidding church officials from reporting abuse to police, when it's not positively unlawful to conceal such knowledge. There is some history of how the church used to put paedophiles to death, and why it slackened off to put us in the current mess. Also about the cultural grip that clericalism has on Catholics that makes them sceptical toward victims. Fr Michael Whelan also pointed the finger at a pessimistic anthropology worried about sex, a moralism that reduces religion to ethics and an objectivism that prizes abstract truths above human experience. And I liked the rallying call, on how lay Catholics should rebel and take back the authority and power as the people of God to sack popes, bishops and religious who misbehave. Plus Prof Omerod reminds there were depraved examples of child abuse in the Australian Church before the moral relativism of post Vatican 2. He mentions sin: “Strictly speaking, sin has no cause, but there may be antecedent factors which incline or contribute to the occurrence of abuse.” He sees the scandal as a question of Christian identity because Jesus identified with victims. “To date, church authorities, and just as often the communities they lead, have failed in this most basic aspect of Christian revelation, of learning to identify with the victim.”

John Synnott 14 February 2017

Russell. You object as a taxpayer to the government giving money to Catholic schools. I imagine your objection to government funding of schools because of child abuse perpetrated therein also extends to all non-Catholic schools which have been associated with child abuse including state schools and to all other organisations found to be involved, including the Salvation Army, the Scout Movement, Hillsong and sporting associations. If not, your position would seem to be one directional and would cast doubt on whether it is based only on the matter of child abuse.

john frawley 15 February 2017

Some 2/3years past the Hierachy stopped the use of the "Third Rite".Not taking into account as to whom was behind the "Black Sliding " Door"in the confessional.It hid some villains.When advised, that it was contributing to low Mass Attendance on Sundays.The Bishop in question,ducked for cover,and was not positive. He did not offer a satisfactory reason for the change, which was a sad mistake and has not been corrected to date.

N.J.Kelly 15 February 2017

All of this discussion about the seal of the confessional is diverting attention from the priests and brothers who, though not participating in abuse, nevertheless remained silent about what was going on around them. If 40% of one order of brothers had accusations made against them it is inconceivable that no one in the other 60% was aware of what was going on, and inexcusable that no one took their suspicions to the civil authorities. Where were the whistle-blowers? Silenced by a rigid and oppressive culture? Or cringing lest they might be evicted from their cosy little group?

Ginger Meggs 15 February 2017

A most reasoned and balanced approach. The matter, as horrific as it appears, should not be the subject of political point scoring. Let the Royal Commission and the police carry out their investigations as they are authorised to do without political or other interference.

Garry Mann 15 February 2017

I second Ginger's comment, and Fr Michael Whelan"s statement last week about closing all religious seminaries. It seems to me, Fr Michael would not have made such a radical statement without good reason.

AO 15 February 2017

"change radically" - those are interesting words. Is it about radical change or change that is way over due? The type of change that has been waiting in the wings for decades, even centuries? And where will this vision of what's to be done come from? From those who are too radical? Claims of radicality are those made from the centre, not from the periphery, and there is the rub.

Jane Anderson 15 February 2017

Fr Frank Brennan. I know a GP who had to call the police to check on one very ill and forgetful, pill taking patient. After the patience had not answered the GP's phone calls for days. Had it not been for the GP calling the police, the patient would have been found dead one day by who knows who, instead. Were I a priest. I would gladly choose to break the seal of confession rather than not save a small child and who knows how many others, from the sexual abuse of an adult. Have you not read 'Silence'?- Ferreria didn't succumb beneath the torture of his enemies. He did not lose his Faith, nor did Rodrigues. They made the true sacrifice. They accepted humiliation, the title: apostates of the Faith. Being perceived not dissimilar to how Judas Iscariot was perceived, and felt about himself, having betrayed Christ. And yet, rather than allow more innocent Japanese believers be tortured to death for their Faith, both they and the spared Japanese were victorious in the eyes of God The duty of care towards others is paramount. Especially towards the most vulnerable. That's where the slayed Lamb reigns. Not from a cathedra in a room. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqrgxZLd_gE

AO 15 February 2017

This Royal Commission has been a wonderful thing exposing the vilest abuse to the clear light of day. Several people and institutions - including the Catholic Church and its minions - have been exposed as perpetrators or protectors of them. Incompetence in leadership has also been exposed. I think, besides all the drama, mea culpas, expressions of shock/horror and promises of reform, we need to realise the most important people here are the molested and their families. Speaking of them, there was a very informative article by Mrs Eileen Piper, a mother of one such victim, in the Australian of 13 February 2017. She was, amongst other things, totally underwhelmed by Francis Sullivan. Why? Because she is still waiting for an apology from the Church via Archbishop Dennis Hart. I think we need to beware that motherhood statements from officials in the Church are not seen as mere window dressing. The other serious matters are real, not symbolic internal reform of the Church's authoritarian, hierarchical, mostly all male command structure and the appointment of bishops and archbishops who can really take proactive measures to avoid this sort of thing ever happening again.

Edward Fido 16 February 2017

In some of the postings here the idea of individual responsibility for one's decisions and actions appears to be diminished, finger-pointing at others and calls for systemic revolution obfuscating the radical gospel call for personal repentance and forgiveness which are central in the maintenance and growth of community. While the cynicism displayed by some posters may be understandable, it is not conducive to change.

John 16 February 2017

Why does anything need to change, as far as the male priesthood, the governing of the Church by the pope and bishops, and the seal of the confessional go? An ombudsman attached to and paid for by each ecclesiastical organisation can receive and refer complaints and insist on responsive reporting from the relevant church administrator. The ombudsman would need a public and personal prestige to make the office respected by the administrators that s/he is going to make accountable. Retired vice-regals, superior court judges, police commissioners, high-profile social justice warriors, etc., should have the necessary heft. As for the laity, their obligation is to obey the hierarchy because Jesus described his church as one of shepherds and sheep. Was he speaking carelessly? Will this emasculate the laity when it comes to raising concerns? The same Jesus also enjoined the first pope to feed ‘my’ sheep. If four cardinals can find authorisation within Catholic tradition to raise a public dubia asking the pope to feed them, perhaps further research into a Revelation that is accepted to be still continuing may find similar vehicles for the laity. This is only an issue of discipline. And monarchs and legislatures routinely receive petitions.

Roy Chen Yee 16 February 2017

The glare of the light has been uncomfortable but pales into insignificance against the tragedy it has been shone on and how these survivors can heal is the question. Could it be any other way because for decades persons within the Church had spoken out for the victims and the need to change how this scourge was being dealt with, even from their own experience like Bishop Geoffrey Robinson without sufficient hearing/seeing? The Church is being made an example of, who else should it be? Those who were perpetrators and those who protected them have betrayed their Saviour from whom even some victims now flee and cannot perceive their help in. Prayer and compassion (to suffer with, to extend solidarity) are necessary to start turning this around as are the needed measures being put in place to redress the injury, show their journey has been heard and is making a difference for the future. Yes being part of society has meant this has been present in our midst but the true test is how we have this experience lead us into dealing with this by having the grit to face the truth squarely and not let any deny the reality, to continue to call to account our leaders, listen to and explore the recommendations and so be the leaders as our Baptism calls us to - prophet, priest, king only sheep to the one true shepherd else we be lead astray by wolves in sheep's clothing.

Gordana Martinovich 16 February 2017

I appreciate as usual Frank Brennan's deeply thoughtful contribution - and much in other comments I have only skimmed. Just three observations. (1) For various reasons church attendances have declined but least of all in Roman Catholic parishes. An Anglican priest, last Sunday I attended St John's RC church in Campbelltown,NSW, long a refugee from my own parish church. The five masses there as usual were packed out (though few I think go to confession these days) (2) As an honorary hospital chaplain for 18 years (now 81), with clerical collar I have encountered a vast number of patients of all faiths, encountered indeed some indifference, but virtually never any expressed hostility, rather an amazing degree of welcome. (3) While no doubt the great majority of allegations of various kinds are proven, at least a few are not justified. This may well be true of allegations made against Cardinal Pell regarding reporting offences (and I could hardly agree less with many of his views). It was certainly true of the late Bishop George Bell of Chichester, his mermory damaged by an accusation too quickly accepted by the C.of E. but then proved to be entirely false.

Fr John Bunyan 17 February 2017

I find it hard to believe that the State had to call churches to account for sexual abuse of children. Given the spiritual and moral leadership role churches are given in society, it should have been the churches defending victims of child abuse and calling the state to account for failure to act. "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Matthew 18:6 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40 Churches have a special obligation based on the teachings of Jesus to protect, nurture and respect children.

John Francis Woodlock 17 February 2017

Perhaps a sign of hope. Reported on at the link (http://www.tjhcouncil.org.au/media/media-coverage.aspx), Pope Francis has written in the preface of a sexual abuse survivor's book asking forgiveness for the 'absolute monstrosity'. Stating "It is difficult for a victim of paedophilia to speak out about what they have endured and to describe the trauma that still persists many years later." Is there hope a shift will occur in practical steps to match this seemingly heartfelt growing awareness that has previously been lacking? The site also mentions Fr Frank's article in its latest newsletter at http://email.thefolk.com/t/ViewEmailArchive/r/972A4BD73242016D2540EF23F30FEDED/C67FD2F38AC4859C/

Gordana Martinovich 17 February 2017

'As for the laity, their obligation is to obey the hierarchy because Jesus described his church as one of shepherds and sheep'? Even sheep have agency Roy.

Ginger Meggs 17 February 2017

My address to the Australian Lawyers Alliance on Ensuring Justice for all at the Royal Commission is now available at https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=50633

Frank Brennan SJ 20 February 2017

Eureka street: What was wrong with Bishop Mark Coleridge's statement in regards to the 'priority being' the children and vulnerably people in the church that has to have a cultural change? The more people read this Truth, the easier it will become for compassion, change of culture within the church and mercy and justice to take place. What the Bishop said has been the best thing said by any of the Bishops to date at the Royal Commission, it's not about admitting women to the priesthood , it's about having the same sensitivity and Compassion a women or mother may have to help stand up for all children and vulnerable people. "Seeing all through the eyes of a child", says it all. This is why the Blessed Virgin was entrusted too John beneath the Cross. Those who say no to this Truth, say no to Christ's last words to John and His Mother from the Cross. Please consider reading what was said yesterday 20-02-2017, last 1/5 of dialogue at the Royal Commission and please write a wonderful artificial, considering this Change of Culture in the Church ( elimination of abuse of power ) to help all women and mothers, who may read it, and re-tweet it, feel more hopeful towards current and future clergy and church governance. Thank you.

AO 21 February 2017

The following seems to me to came under the title: Clericalism. Moreover, what was said goes against Canon 843.1!! According to a report in CathNews of New Zealand (Nov. 16, 2012), Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, said that priests should refuse to hear the confessions of suspected child abusers in order to ensure that they are not then bound by the confidentiality of the confessional. “If the priest knows beforehand about such a situation, the priest should refuse to hear the confession, that would be my advice. I would never hear the confession of a priest who was suspected of such a thing,” he said, following the announcement of the wide-ranging royal commission in Australia... I sincerely hope the Royal Commission will come up with more than one solution. Even if the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, took over 500 years, it may teach us something. To all in places of authority, at the Royal Commission, please use your words wisely, and quickly arrive at a Legal agreement that will ALWAYS place the child's best interest FIRST.

Alexandria 22 February 2017

John's reliance on individual responsibility will not stop what Frank Brennan predicts, that "the Australian Church will need to change radically, or become a despised, diminishing sect." It is the paedophile who denies he has done anything wrong, let alone takes responsibility, who is able to flourish within an authoritarian, hierarchical structure. It is the whole church's responsibility to weed out this evil, and therefore the structure of the church must change, so as to minimise the opportunity for these criminals to take advantage of their positions. Taking the view that these are merely sins to be forgiven, rather than crimes crying out for justice for the victims, has allowed the hierarchy to cover up and move these criminals elsewhere where they can again commit more of their evil acts. Change will certainly happen, if not in the current church, then it will die and if God wills, be reborn in line with what is actually taught in the Gospel.

Frank S 22 February 2017

Frank S, While I agree on the need for some structural and cultural reform within the church, I don't regard (nor does Vatican II) hierarchy per se as an "evil"; but rather, the way authority - and not only of the ecclesial variety - has been exercised in relation to abuse, which very much involves personal responsibility, individually and communally. Structural and cultural reform without change of heart and mind would, I think, be superficial and quite alien to the gospel message and the constitution of the church initiated by Christ.

John 24 February 2017

There is currently going on in the Royal Commission about the new 'company' being formed by the archbishops of Australia and the new policies, standards, training that will be included. I have one simple question: Will the new 'company' be dealing fully, intelligently and transparently also with the abuse of adults (all adults - any adults) which it has become very clear is perhaps even a greater problem within the whole realm of clergy sexual misconduct. If it doesn't, then it will be failing even before it begins.

Stephen de Weger 24 February 2017

Archbishop Coleridge raised the element of concealment in regards to Church processes dealing with child sexual abuse by clergy. In regards to clergy sexual abuse of adults, concealment is still the norm because of, if nothing else, the belief or perception that it is not a major issue, or that it is yet another painful scandal that the church wants to keep hidden by treating such events as mere affairs, and mostly instigated by the other adult. If this were not the case, why does the whole area of adult sexual abuse barely rate a mention in any policies dealing with clergy sexual misconduct. There is a deeply embedded culture that militates against adult victims as it did against child victims until such behaviour was exposed. Adult sexual abuse now needs to be included in any new policies and discourses. There are as many adult victims, if not more, who have not been believed, or treated with justice and compassion and who are listening to all that is being said here......and waiting.

Stephen de Weger 24 February 2017

Some devastated and concerned Catholic have taken action across Australia. Evidence is in the submissions to the Royal Commission by Catholics for Renewal Inc. While Archbishops and Bishops have failed to honestly and responsibility lead congregations, some Australian Catholics have taken their own rectifying actions. A must read - Catholics forRenewal submission 11 to Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse by Catholics for Renewal: http://www.catholicsforrenewal.org/Documents%202016/CathfR%20RC%20abridged%20submission%2013%20July16.pdf Human Rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson explains the devastation of decades of global Catholic clergy child abuse. 'In effect, the church has in many countries been running a parallel system of criminal justice, unbeknownst to and deliberately hidden from the public, police and parliaments, in which the guilty went unpunished and the lips of the victims were sealed - by forced oaths and confidential legal settlements.

PatriciaBoylan 25 February 2017

Commissioner Fitzgerald: Thank you for your articulation and understanding of the ' the Christ child in th Christ child'- 'Dilemma' priests and Bishops face. I have seen the dynamics of sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Church around the world, we now know has most definitely been going on for centuries, whilst reflecting on 1 Kings 3;16-28. A horrific story, ending with a triumphant resolution. The real mother deeply loves her child. The false mother has no real concern for the child. And is only willing to abide by the rule/ law set by the King. The real mother is willing to renounce her child, to save her child's life. I believe Canon Law will indeed be changed, after the Bishops of Australia have brought the Royal Commission's findings to Pope Francis. This New Code or New Law in Canon Law will allow All : To see all through the eyes of a child, and might I add through the eyes of the child's real mother, also. Not through the eyes of an Institution, a doubtful inexperienced seminarian, nun, priest, Bishop, or Cardinal sworn also I am assuming, to keep the secret knowledge of secret Vatican documents and files over the centuries regarding clerical abuse, secret at all costs. Many devout Catholics, refer to the Catholic Church as a devote and caring mother. Holy Mother Church. A loving mother, as did Pope John Paul ll. Again I am very happy to say. I believe Canon Law will be changed, after the Bishops have brought the Royal Commission's findings to Pope Francis. The time of secrecy, silence and deciet is over. With sincere gratitude to you and all the Commsioners and Bishops, and Canon lawerer and all others at the Royal Commision. Thank you. AO

AO 25 February 2017

COMMISSIONER FITZGERALD:" Could I just ask a question. It's not going to be resolved today in this panel, and we've had various opinions. Isn't the reality that you have two sacred obligations that are now in conflict? You have the sacred duty to protect children based on scripture, the Church's teachings and its commitments to civil authorities. And you have an equally sacred commitment to the seal of confession. In a sense, the Church is in a dilemma, a dilemma that it equally wishes to protect children and equally wishes to maintain the seal of confession. From the Commission's point of view, ultimately it's about recommending what civil requirements should be placed on institutions, religious or otherwise, and whether or not there should or shouldn't be exemptions for such things as the seal of confession. But for the Church itself, it is that twin dilemma that it now has, and it hasn't yet dealt with it. Would that be a correct statement, that it is yet to deal with the dilemma of its own theology, the theology around the child or the Christology of Christ the child and the notion of the sacredness of confession? If I'm correct from what you're saying, that is not a dilemma that has yet been faced and dealt with?" ARCHBISHOP WILSON: "You're quite correct, and you've said it better than I was able to say it." Souce Royal Commission 24- 02- 2017 page 86

AO 25 February 2017

"the Australian Church will need to change radically, or become a despised, diminishing sect." I am already there. I cannot bear to enter my local Catholic Church, as one of the priests who has been a focus of the Commission's attention lives on the grounds. And the parish has a school! What is the Church thinking? And doing? Putting this man next to the honey pot? Makes me sick - and very angry.

Marcus Tee 27 February 2017

John, just to be clear, nor do I regard the hierarchy (per se) as an "evil"; the evil I refer to is the objective evil of the paedophiles. However, the hierarchical structure and clericalist attitudes have allowed and even facilitated evil to flourish. Relying on good will and personal responsibility have clearly failed us. If we keep doing the same thing, we cannot expect to see a different result. We cannot expect to see a change of heart in paedophiles who refuse to acknowledge that they have done evil. We owe it to the victims to change the structure so that we don't need to rely on good will and a change of heart. It is alien to the gospel message to commit such evil and criminal acts as have been committed by these paedophiles who have been sheltered and moved to other communities by some bishops where they continue their crimes while canon law has allowed these people to hide the evidence.

Frank S 28 February 2017

Thank you, Frank S, for your clarification. Our exchange gives rise to critical theological questions of law and freedom, both of which are relevant to practical procedures in eliminating structural and cultural dimensions of this abomination in its ecclesial manifestations.

John 01 March 2017

Re the seal of confession: Why not have the priest insist that the 'penitent' must report his sin(s) of sexual abuse to the police, and provide some proof of that, before seeking forgiveness in the confessional? Isn't that a prerequisite to demonstrate genuine sorrow and 'restitution'?

Jo 02 March 2017

Does the church need to take direction from St Mary's in Exile and break away from the corruption that is endemic in the Vatican?

Sydneen Collins 13 March 2017

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