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Love, justice and humility to abuse survivors



'Instead of a church walking humbly with its God, it found an arrogant church, that placed its own reputation above the interests of victims, and did so knowlingly in a way that would cause further harm to many of those victims.' Robert Fitzgerald of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse addresses the Catholic Social Services annual conference in Melbourne, February 2018. LISTEN


Robert Fitzgerald


Topic tags: Robert Fitzgerald, Royal Commission, clergy sex abuse



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When I hear words like this from someone who has been part of the Royal Commission I cannot not speak. Thank you to Robert Fitzgerald for the difficult years, for his listening and compassion. When he quoted Micah 6:8: to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly (what God requires of us) I thought what does justice mean for victims and survivors? Don't deny. Love kindness, what does kindness mean for victims and survivors? Open hearts. Walk humbly, what does walk humbly mean for victims and survivors? Don't take a step without thinking "how are my brothers and sisters who endured such pain and desolation feeling at this very moment?"

Pam | 27 February 2018  

Well, there it is. Robert Fitzgerald is spot on. As a Roman Catholic, I am not convinced that the hierarchy and clergy will drive the necessary change. Yes, apologies have been made, and we have seen the beginnings of appropriate safeguards and standards being put into place. However, this is only the beginning. What is needed throughout the RC Church in Australia, is a total change to the governance of the Church. It can no longer be a top-down model. Hierarchy and clergy are too hard-wired into this model to actually make the change. Until we have a genuine synodical model made up of laity, clergy and hierarchy, whereby there is a diocesan synod set up in every diocese occurring say, every three years with no restrictions on topics and concerns, there will be no change. Add to this a General synod with all dioceses having input also on a three-yearly cycle for example. Otherwise, we will continue to stagnate. Vatican II gave us this in its document Lumen Gentium over 50 years ago! As far as I am aware, no diocese has done this. Add to that, our parish system must change such that a parish council consisting of the appropriately skilled persons is elected by regular parishioners periodically to ensure that the parish is run successfully, including on-going intelligent adult faith education. The parish council will have a say in the appointment of the appropriate priest as parish priest. This would apply to parishes with diocesan priests, as well as those parishes of a diocese staffed by religious orders. No exceptions. I suggest that this system needs to be in place sooner than later as we do not have another 50 years to get it right. There will be no need to worry about the shortage of priests as there will be few parishes left! One would hope that this is on the agenda for the 2020 Plenary Council. But even that may be too late.

Thomas Amory | 27 February 2018  

Great speech, much genuine passion. I just want to comment on and question this forever appearing term: "placed its own reputation above the interests of victims". What reputation? The good one or the bad one? This is a crucial question if we wish to fully grasp what has happened and continues to happen and how to prevent it happening further. Are we talking about protection of good, or, the covering up, or normalisation, neutralisation and absorption of clergy sexual activity, and the use of knowledge of such activity as a inhibitor to stopping clergy sexual deviancy. I just don't believe that this desire to protect the good name of the church, its 'reputation' was/is the reason for inaction and ignoring of victims, and the simple moving of clergy to new fields of fresh victims. I am so thoroughly appreciative of the Royal Commission, its work and its members. It has broken open the hidden realms of deviancy within the church. However, the church has a very great ability to sew up the openings, and quite quickly, unless we understand the true motivations behind the responses of the official church, and HOW they actually do it.

Stephen de Weger (catholicmetoo.com) | 28 February 2018  

Dear Friends, You are invited to join Archbishop Anthony Fisher, OP and his auxiliary bishops in their Prayers of Forgiveness and Reparation for all people who have been affected, directly or indirectly, by abuse within the Church. Survivors of abuse who feel able to attend this liturgy are warmly welcome. The prayers, centred around the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, will be in St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney at 6.30 pm on Friday March 2nd, which is an Ember Day of prayer and fasting throughout Australia.

Ember Day | 01 March 2018  

Does Ember Day include reparation by the Sydney Archdiocese for its Vocations web site asserting that consecrated celibacy is a more excellent calling than marriage in relying on Pope Pius X11's Encyclical Letter: Sacra virginitas, 1954, 24. Oliver Clark, Job's Trust

Oliver Clark | 02 March 2018  

Robert Fitzgerald, in his address, said that if there was a word, which became dominant in his thoughts, it was the word...trust. Well, that is not surprising, because daily he had to listen to stories which suggested a betrayal of trust. But that particular word has also troubled my thoughts. Because of our human nature, we tend to trust those we believe. But experience has taught me to look for supporting evidence. A Royal Commission is not a court of law. The onus of proof is on the accuser in a court of law. Also the accused person (through his lawyer) may question both the accuser and any supporting evidence. These things are absent in a Royal Commission. It is really a platform from which individuals can accuse without having to prove what they are saying. And without the risk of the accused person suing in retaliation. Speaking of risks there is also a risk in believing accusations against men who cannot defend themselves. (because of the vow of obedience to the bishop) Not to mention the obvious risk of some accusers being motivated by personal worldly objectives...other than justice.

malcolm harris | 04 March 2018  

Whatever the Church was protecting, it wasn't the children. That is what this is about. Nothing should have come before the responsibility to the children . And it can still be seen as they are still excluded. Invite them to prayers? Go out to them! Earn the trust you threw away or ripped from them through abuse. Let's see ribbons on St Mary's Cathedral fence to show your heart publicly not within the walls where some can never return.

Patricia Hamilton | 05 March 2018  

Patricia Hamilton, on the 6th, has some harsh words to say about the Catholic Church. Yet when I reflect upon my life... I regard the nuns and priests as being the finest human beings I ever encountered. Incidentally have to wonder if she would like to see ribbons tied to the fences of all state schools?. Because studies in the U.S. have shown that teachers are more likely to be charged with child sexual offences... than Catholic priests?.

malcolm harris | 07 March 2018  

Malcolm Harris, do you not want the Church/us to do anything? Do you believe that we/the Church don't have problems that need fixing? I suppose if clergy are the "finest human beings alive" then I can understand that you do not think things need to change. However, that view, or at least one which suggests clergy can do no wrong, is part of the problem and not helping to solve the painfully obvious damage and reality of child and adult sexual abuse by clergy. As for the State School statement - "we need to "remove the plank out of our own eye before trying to remove the splinter n others. I'm sure there are people in the state system trying to remove their own planks.

Stephen de Weger (catholicmetoo.com) | 08 March 2018  

One more thing, if I may: It's very sad that you are trying to plant seeds of doubt in people's minds that even the horrific witness statements we all heard during the Royal Commission are somehow 'fake'. I understand your argument and it is something I have and always will ask myself when dealing with victims/survivor stories, not just that their stories may be 'fake' (something I've never ever felt) but also that their stories may somehow be too one-sided (something which may have an element of truth in it but which over all also does not appear to be a major issue). Anyway, this whole issue of clergy abuse has for centuries been very one-sided: The infinitely more powerful (than individual victims) Church has always dominated the issue - they have controlled who hears what and for at least the last century we heard nothing or very little of clergy sexual abuse or activity. Sorry to burst the bubble, but it happens, and every time it happens there is another child/adult involved. What becomes of them??? That's what I believe Patricia was concerned about and absolutely rightly so. Why, because they are the people Jesus was firstly and mostly concerned about.

Stephen de Weger (catholicmetoo.com) | 08 March 2018  

Oliver, I've been trying to find where Sacra virginitas, 1954, 24 appears on the Sydney Vocations website. I've read most of the possible applicable sections which one would expect it to appear and unless they've read your comment here and changed things, I can't find anything to support your statement. I wanted to because it would give me some material for my study. However, most if not all I read was suggesting that the priesthood was another way to express Love and that marriage was also a way. Yes, there is a sense, and always has been, that celibacy is the better way because Jesus was celibate so being celibate is being more like Jesus. Inetersting though that Jesus didn't demand celibacy of his ministers and first Pope. But did he expect them to leave their wives? I'm sure the wives might have something to say about that, or did they then choose celibacy for the sake of the kingdom, and to be more like Jesus at least his sexual state. What is it about sex that makes it so central to what it means to be a Catholic?

Stephen de Weger (catholicmetoo.com) | 08 March 2018  

Stephen's comment, on the 9th, uses gospel imagery... about planks in eyes. Because I had pointed to the state school system... as a bigger cause for concern. Time and space causes me to use data from U.S. Because am sure they are relevant to our situation. A comprehensive audit, conducting on behalf of the Church for 2016, found that a total of 25 allegations of sexual abuse by current minors, against current priests. To date only 2 have been substantiated. And 11 have been found to be unsubstantiated (a polite word for bogus) The remaining 12 still under investigation. Currently there would be about 40,000 Catholic priests in the U. S. Now do the mental arithmetic?. And for the doubters I must add that virtually all the allegations we hear relate to historical cases... going back 30 years or more. These are what you get from the media, and more lately from our Royal Commission. In the U.S., the Dept. of Education published a report authored by Dr. Carol Shakeshaft of Holstra University., she said... "think the Church has a problem.......the extent of sexual abuse in our schools is likely 100 times the abuse by priests?"

malcolm harris | 08 March 2018  

Malcolm, I don't think you're hearing me but that's OK. I don't doubt for a minute that the 'state' school system has/had many, many perpetrators of sexual abuse. But we're not talking about them. By the way, have you ever looked into the rates of sexual activity of clergy with adults? But I'm sure (and I mean this) that rates of sexual activity between adults in the State school system would be a great deal higher? Meanwhile, we're forgetting about those who are suffering the effects of clergy sexual misconduct, especially the adult ones. Another question, who did Jesus reach out to?

Stephen de Weger (catholicmetoo.com) | 11 March 2018  

Malcolm Harris a correction to your comments. Unsubstantiated means unproven one way or other. It does not mean bogus. It occurs in the absence of independent corroboration which has high prevalence in child sexual abuse matters.

Jan | 11 March 2018  

Malcolm, you spurred me on to check my sources, or the source of the quote from Fr Searson. It was genuine. I was able to contact the person to whom the person it was said to had in turn told. She was a lovely woman and said all involved were very loyal and devout Catholics and she remembers the exact words as if they had been said to her yesterday, even though it was said some time ago. She also assured me that the priest meant it very seriously and didn't think twice about saying it. Her wording was slightly different from the quote I found but the essence was the same: I'm not worried about the bishop because of what I know about them". Puts a new meaning to this quote from a news story from the Royal Commission: "Archbishop Little FOR SOME REASON seemed incapable or unable to deal with Fr Searson, or even to provide any adequate level of information about the situation." I suspect it won't make a lot of difference to some but, well, there it is. This is very serious and we seem to have passed over it.

Stephen de Weger | 12 March 2018  

Jan, on the 12th, falls back on a strict meaning of the word 'unsubstantiated'. Pointing out that it means unproven, one way or another. Or a particular complaint not being supporting by corroboration. Well .... have followed this abuse phenomenon for the last 5 years and will say this. That in regard to accusations against Catholic priests, the evidence bar has been set so low, that it would be very difficult for them to win in court. Hence the large numbers of out-of-court settlements, based upon the pragmatic advice from worried insurers. Therefore I will make no apologies for predicting a very high number of bogus claims. This is a witch-hunt of extraordinary proportions. Even a bank robber in the U.S. lodged 3 false claims, from his prison cell, and got a payout for 2 of them. When prosecuted for his third false claim he then admitted that all were fabricated. However the agenda-driven media had already published all of his false stories of sexual abuse, without even checking out his locality. The media doesn't look a gift horse in the mouth.....not in the U.S.....and not here either.

malcolm harris | 12 March 2018  

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