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Abuse survivor reflects on Cardinal Pell's 'sad story'


'It was a sad story and it wasn't of much interest to me.'* I think Cardinal Pell, through this rather brutal response to a question from the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, has provided us all with an important point of organisational, personal and cultural reflection.

Cardinal Pell at the Royal CommissionHaving conducted many organisational reviews and self-assessments, and studied organisational dynamics and systems thinking, I have learned that in trying to find the origins and rationale for such responses, our understanding of how the world works expands exponentially.

Speaking as a survivor of child sexual abuse I can fully understand the disbelief, shock and outrage that such a blunt, offhand comment has provoked. The effort to apportion blame and seek justice for the evil that was allowed to evolve from such an attitude is expected and should be respected.

As the funding body, we the community also look to this royal commissions to provide us with as detailed an understanding as possible of how wide-ranging institutional child sexual abuse commenced, carried on, was covered up and in turn uncovered; and how we might recognise its beginnings in the future, and what steps we will need to take to prevent it.

This includes discerning the culpability not only of those who were actively involved, but also those who decided consciously or otherwise that it wasn't of much interest to them.

In many organisations individuals often 'feel' something is wrong. Things gnaw away at the edge of their consciousness, unsettling and making little sense as they conflict with the agreed notions of what the organisation is, what it holds dear and how it is believed to work

Many times I have been working with a group and found some bizarre structure, practice or policy, and when I asked why it had never been challenged before I heard Because no one ever asked; We felt no one was interested; They put it into place or obviously agree with it so who am I to argue?

I'm too busy. My work is too important. KPIs must be met. Budgets must be balanced. Such attitudes are often the workplace wedge that removes the individual from their moral responsibility to other human beings, and drives them to see the organisational good as the greater good.

Accepted organisational and cultural norms overwhelm the voice of conscience that is hardwired deep inside all of us. Stepping out from and criticising the group is a very lonely place indeed.

The most important lesson thus far from the conduct of this royal commission and the social pressure that prompted it is that always when bad is on the rise, brave, decent, everyday people stand up and say no — enough — no further.

In the case of this royal commission many of these people have been the victims or survivors of the very horror that they are highlighting to us — 'greater love hath no one'.

I have seen government departments' policies and procedures, supposedly there to assist individual victims of sexual harassment, turn them into nothing more than victims of organisational harassment.

I have seen, in a Melbourne seaside parish, how a pedophile priest moves into a community and deliberately divides it, bullying, marginalising, deceiving, harassing and abusing.I have seen those who cared have their concerns met with indifference.

This very priest, on arrival, visited the local Catholic girls school. He was met at the gate by the headmistress, a nun who was wise to this bloke right from the start. 'I would like to see your girls,' says the priest. 'I don't think so Father!' she responded, and calmly waited until he left.

It was of much interest to her.

*Correction: This article originally misquoted Cardinal Pell as saying 'It was a sad story that wasn't of much interest to me.'


Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan is a writer, a recovering Victorian Public Servant and author of When You Stop Laughing Go Home: Impressions of a Young Nation — Timor Leste 2010-2013.

Topic tags: Paul Coghlan, Cardinal George Pell, royal commission, clergy sex abuse



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Existing comments

"Rome was not buitl in one day." But in one 'horribilis' sentence, George Pell destroyed it completely.

Toan Nguyen | 04 March 2016  

Lucid writing containing the substance of experience as in this article can do much to encourage people to speak and act when they sense that something is wrong. "Stepping out from and criticising the group is a very lonely place indeed" - that is it, that is how these errors are allowed to continue. When Cardinal Pell speaks it is not what he says so much as what he cannot bring himself to say that is most pertinent.

Cheryl | 05 March 2016  

The tragic sexual abuse of children, and its cover-up, in the Catholic Church points to the need for urgent on-going Church renewal and reform. The Second Vatican Council heralded much-needed reform of the Church at that time. A Third Vatican Council is now needed, as the world has changed radically since then and Church governance has been shown to be incapable of handling crises such as the child sexual abuse crisis. I commend 'the organisation 'Catholics for Renewal' to those Catholics seeking renewal of their Church. I think you will find that this organisation gives you a voice that you won't find in a hierarchical Church run by ageing celibate men, some of whom are progressive but many of whom are not.

Grant Allen | 05 March 2016  

The story of the nun really tells it all. She was in a position of some independent authority and used it to protect her charges. Catholic girls secondary schools are usually run by religious orders and are not part of the local parish setup. The nun was unable to have the priest removed. Therein lay the continuing problem. She did what she could but could not protect the wider community. The Catholic Church is a community. I think it tragic that those in charge of that community did not realise their full responsibilities to that community. The Church is on a sharp learning curve as evidence from this Royal Commission comes out. There is much it will have to take on board. Much change is needed.

Edward Fido | 05 March 2016  

Paul Coghlan's incisive observation is at the heart of the way our modern society is being managed by the minions of public and private services. Too often the good men and women purse their collectively lips and look the other way. Each and everyone of us are seemingly preoccupied with our own agendas, ambitions and, too often, greed. Coghlan reminds us that we desperately need to care and speak up. On ya, Paul!

Alex Njoo | 06 March 2016  

One of the things that most saddens me about recent events is that the Pope did not think that it was his duty to get in a car and visit the survivors. I have no confidence that the Catholic Church can be saved. I can see no Luther leading a reformation, least of all in Australia.

Lee Boldeman | 07 March 2016  

By now, I am sure Cardinal Pell has realised how inappropriate his response was, and has formulated in his mind far more suitable words to describe his mind-set. He spent his life growing up in the pervasive belief was that the Church was Christ incarnate, a God-guaranteed agency of the divine. As such it needed to be defended at all costs. We all now realise that despite it's charter, it is a very human interpretation of an inspirational episode that occurred some two thousand years ago. It seems what Cardinal Pell's reaction would be better understood as :- 'The situation was so abhorrent and distasteful to me that I wanted to distance myself from it'. He should, of course, have overcome his erroneous predispositions and faced up to the ugly situation, and effected his responsibilities to the victims.

Robert Liddy | 07 March 2016  

"The effort to apportion blame should be respected".... Really Paul? Is the purpose of the Royal commission not the uncovering of truth ? Many of us know victims of abuse within the church and understand the toll that has taken on their lives. The responsibility we have as a society is to uncover the truth. Cardinal Pell may have lacked empathy in some of his many responses to the RC but this is not a crime and is understandable in the context of the victims wanting to slay the highest member of the institution they can find. My sense is he has answered truthfully.

Luke | 07 March 2016  

I have been told by a friend resigning from a key position that he 'could not work for a bishop who refused to believe one of his priests would do such a thing.' I have seen a priest I loved, who had at one time been responsible for the movement of priests in a diocese, shrug his shoulders and say 'that's what we did in those days.' It took a long time to come to terms with the idea that a priest who had done so much good for many over fifty years seemed incapable understanding the evil within the church that went against everything it teaches. What made us all so powerless?

Margaret McDonald | 07 March 2016  

It is not only the indifference to the suffering of victims and their families but also the access to, and use of money given by people for social justice issues, that has been squandered and paid to slick lawyers to defend the pedophiles and their protectors. There has been no transparency in the use of money gathered from families. It has been a deceitful use of these funds by bishops to deny victims and their families justice. There has also been the shadowy actions of the Papal Nuncios who have been involved and instrumental in deceiving catholics and citizens in most countries. Then there is, and has been, the inability of Pope Francis to do anything except say he was taking action against clergy and religious who were involved. Catholics families everywhere now know that the local priest, brother, or nun are not trustworthy as these groups are committed to protecting each other, the local bishop and the vatican. For most people who watched the evidence from Cardinal Pell it suggested a career built on the cold blooded use of power, intimidation, privilege and a disregard of moral requirements for a person exercising authority in the Roman Catholic Church.

Laurie Sheehan | 07 March 2016  

Thanks Paul for the organizational and systems thinking applied to what is such an emotive and complex area. As you so ably describe it was the system, its parts, the interconnections, the ethos, which acculturated the actors who acted their scripts. The players from victims to administrators, parents, headmasters,coppers, lawyers and therapists collectively gave their power to the institution of the Church. Then when you get a Royal Commission the focus shifts a lot to the individual and it is difficult to recreate the original culture, which is as different from now as the era of Queen Victoria. Unfortunately victims seeking reasons and admissions are often disappointed. There were no closed circuit cameras, no social media in those days and the degree of loyalty to the institution is now beyond belief. So unsatisfactory as it is to see Pell expressing his lack of concern or his 'institutional ignorance' what can be expected? The picture of a careerist cleric, with alexithymia, legalistically measured fits the system which was then and in part still exists. What the Church does now to support and heal victims will be the sincerity test.

Michael D. Breen | 07 March 2016  

Thanks for your helpful article. I'm so glad that the headmistress was wise to him.

Lizzie | 07 March 2016  

Loyalty to the team/ institution and a "we must win at any cost" attitude (remember the Essendon saga), accompanied by greed in trying to retain the brand name and finances , lead at the best to willful blindness about bizarre , damaging practices and at its worst to corruption , dishonesty and sadly harm to individuals in the organization. Those clericswho see themselves as The Church , who ignored priests and brothers indulging in sexual abuse, who dispense with the opinions of lay people , women in general and issues that are of concern to families, have and are acting thus. They are so far removed from the real world , it's challenges and difficulties that they are ill placed to be swanning around in Vatican City deciding the rules. "Forgive me Father for I have sinned", should be the prayer of all of us at this time for renewal.

Celia | 07 March 2016  

A priest who was a widower was very popular with men as a confessor. He thought this was because he had lived married life, not just studied it from the outside. When he counselled married men he spoke with the voice of experience. This did not mean he was soft on immoral behaviour. But men such as myself who went to him for confession felt his empathy. Of course empathy is a two-way process. When I told the story of my failings, I felt I was being understood, appreciated. He had been in similar situations. Some priests, like Cardinal Pell, give the impression that they are people set apart - as indeed they are by their calling to the celibate life - but they are set apart to be of service. And there's the rub, lay people find it hard to avail themselves of that priestly service because, rightly or wrongly, they perceive the priest lacking in empathy. I had empathy for Cardinal Pell when he made his 'wasn't of much interest to me' statement. As he later explained he was referring to the scuttlebutt about priests behaving badly. And I suppose he had no time for gossip. I haven't.

Uncle Pat | 07 March 2016  

Paul has done a service drawing attention to the fact that the various defensive syndromes are evident in all organisations, and not confined to the Church. Think cover-ups, denials, do-nothing occurrences re scandals in the military, police force, government departments, as well as other religious organisations. But we expect much more from our church leaders, when in fact they have exhibited a much lower sensitivity to issues, let alone accountability, than applies in the secular world. Cardinal Pell claimed "no-one told him" about the reasons for moving a notorious priest when he was on a panel considering re-locating him , not once but three times. Did he not ask why? The good Cardinal will surely know about sins of omission as well as sins of commission, but he simply says "I did nothing wrong"..And accountability under the secular law never entered into it? Of course he is above the law- it does not apply, does it?.

Dennis | 07 March 2016  

Paul Bongiorno, the journalist, said recently that when he was training to be a priest he shared the same presbytery with Gerald Ridsdale for a few years. Bongiorno said he had no idea that Ridsdale was a paedophile. Paedophiles are chameleons living in the community. Besides, I didn't know that Cardinal Pell was on trial. They certainly treated him as if he was on trial. One lawyer, when questioning Pell, accused him of lying !! I thought Pell had volunteered to help the Commission find the truth. Pell was only giving evidence to the knowledge he had in relation to events of 40 years ago. Unfair on the Cardinal, I say.

Peter | 07 March 2016  

"Thank you" & so well written. And, people did speak up . The whistle blowers lives were then destroyed by the structures that were not interested/ whom were disbelieving. Abuse and grooming continues today in out of reach places, including remote Australia. People speak up /blow the whistle but then nothing is done! What structures are being put in place TODAY to deal with this, when bishops and others refuse to act both on home soil and in missionary areas outside Australia.

George | 07 March 2016  

For the record, the Cardinal didn't say: "It was a sad story that wasn't of much interest to me." He said "It's a sad story and it wasn't of much interest to me." And as he explained later and as was obvious to myself as I listened at the time, the two "it"s had different referents. The first was referring to the crimes of Fr Ridsdale. The second was referring to the issue raised in the question he was specifically answering which he had just been asked by the counsel for the Commission: namely the degree of knowledge amongst the residents of Inglewood as to Ridsdale's crimes. One has to question the motives of anyone who continues to deliberately misquote the Cardinal to his disadvantage at this stage.

HH | 07 March 2016  

If George Pell had have had the following as his chief line of defence - "At the time I was fully focused on progressing my personal efforts in furthering my own career in the church and I should have been more aware of what was going on with my fellow priests and the short comings of my superiors. I was wrong at that the time and I should have focussed on what was wrong with the church at that time and try to make immediate changes to reduce the hurt being done by some of my fellow priests and religious." If Pell had used this argument as his main defence he would have received much more sympathy that his current defence of - "I was never told of these terrible things, it was not up to me to do anything, my superiors looked after these problems I knew nothing etc " The problem with Pell is that he never seeks or listens to advice !

DAVID FIELD | 07 March 2016  

Thanks Paul for a clear, concise, well-written and timely article. Interestingly Cardinal Pell was very surprised at the immediate reaction to his 'sad story, but of no interest to me' statement. It took him until the next day, undoubtedly after advice from his legal team, to give an apology of sorts. Re the school principal who refused to allow the pedophile parish priest to enter the Catholic Girls' School, you infer that she may have passed on her concerns to others in authority but to no avail. Perhaps to the superior of her order? the Vicar-General? the Director of the Catholic Education Office? the Regional Bishop? the Archbishop? If any or all of these people failed to act what does it say of the structure of the Church? Importantly, for those who will argue that was 'then', what evidence is there that structurally anything has changed?

Ellen O'Brien | 07 March 2016  

i would describe Cardinal Pell's remark about not of much interest to me as a classical Freudian Slip. it revealed his true attitude, what was deep within him, and this was reinforced by other comments he made about how he saw his role as a senior priest and Bishop. As far as I am concerned in the past his focus has been on being an administrator, and his role as a pastor has not been his forte. However, good administrators have the responsibility to know what is happening in their organisation, and to address serious problems when they occur. On his own evidence, Cardinal Pell failed in this regard, and he therefore should accept that he has let down many people.

Terry O'Brien | 07 March 2016  

“In many organisations individuals often 'feel' something is wrong. Things gnaw away at the edge of their consciousness, unsettling and making little sense as they conflict with the agreed notions of what the organisation is, what it holds dear and how it is believed to work.” Indeed! There appears to be something wrong, when the Pope and most bishops (Cardinal Pell being a notable exception) have been influenced to accept the environmental activist dogma of man-caused global warming. As there is no empirical scientific evidence to substantiate that dogma, is it not misleading and deceptive of the Catholic school education bureaucracy that answers to those bishops, to sanction teaching of that dogma without reservation?

Ray | 07 March 2016  

Re reading the article and the comments a question arose. What would we say in years to come if we were called to account for what we did to protect children in detention whose plight is patently known to us now?

Michael D. Breen | 07 March 2016  

Cardinal Pell's accusers live in glass houses. The Royal Commission's repeated grilling of Pell failed to find the smoking gun that proves he was told directly of paedophile priests and protected them. In 1996 Pell had replaced his boss Archbishop Frank Little of Melbourne. Within months Pell set up the first fund to compensate abused children, and then called one of the paedophile priests, Peter Searson, who had been protected so long by Little and it was Pell that told Searson had to resign and retire, and would never get a recommendation from Pell if he tried to work in any other Diocese. God bless Cardinal Pell.

Ron Cini | 07 March 2016  

As a stroke/cancer rehab, I have first hand experience of His Eminence unfaltering compassion and gargantuan empathy in my afflictions aplenty, Previously on becoming Archbishop of Sydney, he called me in and sat me down as he poured a cuppa with vo vos. No superior of mine [bishop or other] ever did such to me ever!! His Eminence is top bloke! Even visited me in nursing home with Prefect of Cong of Bishops. Like Cdl Pell I ministered once in Swan Hill [never heard of Ridsdale nor any abuse at Swan hill nor 4 outlying mass centres]

Father John George | 08 March 2016  

Great article... I am a survivor of sexual assault and hearing a cardinal ffs, say that it was of no interest to him that a priest in his diocese was a pedophile made me very angry. Keep it up

Marija | 08 March 2016  

Father George there you go again telling the same story about the Cardinal's kindness to you and in the process missing the point yet again. According to some of the survivors he failed to literally or metaphorically pour them a cuppa and give them an iced vovo. If only he had done that he would not be in the current mess in which he runs the same defence, viz "Everyone (the Bishop, the Archbishop and the consultors) mislead me". For many obvious reasons it is hardly surprising that many disbelieve him.

Ted | 08 March 2016  

By the way Father George I am not suggesting that the Cardinal is incapable of kindness or that you shouldn't be grateful to him for the friendship and support he has given to you. What I am saying is that you should not refer to it all the time to avoid addressing the topic under discussion. No one is perfect and the Cardinal is, and in one guise or another he has long been, part of the power structure that fostered the toxic culture under examination by the Royal Commission. Hopefully it will do him some good to spend some time in the garden of Gesthemene. No one is saying he should be crucified tho!

Ted | 08 March 2016  

Father John M G ,it seems quite clear to me that the majority of fellow readers are at odds with many of your comments .Especially your defence of George Pell ,particularly his kindness demonstrated towards you at various stages of your illness .one has to ask if it was in gratitude for your continued absolution of his sins against 'the people of God ' in Australia .Excuse me if I failed to hear of him providing a 'cup of tea' to the besieged Bishop Bill Morris .He certainly did not prevent the visit of Bishop Bill's executioner ( Cardinal Kaput ? ) ,nor rile against the crude findings of that 'Kangaroo Court '. Thus we the 'Sheep ' lost our most effective Shepard/ Pastor for many a year .Regards john

John kersh | 08 March 2016  

Commenters generally seem to be on the Leftist media bandwagon that is out “to get Pell at all costs”. There is simplistic thinking that Pell must have been covering up, as he worked in the Ballarat Diocese and then the Melbourne Archdiocese at the time, and knew some of the clergy who were found subsequently to have offended; or that he was too busy advancing his ambitions rather than taking in the misbehaving that was supposedly going on around him. The author’s opening quotation 'It was a sad story that wasn't of much interest to me' serves as a ‘gotcha’ point. However, as HH points out, this was a misquotation that lead to wide misinterpretation.

Ray | 08 March 2016  

I note that the misquotation has been corrected. That's for the best. Nonetheless I think HH and other Pell apologists are performing some intricate semantic gymnastics to suggest that there is any substantive difference between the statements 'It was a sad story that wasn't of much interest to me' and 'It was a sad story and it wasn't of much interest to me.'

Charles Boy | 08 March 2016  

Ted dont just focus on Church so called toxic culture \ #How about forensic cuture of Mandatory reporting of CSA?? ##Civil Law on Mandatory Reporting is and has been an evolutionary['evil'utionary] hotch potch ###Secular legislation on mandatory reporting of child sex abuse has been a slow variegated, piecemeal forensic, evolution--differing over states-- and applicable at different times to very limited categories of mandated reporters eg doctors.[ Indeed only encompassing more widely expanding mandated reporters in relatively recent decades eg 1980s] ####And latest Psychiatric toxic culture. psychiartric Bible viz DSM5 enshrines pedophilia as not per se a mental disorder!!

Father John George | 08 March 2016  

Good to note the correction of the quotation. So now it's possible to situate Pell's remark as a response to the question asked of him by counsel for the Commission - namely the degree of knowledge Inglewood residents had of Ridsdale's crimes. This is how many of us heard it at the time. This is how Pell says it was meant to be taken, much as he regrets the wording he chose at the time. This is in keeping with his scrupulous attention to directly answering the questions put to him by the Commission all throughout his 19-odd hours in the stand. This is no longer a bizarrely aberrant utterance, considering the Cardinal's manifold declarations of abhorrence for the sex abuse crimes and his prompt actions in dealing with them when he acceded to a position of authority. Within a hermeneutic of charity, justice, and common sense, rather than one of a priori hostility, this is no longer an unambiguously "brutish" response.

HH | 09 March 2016  

While basically agreeing with this article, there are two significant factors not mentioned re people speaking out in the workplace: the need to pay the bills and the treatment of whistleblowers. I have seen good people do what little they can while looking for a new job, which can take months, or even years in this climate. Where a person does speak up, they are invariably hounded, some to death, literally. An argument can be made for living to fight another day and those using that argument are the 'most' likely to acknowledge how poor an argument it is. But what is the alternative if you have a family to care for and you have no independent means of support? Neither of these situations applied to Pell. As an ordained priest, he was always going to be fed, housed and clothed. The worst in terms of hounding would have been that he would not have gained the glittering prizes that he has sought so vigourously and he might have had to live out his days "merely" as a parish priest. Comparing Pell with laity in the workforce is misguided at best. As for speaking up to those in charge in the Church, clerical collars are a brick wall to lay people. The Royal Commission shows this only too clearly – lay people count for nothing if they ask questions or complain. I've experienced that one myself (although not in the sexual abuse area).

MargaretC | 09 March 2016  

Ray, please don't categorise those of us who criticise Mr Pell's version of events as being on the leftist media bandwagon. It's a lazy cliche and not accurate. I did not watch the full testimony but I did see and hear enough to know that criticism is justifiable, and not only looking at past events with current hindsights. Even as a young priest he must have had a basic understanding of right and wrong and his duty of care. It is interesting to see some comments twisting nervously to explain what was in Pell's mind when he made his specific unsympathetic comment, as if they know what he meant. Talk about giving him wriggle room! So in the same spirit I'll add my thoughts. I believe he realised how bad it sounded as soon as he said it. Maybe not a Freudian slip but certainly a slip he never intended. Hence the difficult explanations and damage control. I don't condemn Mr Pell, it isn't my place to do so, but their is still something entirely unsatisfactory about his evidence and the gap between his words and his inaction.

Brett | 09 March 2016  

Those who damn Pell by his "not much interest" comment choose to ignore that there were two subjects in Furness' questions at that juncture - an article in The Age in 1994 about Ridsdale's abuses in 1976 - which established that by then (1994) Pell must have known of Risdale's abuses - and whether Pell knew that others knew. It was not clear what time frame Furness was referring to. (If this was a trial Pell's barrister would have objected to the confusing questioning.) Pell answered: "I didn't know whether it was common knowledge or whether it wasn't. It's a sad story and it wasn't much interest to me." Pell was talking about his state of mind in 1994, by reference to the article in The Age. As he explained, by then (1994) he had no reason to turn his mind "to the extent of the evils that Ridsdale had perpetrated" - the "evils" being those in 1976. By 1994 Ridsdale has been convicted and jailed. Furness understood Pell's answer perfectly well - her next question was: "In order, Cardinal, to not have the offences and misconduct of the past repeated, doesn't one need to understand the circumstances in which those offences were committed and the structure and personnel that permitted that to occur?" Pell's response was to the effect that in 1994 he was not in a position to fix structural or personnel problems. But we know that 2 years later when he became Bishop of Melbourne and thus in a position to act, he did. He instituted the Melbourne Response. The reporting that has Pell's "not much interest" comment as referable to Ridsdale's abuses at the time he was abusing, or to child abuse by clergy generally, is pure smear.

Damian | 09 March 2016  

Clerical paedophilia isn't only a crime committed upon one civilian by another in which the question is whether those who could have done something before or after the fact about the crime had a legal duty of care to the victim and therefore the resulting legal obligation to have done something relevant and useful, or at least a moral obligation and therefore a reasonable expectation to have done something relevant and useful. This is an atheistic analysis for which no belief in God is necessary. But one would expect a bishop, upon receiving an allegation of a cleric physically interfering with the body of another, to suspect that the alleged offender needs some substantial help in dealing with the demonic. All temptations come from a demon, of course, but Jesus did say that some demons can only be expelled by fasting, Paedophilia is surely an appetite, and possibly something that can only be dislodged from the flesh by secular and religious procedures that battle the flesh. In transferring the paedophile to a comfortable suburban presbytery with a well-stocked fridge and a housekeeper who provides three (or more) very square meals a day, instead of to a monastic environment of spiritual discipline, were the bishops, as priests, even failing to minister to one of their own, let alone the victim? And what will the mostly secular environment of a gaol do, except provide plenty of opportunity for an idle mind in which more devils will come to play? Perhaps there should be a Guantanamo somewhere in which clerical sexual offenders serve their long sentences under strict spiritual discipline. As long as death comes like a thief in the night, their souls are vulnerable. Perhaps the State should make provision for the Church to have penitential custody of all its clerical employees, no matter how horrible they be, a possibility in a theocratic state, an impossibility in a state where God is expelled from the public square.

Roy Chen Yee | 10 March 2016  

THE PERFECT CATHOLIC FAMILY. At our family gatherings there was a Golden Family whose Golden children used to play with the younger cousins. They would tease them to the point of distress. I saw it. It was awful. I suggested that the teasing had gone too far but no-one else had seen it (apparently). I was treated dismissively. But I know others had seen it. Time passed - the Golden children grew cleverer and engaged in sniggering, smirking and sneering - they were brilliant. Again no-one saw it. I did. But the Golden father and his children became cleverer still. They surrounded themselves with groupies (Narcissistic Suppliers) “outsourcing” their dirty work. Now there was ostracism, silent approvals and silent disapprovals. The manipulated groupies knew without asking what needed to be done. But the most horrific of all things was the Gaslighting – a psychological abuse method resulting in people doubting their own sanity. The stonewalling and Gaslighting eventually did my head in. My body fell apart. No one in my family knew. But the result was to start counselling with the most wonderful of people. After many harrowing years I learned I had been living in a “family cult”.

hfa | 10 March 2016  

As a Christian I hope we can be reformed and continually reformed but, re Lee Bolderman's comment (7 March), but another Luther would not help. One should not forget the evil things he (and some other Christian leaders before him) wrote about the Jewish people, and the appallingly evil treatment of them that he encouraged. No wonder the Nazis were happy to quote Luther.

John Bunyan | 11 March 2016  

That Father Pell was unaware of what going on in the Ballarat Presbytery beggars the imagination: he now has to face up to the consequences of failing the Catholic Church and in particular the Saint Alypius Ballarat parish

Pearson | 12 March 2016  

Thank you for article 'Abuse survivor reflects.......'. It was of interest to me you description of the pedophile priest's actions on arrival in the seaside parish. We have had the same problem in our parish over the last six years with our Parish Priest(PP) on moving into our community "deliberately divides it, bullying, marginalising, deceiving, harassing and abusing.I have seen those who cared have their concerns met with indifference". After years of soul searching and counselling others, I have decided he has a narcissist disorder just to cope with what we have. The Bishop was involved in reestablishing our community group(which the PP sacked) which organised and did the fundraising and maintenance of our local church belonging to the PP's parish. However the hurt and betrayal of our PP actions was not recognised nor were we given any solace from the Bishop. So we did stand up and speak out to get our group reinstated however the mental health toll on family and friends has been high. So the life of the Catholic Church goes on as it always has been. It has given us a better understanding of your world as a survivor and I hope and pray that you and others will find peace in your wounded hearts.

Eileen | 20 March 2016  

Thanks for your very informative, compassionate & charitable article on CSA, Paul Coghlan. Cardinal Pell has yet to face the Royal Commission's findings on his behaviour & his answers like "It was a sad story and it wasn't of much interest to me" will then fade into the background. I have heard first-hand from a lady victim of sexual harrassment in the Qld public service (PS). She suffered the very same fate that Paul wrote of - namely of "government departments' policies and procedures, supposedly there to assist individual victims of sexual harassment, (which) turn them into nothing more than victims of organisational harassment" In this lady's case, her fight lasted for over 3 years, and she was rendered mentally unable to retain her PS employment over this period, AND her ordeal was made worse by having to fight Qld Industrial Court hearings at HER OWN COST. She lost her legal case there, after government department inaction, and after facing direct departmental legal support for the senior PS man responsible for her sexual abuse ! This case has spanned both previous LNP administration and the current ALP state government now in Qld.

John Cronin, Toowoomba | 21 March 2016  

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  • Fatima Measham
  • 07 March 2016

In 2012, a pregnant woman and two of her children were killed in their own home in Tampakan, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Tampakan is the site of a new mine with Australian interests. The woman was the wife of a B'laan tribal leader agitating against the mine. Over recent years indigenous peoples of Mindanao been harassed, displaced and killed by militias, some allegedly with the imprimatur of the Philippine army. Much of this has passed without notice in Australia.