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Royal Commission a sign of the times for the Church


Street sign with question markThe Prime Minister took the only course open to her in agreeing to a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in our country. There has been more than enough media coverage to convince any fair-minded person of the terrible damage done through the abuse of children.

Over the past 20 years I have listened to people who have suffered such abuse, sometimes many years ago, and every time I hear a heartrending story I see another facet of the horror of this criminal behaviour.

The loss of childhood innocence, the secrecy which means little ones carry a burden they can share with no one, the misguided sense of guilt they often carry for many years, blaming themselves for what someone else has done to them, their shame before God; all of which may be compounded at times when they do try to unburden their troubled souls and find they are not believed or understood.

Some experience failed marriages; speaking to such people it becomes clear that sexuality, which is meant to be God's joyous gift, has been a source of confusion and hurt because of their destructive childhood experiences. Every person's experience will be different, but I believe the present publicity, painful though it be, will give more people the opportunity to unburden themselves and thus take the first steps towards finding healing and peace.

Whatever form the Royal Commission takes, opportunity will be given to those who have suffered abuse to be heard and taken seriously, in such a way that not only will their own individual case be dealt with, but systems can be put in place to afford children greater protection in the future.

I welcome the fact that the Royal Commission's scope will be wider than the confines of the Catholic Church. The abuse of children is a much wider issue. At the same time, I believe it important that Catholics as a church face up to the particular factors that have contributed to sexual abuse among the ranks of clergy and religious.

The work that has already been done in Australia to address the problem should be acknowledged. Since 1996, the documents Towards Healing, which outlines the principles and procedures in responding to complaints of abuse , and Integrity in Ministry, which provides guidelines for behaviour, and other measures have attempted to provide justice and healing for all involved.

People such as Sister Angela Ryan and Bishops Geoffrey Robinson, William Morris, Peter Connors and Philip Wilson have been at the forefront of such reform.

Most people, including Catholics, would accept that the Church has been overly negative in its teaching on sexuality. Many Church pronouncements have caused me to question how an all-male celibate voice can realistically enunciate such teaching in a manner which is able to be understood by the whole human family.

Unless women and married people are made part of the governance of the Church, there will continue to be a lack of balance and reality in its teaching, especially around sexuality. I include homosexuality in that critique.

These are painful times to be a Catholic, but if we are humble enough to admit that at times we have got it wrong, sometimes horribly wrong, then there is the opportunity to make reparation and to do all we can to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated.

Opening the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago, Pope John XXIII called on those within the Church to 'read the signs of the times' so as to bring the light of the Gospel on to every aspect of the life of the Church. My hope is that the Royal Commission can become for the Catholic Church a true instrument of grace and healing.

Pat Power headshotBishop Pat Power recently retired as Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra-Goulburn. 

Topic tags: Pat Power, Royal Commission, clergy sex abuse, Vatican II



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Such wisdom Bishop Pat and so appreciated by those of us who are tired of the excuses put forward by your superior. You are a gem

GAJ | 14 November 2012  

Detective Peter Fox and victims of child sex abuse are to be commended for having the courage to speak up and take action to expose the truth about the sex abuse and cover up within the Catholic church in Australia. And a big thank so goes to Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, for ordering a royal commission that will look at institutional responses to the child sex abuse by predator priests. Child predators need to be kept far away from kids forever... BUT, an even more powerful danger is when high ranking officials enable, empower, and cover up these crimes against kids. They need to be held accountable for allowing more innocent kids to be sexually abused. Child sex abuse thrives in secrecy and secret systems that allow it to continue to this day. Thank you, Judy with Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Judy Jones | 14 November 2012  

Simple, clear, compassionate. Why aren't there more like Fr Pat?

Frank | 14 November 2012  

Thank you once again Bishop Pat for being a voice of honesty and justice

Narelle Mullins | 14 November 2012  

Signs of the times ? Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened...A total solar eclipse is darkening the Southern Hemisphere right now.

monica | 14 November 2012  

In reading this, I was struck by the gentleness of Pat's words. These certainly are painful times to be a Catholic - but many prayers, from all branches of Christianity, are ascending. In thinking deeply about the causes of sexual abuse, we probably need to keep in mind that perpetrators' self-awareness is challenged in a particular way. There are many other factors for sure and the Catholic church needs to go through this soul-searching to reach a place where people can trust this great church again. For the victims my prayers are for this to be a cathartic experience, and for strength for themselves and their families.

Pam | 14 November 2012  

All power to you Bishop. Thanks for laying it out honestly and for some insights that might influence ongoing attitudes and indeed the structure of the church. Something stirred in Australia this week and it is a profound thing: it was about finally hearing the least powerful in our society. As a non-christian I am interested in how people in the church can now contribute productively to the TOR of the Royal Commission which may go on for some years and hopefully have ongoing/interim reports and recommendations. AND justice may not be afforded some people, but they need to know we now will hear their stories. Truth and social justice - or criminal justice. The Catholic Church does have to wear the evidence of its continued protection of pedophiles - and from yesterday's press conference the confessional is still seen by Dr Pell as above the law. Unsustainable.

jan forrester | 14 November 2012  

One can always count on Bishop Power for clear refreshing words of truth and compassion in contrast to the musty obfuscations from church officials.

Vacy Vlazna | 14 November 2012  

Thanks Bishop Pat! Great article! The problem(s)with Royal Commissions involve appointments. They are political and consequently, some who need to "do the time" will once again receive protection. This current government responded in world record time to the cries for a Royal Commission and hence, the whole process from the opening address will be shrouded with political influence.

Andrew | 14 November 2012  

1. I am glad that the Catholic Church has instituted a series of very comprehensive psychological tests for those aspiring to become priests - in order to weed out those who do not possess the correct criteria or attitude for this calling. 2. The persons who “slipped under the radar” in earlier times and may be still in the clergy, must be weeded out before they add to our outrage. 3. A very ignorant media has still not realised that perpetrators of abuse who would prey upon vulnerable children: a) Never go anywhere near any Confessional anyway - because their predator minds continue to justify their evil actions. b) That these monsters know full well that even if they went to Confession to a Priest unknown to them (and even though during any Confession the Priest and the person in the Confessional cannot see each other) - it would be NO use for a perpetrator of abuse to go to Confession - because the Priest CANNOT and will not grant pardon - UNTIL the perpetrator FIRST gives themselves up immediately to the Police. This is what the Priest will direct them to do as the initial step. Even the Prison Chaplain cannot grant these monsters pardon UNTIL the perpetrator undertakes serious reparation. 4. To summarise: a Catholic Priest in the Confessional - CANNOT and will not extend pardon to a perpetrator of abuse: -- In the absence of the perpetrator of abuse handing himself immediately to Police; -- in the absence of the perpetrator begging forgiveness from the victim; -- In the absence of the perpetrator beginning immediate reparation to the victim An ignorant media still has not realised that it is of no use for their calling for the breaking of the confidentiality of Confession - precisely because the Priest is unable to distinguish who is in the adjoining room of the Confessional - so identifying them would be impossible anyway. 5. If the media insist that a Priest break the confidentiality … then the media must ALSO demand the very same from Lawyers, Doctors, Police, etc (whose clients are ALSO entitled to client confidentiality)? -- To be consistent, they must apply the same treatment to ALL categories. -- If not, then the media are exposing themselves as not at all intent on searching for truth … and exposing themselves as a bigoted media intent on a sensationalist witch hunt.

mms | 14 November 2012  

Well, well, well. What a contrast to Cardinal Pell's ostrich-like approach to life and the realities of the Church! Refreshing is a word that springs to mind. And look at this, "...I see another facet of the horror of this criminal behaviour." That's right. He calls sexual abuse 'criminal behaviour', not a 'sin' or a misdeed' as we read the other day from Frank Brenann, but a straight-from-the-hip 'criminal behaviour'. Neither did I read any mention of mythical stories and fables blaming sexual abuse on Original Sin. But the question must be asked, even of this straight talking man of reality, if the Church teachings on sex, homsexuality, marraige of priests, ordination of women and so on are in need of review, then that opens the door to them being wrong, totally wrong, otherwise, like the Taliban, there would be no need to adapt to changing times. If these basic tenets are wrong, what else is wrong? Ideas of Original Sin maybe? Ideas that position the Pope above all others on this Earth? I welcome the prospect of Church reform, but let's remember poor old Gorby when he thought he was just opening the USSR front door an inch, and found a tsunami of change roar past him.

janice wallace | 14 November 2012  

When you speak as leader, Bishop Pat, I can listen. You are not defensive. You humbly name this reality - sign of the times - for what it is, and see therein a true moment of crisis/opportunity for the change of heart and mind which is well overdue in the eyes of many. Nothing less than a complete renewal of church structures is required, as Catholics for Renewal is advocating. As we long for the possibility of the church being a true instrument of grace and healing it might be time, in this Year of Grace, to claim Bonhoeffer's lived insight that God's grace is costly.

vivien | 14 November 2012  

Thank you for this article. As I read through the names of other "retired" bishops, I felt saddened that it is only through retirement that our bishops can voice an honest opinion on the state of the Church. Why can't we as a Church say that some of our popes got it wrong! Let us correct our mistakes. The Church does not have a monopoly on who gets into the Kingdom. Our conscience is guided by the Holy Spirit not by Canons! And this is why we still ask!

Norma Marot | 14 November 2012  

Thanks Pat for the article. I think that part of the problem has been the need for people to believe in an inviolate church and clergy. So parents, administrators and peers denied instead the evidence of abuse and were pat of the coverup. What if the institution which was promising eternal life were not genuine? What if those to whom parents intrusted their children were not trustworthy? Too much! And for administrators could they have felt some of the guilt victims feel and so tried to deny the evidence? The loss of innocence is painful at whatever age. Better to deny. But when the banks, politicians, cops and the church are all seen to be dodgy the community needs prepared to grow up.

Michael D. Breen | 14 November 2012  

Thank you Pat Power and Eureka street .Apart from our parish priest and those courageous orders like the Augustinians and the Jesuits Australian catholicism would have been submerged by the "Roman Empire".As a lawyer and a catholic I have had first hand experience of the absolute disaster that child abuse, which is definitely non denominational, has done to lives not only the abused but their families and all who love them.I know it is unrealistic For "australia`s most senior Catholic" ' Cardinal Pell to change his abrasive manner but this coming enquiry will purge the church from without and hopefully allow a renewal within as suggested by bishop Pat.

paul tocchini | 14 November 2012  

Thanks to Pat. Would that here were more Bishops like you Blessing on you

Sally | 14 November 2012  

If only everyone who believes the same things as Bishop Power were courageous enough to speak out about the wider issues with the governance of the church. It seems that unless there is a concerted and united stand across the country, it will always be a problem of sidelining the individual. Sadly, I believe it is the celibate men, the clerical caste themselves who will have to refuse. The rest of us have no impact at all, even though we can stand in support. I personally don't believe schism is the greatest risk the church faces, but the disillusion and loss of belief which is killing it. However, I also believe that there is no long term way forward until there is a legitimate voice for the people. The franchise is basic to living without slavery - physical, mental or spiritual. You can cloak it in religious language but that is the foundational structure, and all dictatorships fear it.

Pauline Small | 14 November 2012  

The Eureka Street blue-pencil department cut my closing sentence out, which suggested that Cardinal Pell might be terrified of the sort of change that Gorbachov initiated in the USSR, if he were to take a more moderate line, as the author of this article does, towards the very obvious failings of the Church. But it is just this sort of degree of change that is required in Rome and its colonies, whilst avoiding the anarchy and gangsterism of the modern Russia. After all, if all the foibles of the Roman Catholic Church were to be dismantled, it might end up looking like a Spong designed outfit, yet wouldn't that be more in keeping with the message of the myth-legend of Jesus? Since Pell says he believes in evolution (as part of God's plan of course), he and others could regard such change as nothing more than a God inspired and approved evolution. Simple solution. But to remain steadfastly tied to the closed off past, like the Taliban do, is to invite public and personal ridicule, public and personal contempt, scorn and total irrelevance. This RC could be about more than sexual abuse, starting the Australian Church's evolution towards some relevance.

janice wallace | 14 November 2012  

"Unless women and married people are made part of the governance of the Church, there will continue to be a lack of balance and reality in its teaching, especially around sexuality. I include homosexuality in that critique".... Perfectly put.

Rob Colquhoun | 14 November 2012  

Thank you Bishop Pat for showing how Bishops could have been leading in all this mess. And also linking where we are with the renewal of the Church that should have come from Vatican-2. But the conservatives have tried as hard as they can to close that down...and our own dear Cardinal has played a significant part. See here it has got us. At one level the recent changes to the language in the liturgy are trivial...but part of the same conservative push, and done with the same arrogance and indeed bullying that has has got us into the mess. Humani vitae is another huge but classic example of the same process... we now know that the only reason the "Magisterium" (what a joke!) did not take the advice of its own Commission was because of conservative pressure saying that any change would damage the church`s authority...not about what is right or wrong, not about the good lives of married Catholics, but POWER. This shocking period should be a time of catharsis and reform for the whole Church, and especially the Bishops. But given that so many have been appointed specifically and indeed only because they are the right sort of "yes-men" that will do exactly what they are told and not rock the boat, I doubt that they as a group have the ability to seize the opportunities ahead. How about getting rid of their ridiculous medieval titles and clothes as a start? How about more open and democratic appointment system? Dear fondly-remembered Cardinal Martini...how right you were.

Eugene | 14 November 2012  

This article is a good start but it does not go anywhere near far enough. This needs to be urgently addressed: "The Catholic Church and other church denominations occupy a unique position under Australian law. They enjoy the benefits of corporate status - for tax land purposes and perpetual succession of property - but avoid corporate tort liability for the very atrocities committed under their roof. A Catholic archbishop, unlike the heads of other organisations, cannot be held accountable for the negligent and reckless acts or omissions of their predecessor. How can this continue in modern Australia?" There is no excuse today to have any religion granted any special status to place it above 'we the people'. Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/politics/long-wait-for-healing-can-end-if-perpetrator-protections-are-removed-20121113-29ady.html#ixzz2C9ACLnto

Andy Fitzharry | 14 November 2012  

Thank you Pat, your thoughts reminding us of the many faith-filled good christians in the world. We need more bishops to speak out, as Jesus said "the truth will set you free". Cardinal Pell is sadly so institutionalised in his foreign sovereignty. Does he watch "Compass",I wonder? There is a series on now focussing on the early history of the church, when women were equal and the church was vibrant. I don't think Pell is well educated at all.We should pray for him.

Catherine | 14 November 2012  

It is so good to hear your comments which are so balanced, honest and considered. Good Luck to you sir! Wish there were more of you! :)

Paddy | 14 November 2012  

Thank you Bishop Pat, You are always so dignified and gentle but always on song.This Royal Commission is timely and I pray we will get some serious reform in our Church. We need all the People of God (Vatican 11),to be represented in the governance of our Church. I hope the great Bishop Geoffrey Robinson is vindicated by the terrible exposure of crimes in recent days. We need more humble leaders like Fr. Dillon of Geelong, Bishop Bill Morris, Father Peter Day of Canberra & Father Frank Brennan SJ. Many Catholics feel so distressed by the treatment of victims. We need a voice.

Margaret M.Coffey | 14 November 2012  

It is sad that my church, the Catholic Church had to be the catalyst for the Royal Commission. The media focus has been on the Church, neglecting to report on child abuse in other organisations such as the Boy Scouts, schools, football clubs -- wherever there are children. The TV reports I have seen since the announcement of the Royal Commission have had images of Catholic churches and events running in the background every time there has been a report on the widening aspect of the report. It is surely time that the media widened its approach.

John Morris | 14 November 2012  

A Royal Commission into the Sexual Abuse of Children is what is required. In just about every institution where children are involved - as John Morris has observed - there is sexual abuse. Social workers will tell you that the sexual abuse of children within that basic unit of society, the family, is all too common where the parents, or parent, or guardian have some substance-abuse problem. A woman I know was abused by her father as a pre-pubescent child, with her mother turning a blind eye. She couldn't turn to her parish priest because as chaplain to her local school he had a reputation (justified or not she didn't know) as being "fond of young girls with long legs". What is a healthy attitude towards human sexuality? As Father Pat intimates the Catholic Church has been too negative and its celibate hierarchs lacking in existential experience. But secular society which seems to think that establishing laws that prohibit the more extreme forms of violent and degraging acts of sexual behaviour is incapable of agreeing on where to draw the line. Full credit to the PM for setting up the Royal Commission. Pray she gets the Terms of Reference right

Uncle Pat | 14 November 2012  

A very sound article by Pat Power and I commend him for it. It is a sad state of affairs though that one generally has to have resignation under ones belt to write such truths. Also very importantly; a comment on Monica's brief response to the Church's current state of disgrace in conjunction with the total solar eclipse as seen best yesterday morning from the latitude of Cairns. As a Catholic, and also a member of the Astronomical Society of South Australia, I can confidently assure her that the eclipse has nothing to do with this. It would be superstitious and therefore quite wrong to believe so. One must be careful not to mix up theological statements with scientific facts. It is this sort of nonsense that fuels the fires of those that accuse us as being the enemies of reason!

John Whitehead | 14 November 2012  

Pat Power makes such a balanced case - should have been the Cardinal - Pell has an unfortunate style - less he says the better - as for the seal of Confession - how often is it used these days - Removing the 3rd rite was the joy of the Conservatives - keeping things hidden dare say is their other great joy. Stay active in retirement Bishop Pat.

Gary Lockwood | 14 November 2012  

"I hope the great Bishop Geoffrey Robinson is vindicated by the terrible exposure of crimes in recent days." Well, I've just listened to Bishop Robinson on ABC RN and he says Pell is certainly an embarrassment to him, as a Catholic, and that it was up to other bishops to put their own views forward. Hoorah for Geoff! So, isn't it up to those Catholics who still (somehow) believe in their Church to pop along to their bishops and demand an answer, in public, in neon, stating their support, or otherwise, for Cardinal Pell? It's no earthly good bemoaning your tied hands on this you know. It's no good waiting for retired bishops to lead the charge from the rear. Wake up to yourselves, for God's sake (or at least for the sake of the abused in your Church) and take charge of your own local churches. Sack the priests if they only parrot Rome, lock them out, turn your backs on them in the pews, install your own people, be just a little proactive for once in your lives. Take a leaf out of Jesus in the Temple, and turn the tables on Pell and his ilk.

janice wallace | 14 November 2012  

Thank you Bishop Pat. Wow! I've been waiting for years to read something like this again. What happened to the wisdom & thoughts of John Paul II. Such wisdom bypassed. I've grown up with the abuse I suffered, but it has scarred me; I've accepted it and moved on, but a broken marriage and loss of access to children is the price I paid in keeping quiet all these years. Forgiveness comes in time and prayer, but how many others have been affected too? I'll never know. I trust the Bishop's Conference will take this opportunity to rethink their draconian attitudes to the laity, including women and the marginalised.

Murray J Greene | 14 November 2012  

Thank you Bishop Power, we know what bravery is required to speak the truth in the current ecclesiastical environment. Is Bishop Power the only friend of truth amongst his brother bishops? It seems that just as the cock is crowing a third time, too many friends of Truth are silent.

Peter Davidson | 14 November 2012  

The Royal Commission must focus on the children first and the damage being done to them Then the Royal Commission must find out who is responsible for this damage. Family Law decisions and processes would have to form an integral part of any such inquiry and must be included in the ToR. Child protection services must also be examined. As you probably know, judicial officers of the Family Court – including judges, magistrates and ICLs (Independent Children’s Lawyers) are NOT mandatory reporters of child abuse. This means that they are just as unaccountable as priests hearing confession. In addition to physical, sexual and other types of abuse - Justice for Children Australia believes that removal of a child from a loving caring parent who has done them no harm is child abuse and must be included.

Ariel | 14 November 2012  

Thank you Pat. Charity and truth will carry us through. Like the widow in last Sunday's gospel, we simply have to give what little we have - our all. If we conduct ourselves like the scribes, hoping to exercise power and influence, we will be rightly judged.

Frank Brennan SJ | 14 November 2012  

Except of course that since the invention of churches this abuse has continued in one form or the other. Be it arranged marriages, taxes and land theft from peasants and so on, it ia all based on greed and the churches are all man made institutions to suppress, oppress and steal.

Marilyn | 14 November 2012  

Once again Bishop Pat Power has spoken with his characteristic clarity and gentle wisdom on this most difficult of matters. My comment is to remind readers that Pat has always been willing - often the first and sometimes the only one of our Bishops - to speak out against injustices of any kind in our church or society generally. It is not something that he has discovered only in retirement. Long may he continue to do so and to provide us with the courageous leadership we so desperately need today!

Ken Heffernan | 14 November 2012  

Dear Bishop Pat, I must diasagree with you about 'Towards Healing'. I think the process is a disaster run by people who don't know what they are doing. It is certainly not a reform. People should go directly to the police if they have a complaint or to a professional counsellor if they don't want to take it to the police. You can't have Church functionaries who do not have the requisite counselling or investigative skills handling such delicate issues. I hope the RC will do away with the Towards Healing process and not before time.

tonymac | 14 November 2012  

Clearly, Bishop Pat Power does not need any further voices of support - but I add my voice anyway. I am particularly pleased that Bishop Pat extends his focus to comment on the 'overly negative [Catholic] teaching on sexuality...and his question 'how an all-male celibate voice can realistically enunciate such teaching...' Correction of the imbalance in Catholic teaching about sexuality can only be realised when the voices of sexually fulfilled people, both men and women, are acknowledged as necessary contributors to the discussion. This is not a criticism of celibacy as a spiritual virtue. Celibacy for monks and nuns who withdraw from the world to concentrate their lives on the spiritual journey is a noble tradition, shared by many faiths, east and west. However, alone among the Christian churches, the Catholic Church imposes monastic celibacy on its priests who ostensibly live in the world in order to serve the people who are the Church. How could they understand sexuality? The Royal Commission will hopefully bring redress for the victims of sexual abuse. We can only hope for an opening of ecclesiastical minds and hearts to the world, to appreciate the world as a channel for spiritual growth, no longer to be seen only as a source of temptation and sin.

Ian Fraser | 14 November 2012  

John Whitehead, the only 'reason' for time ( the fabric of the cosmos: space, time, and the texture of reality ) is so that everything doesn't happen at once.

monica | 14 November 2012  

Thanks, Pat

Marie O'Kelly | 14 November 2012  

I have lost count of the number of blogs who support Bishop Power. Only one contributor wrote "a very ignorant media has still not realised that perpetrators of abuse who would prey upon vulnerable children: never go anywhere near any confessional anyway - because their predator minds continue to justify justify their evil actions" Probably as I am in the minority who has a great respect and admiration for Cardinal Pell my contribution may not be published. I do not understand how many (I think Catholics) no longer believe in the "Sacramental Seal" of the sacrament of penance. Cardinal Pell is being demonised for defending the teachings of our Holy Catholic Faith. The media wants to reconstruct our Holy Catholic Church, by forcing priests to defy the "Sacramental Seal" and report to the police the sins of penitents. Does any of the above bloggers really believe that perpetrators will go to confession or confess their evil actions?

Ron Cini | 14 November 2012  

Thank you for your insights, Bishop Pat - what a wonderful man our Australian Church Officialdom is missing from its ranks - along with a few others! Ireland was first, Australia next. The former took a l-o-n-g time - 9(?) years. I don't care if this commission's work takes 20 years, just as long as it comes up with some realistic and workable recommendations. It will be well worth the wait. The problem with the current situation seems to be that Caesar shouldn't investigate Caesar. If this commission, after Ireland's investigation, adds to a world wide movement for fundamental reform within our church, then maybe, just maybe, our church will rise from the ashes stronger, cleaner, re-formed, more accountable to the people, and more in tune with the will of the Holy Spirit. Vatican II, to my mind, took us back to our real roots. Current curia officials and others would have us turn back the clock a mere 500 years - Trent times!

Peter R Kenny - Toowoomba | 14 November 2012  

beautifully put. at last a voice of leadership crying in the wilderness and acknowledging honestly the horrors and heinous sins inflicted on the innocents aided and abetted by those who stood by in silence or moved the evil chess pieces around. at last an acknowledgement of women. blessings, father pat and more strength to you and yours.

debbie clarke | 14 November 2012  

Indeed, Bishop Pat. Thank God for voices like yours within the Church. Christ, who identified with the wounded and the outcast rather than the Pharisees, no doubt weeps over the institutional coverup of serious crimes, and the lack of prevention of such sins.

Peter | 15 November 2012  

Bishop Pat. You are the 'light upon the hill' and a beacon of hope for those of us within the Church. Thank God for you!

Helga Biro | 15 November 2012  

Thank you, Ariel, for your comment. If the Terms of Reference don't also cover the secular institutions (the family, suburban cricket team etc) in which child sex abuse occurs or which are meant to deal with it as part of due process (Family Law), then what's the point? As to the Seal of Confession: The Catechism of the Catholic Church takes 78 paragraphs (1420 - 1498) to summarise the Church's teaching on this sacrament of healing. Given the opportunity to comment church leaders would do better by trying to explain to the media (if they'd listen) that the priest hearing confession should have a proven knowledge of christian behaviour, experience of human affairs, respect and sensitivity towards the fallen; he must love the truth, and lead the penitent with patience towards healing and full maturity. This will include reminding the penitent of the need to make amends (How one does this to an abused child I don't know) as a sign of true repentance. Confession is not, as so often described in the media, washing one's dirty linen in private with every intention of going out and sullying it again the next day.

Uncle Pat | 15 November 2012  

I hope that the Royal Commission will include women officers to a proportionate degree. I hope also that Catholics will write to their Bishops and politicians to make clear their expectations for the Church's and the civil authority's parts in the process. We need to get used to expressing our views within the Church and using our power well if the Church is to change. The Commission's recommendations for punishing those guilty of crime is only part of the cleansing. Our wholeness will not come from that alone. It depends on the whole Church insisting on shared power rather than hierarchy, and participation rather than hopeful passivity.

Alex Nelson | 15 November 2012  

Being a married man with kids, I am not so optimistic that non-celibate men and women are necessarily the saviours of our children. Criminal behaviour, including sexual assaults, is higher among us (yikes) in the general population. As for a more positive understanding of sexuality, what about the Theology of the Body of Blessed John Paul II? I would suggest that, given the gravely heinous nature of these scandals, we ought to proceed carefully. Data from other countries seem unanimous that Catholic priests are less likely to commit these crimes compared to other professions (male or female school teachers, for example). And the shocking numbers are accounted for by a relatively small proportion (near 5%) who abuse multiple times and victims. And finally, the abuses tend to have been from somewhere around the 60s or 70s, with numbers dropping in the last two decades. Going after a broad approach may sound simple, but may end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It also obscures the problem: a cultural leniency towards untenable sexual attitudes that ignore the evident consequences. I simply have to point out: the abuses are much worse out here (outside the hierarchy)!

Jeff | 15 November 2012  

Thank you so much Bishop Pat. What a wonderful gift you have given us all with your gentle,wise, honest thoughts.

Mary Maraz | 15 November 2012  

Thanks Bishop Pat. It is a time for us as a church to be shamed and humble. Not defensive. This is a moment of grace if we can only recogise it.

Anne Benjamin | 15 November 2012  

All I can say is a heartfelt THANK YOU. Please keep speaking out. I expect that there are still hierarchy who will try to cover up these immense and unbelievable actions.

fransje | 16 November 2012  

Bishop Pat,I hope you are heartened by all these supportive comments.Let's not forget adult victims as well of abuse by priests,women especially are regarded as the seducers in this situation despite the imbalance of power and a history of this behaviour.Keep fighting for the alienated,Pat!

dianne | 16 November 2012  

Excellent article bishop Pat. Thank you. I became a Roman Catholc in the 1970s, and was very appreciative of it for many years. However, I returned to the Anglican Church, in which I was raised, in 2001. I had learned more about the RC Church, the ridiculous power of Rome and how out of touch and outdated it had become. It is high time the Roman Church moved into at least the 20th century. The four elements that irk me most are Papal infallibility; celebacy; the confessional secrecy; and the election of ancient men as popes. Also, Absolute Monarchy status of modern popes does not fit with modern day living. Yes, and women should be equal in the RC priest bureaucracy and hierarchy. Rome: Get with the times, and throw out these ancient nonsensical practices! Many people will join and return to the RC faith. And trust will begin and strengthen.

Louw | 16 November 2012  

Thankyou Bishop Pat for such an empathic article. I would love to belong to a Church with people such as yourself in power. Alas I tirned away from Pell's dominated church some time ago. What would Jesus have said?

Pete | 16 November 2012  

Thanks so much Bishop Pat. It is obvious these words are from your heart and not the dribble we hear from the Cardinal and other Bishops. You will be sorely missed because you have a reputation for speaking the truth. I cannot continue to worship in the Catholic Church. I have hung in for most of my near 70 years but no more. I am one who has been through the Towards Healing, many years ago now, but each day I continually force myself to live this present day but the memories of rape and sexual abuse by clergy still invade my mind and have an impact on my health. It is not something that has been dealt with and forgotten about. It is not as simple as 'moving on' and praying that my faith will be 'deepened and enriched' by this horrible experience as I have been told many times by bishops and clergy. The Royal Commission is a great step forward. Let's hope the 'good Catholics' will eventually believe people have been telling the truth. It is NOT and has NEVER been about money.

Collette | 17 November 2012  

Frank Brennan, are you seriously saying the church should stop exercising power and influence like the scribes? "Charity and Truth will see us through"? Revolutionary stuff! Wow such trust in God and abandonment of playing secular politics might point to a real Jesus inspired organization. Certainly not found in the Catholic Church. Please say and demonstrate more on this theme. The church needs courageous leaders to stand up and help open its doors to all. All who are inspired by the sermon on the mount, rather than the many forms of coercion and power that increasingly surround us.

Pete | 18 November 2012  

Very well put, Pete. I too often wonder what Jesus would think of the way His Church has operated over two thousand years, and continues to! I don't get it at all. To me, Christianity is very simple. It's about: service, humility, caring and sharing. Pity the Roman Church, and some strands of other churches don't see it, or practise it that way. The Sermon on the Mount says it all. And my very favorite passage is in St Matthews Gospel: "I did not not come into this world to be served, but to serve, and be a Ransom for many".

Louw | 19 November 2012  

Yes, these are soothing and refreshing words... can't help noticing a lot of Bishops are in damage control right now.. that is not to say Cardinal Pell's attitudes / politics are not the norm. .. or have been . yet soothing words and acknowledgement ,of the pain and suffering is just the beginning step in this process. nothing but complete reform of church from the top down ..rules, laws /ideologies is ever going to satisfy the secular public of australia. because when this RC is over,as in other parts of the world,the people will be outraged . and pious words will fall on deaf ears.

rosemary | 19 November 2012  

Good on you Bishop Pat Power, power to you!!!!! This has to come out in society, especially in the Churches. The truth will set us all free!!!! Thank you, Pat Power. Go for it, with God's help, Pat. .

Kerry Barrass | 19 November 2012  

One way of increasing the participation of women and married people in the governance of the church is to repeal the rule that Cardinals must be clerics. That way, women and all married people could form part of those with suffrage for the Papacy.

Robert Turnbull | 19 November 2012  

John Whitehead, God dwells in Eternity and God exists beyond Time and throughout Time ( the Cosmos ) as God encompasses all things—all times, all places, all events—in One Eternal Act. ( But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 2 Peter 3 : 8 ). God is unbounded by Time, unlimited by Time, beyond the restrictions of Time and Place. From Eternity, beyond Time, God sees what we call the future just the same as He sees the past and the present. The past, present, and future are all the same to God. From our point of view, within Time, we have not yet made our future decisions. We know not what we ourselves will decide to do. We can decide as we see fit and our free will remains free. Yet from the point of view of Eternity (outside of Time) these future events and future free will decisions have already occurred. And the past cannot be changed. You can know the past free will decisions that you made and yet you cannot change these once they are past. And so it is with the future. God knows with certainty the decisions and events of our future without compromising freewill in the least because these future events are to God as the past is to us. Allow me to phrase this same teaching in a different way. God is not confined within Today, remembering what happened Yesterday and using some special power to figure out what will happen Tomorrow. God does not stand within one point in Time and look ahead to see what will happen at a future point in Time. Like I said before, God is present throughout all of Time and all of Creation all in one single timeless Act, for God is One. God knows with certainty what will happen in the future because God exists beyond Time and throughout Time. God encompasses all things—all times, all places, all events—in One Eternal Act. Therefore God can reveal future events through Sacred Scripture, through visions of the Virgin Mary ( For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1: 37 ) or through any other means He chooses, and these events can be known with certainty and without compromising freewill in the least.

Bernstein | 20 November 2012  

The Bishops, atatement was disappointing. Something more like this was what the laity hoped for.


Susan | 21 November 2012  

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