Royal Commission hatred is childish


Typed words Anger Fear HatredIn my early years of secondary school there was a very fine footballer in the senior team of another school. I had never met him, but hated him with a passion. For me he was the embodiment of evil: came from a snobs school, had a non Anglo-Irish name, represented the wrongs inflicted on Ireland, ran rings around our team, and was a filthy player.

I later recognised that he was an unassuming young man who was scrupulously fair in his play. But that was later. In boyhood hatred created its object out of all the prejudices that lay to hand.

This memory returned in recent weeks when reading of the constant booing and vilification of Adam Goodes, and reading some of the opinion pieces on the Ballarat sexual abuse.

Goodes, already marked as the enemy by rival tribes, either because of his high skills or his fearless representation of an unpopular cause, became invested with racial prejudices, suspicions of unfairness, and imputations of self-righteousness, and so a target for hatred. He is no longer a person but a representative of evil, and so what can you do but boo and execrate?

Unless, of course, he joins your tribe.

Tribal hatred in football in Australia is unattractive, but pretty harmless. Supporters generally don it when they go to the ground and divest themselves of it when they leave. But they always reveal something of themselves in their conduct.

What the Royal Commission laid out in Ballaarat was horrifying and aborrent.

On display were the scale of abuse, the extent of the suffering of victims and their families, the failure of church authorities and others at the time to attend to it or stop it, with the only result of their actions being to perpetuate and spread it, and the inadequacy of the perpetrators to comprehend, acknowledge or be moved by the destruction they had caused.

For reporters it must have been hard to write dispassionately of what they heard, but they generally succeeded. Most of the comment pieces, too, were considered.

In some dealing with Gerald Ridsdale, however, I was struck by the hatred displayed. Writers described him variously as a piece of excreta and as knowingly dishonest. They expressed the hope that he would rot in hell. A man whose evidence was marked by a lack of affect was invested with qualities of evil that came from elsewhere.

This kind of hatred in the case of something as abhorrent and destructive as sexual abuse of children is understandable. But can hatred be a proper response to anything? To those with a Christian background aphorisms will come to mind. 'Hate the sin, but not the sinner.' And, 'Do good to those who hate you.'

But these are exhortations not to hate, not explanations of why it might be inappropriate. A better starting point for reflection may be our response when we witness expressions of hatred. We see it less as bad than as out of place. We turn away from it as we might at the sight of a naked guest at a wedding reception. Our response is one of pity, not of condemnation.

Turning away reflects our sense that hatred separates us from society.

It short circuits the process by which we form ourselves as human beings. We are shaped by language, by engaging with others, testing what we have thought of ourselves and how we behave by how we are seen in the eyes of those to whom we speak. We come to recognise that others live with the consequences of our actions, just as we must live with the consequences of others' actions.

The quality of society depends on the conversation we have with others and on our inner response to the questions they put to us about ourselves. This of course is a largely intuitive process, recognisable in children as well as in adults.

Hatred short circuits this process. It assumes that our identity is given by birth, by class or race, or by our individual choice, not through relationships. We do not need to look into the eyes of the person whom we hate, nor listen to the questions they might put to us.

In the incidents with which I began they might include such questions as, 'And you, how do you respond when people show contempt for you because of your race or skin? What have you sacrificed in order to develop your skills? When have you shown courage?'

'And you, how have you handled sexual frustration? How have you dealt with those you have hurt or betrayed? How have you tried to set right the consequences of your actions?'

When we attend to questions like this we may be in a position to address the evils we find in the world. We shall recognise their complexity and our own part in them. Hatred avoids questions by trying to obliterate those whose lives pose them to us. Hatred is murderous. It is also childish. When we see it in adults, we rightly turn our faces away.

Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street.

Image from Shutterstock



Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Adam Goods, Royal Commission, Ballarat, Gerald Ridsdale



submit a comment

Existing comments

Hatred is a passionate emotion. In the first paragraph of this article, 'hatred' is articulated against someone never met - because of factors the hated person couldn't control. That sort of hatred is indeed childish. In the case of the pedophile priest it is understandable that negative passions are aroused. Ridsdale has a disorder which destroyed young lives and no one in a position of authority put a stop to the terrible suffering, both his and his victims. Could anyone blame the victims for being unable to reach a place where a dispassionate response can be articulated? We can look dispassionately at how we 'should' respond and certainly skills can be developed to see the injustice of our own actions. But life is always more complex than theory.
Pam | 10 June 2015

Andrew, I agree with much of what you say but I worry about the many who will read this. This is again, like so many church 'teachings' an ideal and like most ideal, most cannot live up to them being preached by a person of the church to us lesser mortals who are even further away from the ideal. In all my life I have never been able to hate anyone, not even my abuser. I don't know why, perhaps I'm just too much of a coward to let that emotion escape. Instead, however, I have turned the anger inwards, a very destructive place to send it. When dealing with this anger that is being expressed, so much of it is so totally based on broken trust, broken hope, broken lives and the deep and more complete that break, the greater the anger whether that anger be directed outwardly or inwardly. My anger, directed inwardly saw me writing a suicide note not that long ago, tears streaming down my face not wanting to die, not wanting to hurt my wife and children, but I had to die I felt - it was all my fault, I blamed myself and I was deeply angry at myself. I was stopped, thank God, but then I sought help from the church; that's when my anger actually started to first express itself. As I said, this anger came from such deep unimaginable hurt and pain at the way I and my family have ended up (and the worst is still to come) because all we have wanted is to re-establish some sense of normality and future after it had been taken away from me along with my childhood. When the church you loved and the representatives of the God and Christ you loved just do not seem to care what happens to you beyond what is 'allowed', this is what causes deep anger which can and too often turns into hate. There have been so many things that the church has got wrong about the abuse scandal - this is why there is such anger and hatred. I hate hatred. It is a deeply destructive force, but I also totally get it. Is it childish? Well, if you understood how childhood trauma works, the answer is there. Hatred is an expression of trauma: Ridsdale's 'hatred' centred on abusing less powerful people because his damage was never dealt with: Others centre their 'hatred' on seeking justice and/or purely as an expression of deep, deep trauma-based anger and pain because they were so deeply injured and their lives and souls stolen from them. What we need to ask to get the fuller picture is, "Who or what caused the trauma in the first place, and, how have the traumatised been treated? Are they too often re-traumatised"? I think we all know the answers to these. How can we call any people childish or anything without first fully appreciating the reality of their lives. How can we ask, "what have you....? How have you.....? This is exactly what my bishop said to me: "I'm sorry for the unfortunate situation YOU have found YOURSELF in". Placing heavy burdens..... not willing to help...God only works THROUGH other human beings.
Ed | 10 June 2015

Andrew's opening comments revived in me memories of my first bout of childhood hatred. I had grown up in a family with mixed religious backgrounds: Catholic, Protestant and Jewish - all dealt with in a very open and respectful way by family members. I attended a State school for my first year; the fact that I was Catholic never rated a mention. When I was 8 I started going to the local convent which was several miles away from my rural home. It was there that I was introduced to prejudicial behaviour by fellow pupils. When waiting for the bus to take us home, children from a nearby State school would pass by on their bikes. For some reason our group used to shout at them: "Proddy dogs, stink like frogs in their mother's bathing togs." They used to reply in similar vein. For the life of me I don't know why it happened; I didn't understand what was going on, but for some reason I had to join in. When I reflect on it now I'm deeply ashamed but at the same time such past behaviour has helped me understand how contagious prejudice and hate can be so easily transmitted. Where did it come from? Were the children who initiated the chant reflecting things they'd heard at home? On my part, the need to be part of the group overrode rationality.
Paddy | 11 June 2015

"the failure of church authorities and others at the time to attend to it or stop it,"....This failure highlights a fundamental problem which throws light on both what triggered the abuse, and why otherwise good and sincere people sought to cover it up. Esteem for the Institutional Church as 'our' pathway to God tended to overshadow the allegiance we owe to God alone. When modern scholarship undermined the belief that the Church was the one and only path to God, many who had invested their life's work in it were left floundering, a prey to their natural (or unnatural?) instincts. Those in authority, who were still bonded to the belief that the Church was Christ-incarnate, acted to defend it at any price, seeing it as their duty to God. Only when we all accept that God is the Father of all, and is calling all his Children by paths adapted to their degree of development can we hope for the peace and harmony befitting all God's Children.
Robert Liddy | 11 June 2015

The problem is that the church did not just fail to stop it, but actively took steps to protect the perpetrators. There is a quantum difference. I don't think you can judge on hatred - who should or shouldn't - unless you have walked a mile or more in the victims' shoes. No-one in the church has the moral ground from which to declare how abused people should feel or act. This is nothing AT ALL like hating an opposing football team member or even Adam Goodes. That is unreasonable because it is not based on reality. This hatred is based on being raped repeatedly. They were there and it happened to them. Telling them they shouldn't hate is a further hurt.
Pauline Small | 11 June 2015

Yes, Andy, the danger is that "hatred avoids questions" and stunts any mature response. But the alternative is not binary. I find that experiencing disgust, generally both reveals the horror and destruction caused, yet opens up a path which can (and must) lead to justice. Though like hate, there's a risk it focuses on the person and not the actions and devastation caused.
Jack | 11 June 2015

The Buddha rates hatred with greed and ignorance as the three big baddies. The hatred touch paper seems so easy to catch light that as Andy points out the only way is to keep the fire retardant of common sense and reason between it and our reactions. Unfortunately, too, as in the case of Pell the enormity of hatred can create sympathy for its target and skew justice. Maybe we need something or someone to hate. Maybe club football is just the circus needed to channel some of the frustration of life, the alienation of cities and the need to belong into "acceptable" hatred. Hatred is beyond reason, deep seated in the medulla of the brain. It is known only too well by politicians who can mobilize it by linking it with fear to get us to do what they want. Here especially we need the reflective fire retardant to get beyond the hatred.
Michael D. Breen | 11 June 2015

"Tribal hatred in football in Australia is unattractive, but pretty harmless". I disagree. This form of hatred and tribalism, fostered in children from a young age underlies a lot of what's wrong with our society, and in particular with our political system. Like those ruling us at the moment I was subjected at a Jesuit school to the idea that competitive sport made a man of you and with this went the corollary that beating your opponent was what life was all about. Fortunately it didn't stick in my case, but sadly it seems to have persisted in our leaders.
OldG | 11 June 2015

You describe very clearly a universal human trait today, Andrew. The ability to hate those we perceive for whatever reason to be better than ourselves. It gives us atheism, the conflict between rich and poor, religious discrimination, and many more simple examples. Unfortunately, God created us humans not possessing his godly qualities but forever staining us with envy of his. He should have made us all gods like himself then we presumably would be incapable of hate and full of love. What a bugger!
john frawley | 11 June 2015

I look forward to seeing many articles loving Tony Abbott rather than the ongoing hatred he has generated from Eureka Street. Perhaps an article on the Royal Commission into unions would also be appropriate.
Jane | 11 June 2015

Thanks Andrew! A lot of us need that reminder, even though we can't help but feel that hatred .......hard to forgive too Leo
leo kane | 11 June 2015

There have been some appalling comments in the media pertaining to the perpetrators of crimes .They certainly fly in the face of the adage "hate the sin ,not the sinner".Hatred ,getting revenge and hypocracy seem to be the order of the day. Fortunately , though there are a few enlightened comments that get reported. For example, the words spoken from a hospital bed by the victim of a bashing by a drug addict. "Of course it hurts, but I do forgive the young man and pray that he can get his life together" And then there was the photo of the person who visited a paedophile in jail. Not too many of us are prepared to be the face of compassion to people who are down and out and reviled by society. The hatred of the crime though that is shown by some victims of abuse I believe is a very understandable emotion.. Their sense of powerlessness, the breaking of trust in their fellow humans,their continual trauma, the self hatred turned into depression and despair has damaged them for life or has even taken their lifves. That the superiors of any institution did not immediately call a halt to such abuse demands our sternest criticism and the complete dedication to making amends in whatever way possible and if the buck has to stop somewhere let's be seen to respond in the appropriate ways and places..
Celia | 11 June 2015

Pauline Small: "The problem is that the church did not just fail to stop it, but actively took steps to protect the perpetrators." Perhaps it was hard to believe that men previously devoted to God would continue to fail, and that a change in position would enable them to reform. Added to that, believing that the Church was "God at work" meant that its reputation needed protection. We had a lot of re-thinking to do, and still do.
Robert Liddy | 11 June 2015

Childish? Wrong. Jesus said child rape was unforgivable, yet the Catholic church, worldwide, but especially in Australia, committed, concealed, and condoned organized child rape. Forty children who were raped by Catholic priests (including Risdale) have committed suicide, because they never got over it. How should it have been managed by "God's church". Simple. Follow Jesus in Matt 18:6, where He said those who hurt children should be viciously punished. Then find every victim and get them help, as Jesus went on to say in Matt 18:10-14. The Catholic church did the EXACT opposite, hiding and helping the child rapists, and ignoring or fighting the victims. They did exactly What Satan Would Do. Every Catholic involved will hopefully get the vicious punishment that Jesus talked about, including the child rapists, those that hid them, and those that make excuses for it, or consider them "victims" now. The ONLY victims are the child rape victims and their families. Everyone other Catholic is complicit in causing damage to the victims.
bernard law | 11 June 2015

Fr Hamilton I am really hoping you did not write/choose/approve the headline (which itself is distressingly childish and simplistic). Personally I would rather the victims (survivors seems inappropriate given how many ultimately did not survive) hated Gerald Ridsdale than hated themselves., though of course in the long run hatred damages the hater more than the object of hatred. When I read this article I wanted (yet again) to weep. Quite honestly I think you (and even Pope Francis with yet another committee) still don't get it.
Margaret | 11 June 2015

It's important that Andrew isn't speaking of hatred displayed by the victims. He's speaking of hatred displayed by others at the Inquiry - writers and journalists, perhaps. I've observed the virulence of some of their responses. Andrew is right - we turn our faces away. Perhaps, though, if they themselves could recognize the extraordinary negative passion they feel, they might question themselves. "Where is this coming from"? Of course the easy and self-righteous answer is 'I just hate child abuse'. However, perhaps it's like going to the funeral of a comparative stranger, and finding oneself flooded with feelings of grief. It's isn't grief for the person in this coffin - it's something else. Maybe the hatred displayed by the non-victims in Ballarat is linked to something else. For their own sakes, they should examine themselves with compassion and honesty. Until then, we'll have to continue to turn our faces away...
Joan Seymour | 11 June 2015

Peace be with you Ed. You have faced the reality of abuse and your response is authentic. I am afraid Andrew's article is based on a theoretical belief that denies your reality. When the church acts to put its beliefs into practice in healing the broken-hearted, then perhaps it may start to be taken seriously again by the broader community.
Frank S | 11 June 2015

Failure by church authorities to stop pedophile priests raises disturbing questions beyond the standard claim that the church is merely trying to protect its image. The denials, legal threats against victims and the buying off the more insistent ones are not merely designed ensure the church’s survival. The aim of such ploys is also to protect erring “higher ups”. Perhaps the reason why pedophile priests have been treated with kid gloves and merely moved from one parish to the next etc is because they might “name names” if the church turned them over to the police. Some high-ranking clerics may have been committing sexual sins that pedophile priests know about. Such transgressions may not have been pedophilic: they could simply be priests having gay or heterosexual relationships with other priests, nuns or the laity. Some Catholic priests may even have defacto marriages. Their unofficial wife may be the “secretary” who travels with them but who church officials discretely ignore. The Catholic church especially has so many sexual skeletons in so many closets and which pedophile priests would often know about. Having something “on” one’s superiors would ensure that they would merely “move you on” rather than call the cops on you. The only long-term way the Catholic church is going to control priestly pedophilia is to allow priests to marry and for there to be more female priests. But even someone of such fortitude as Pope Francis would find that effecting such structural change to be a herculean task. The powerful and entrenched Pells of the church would fight him to the death on that.
Dennis | 12 June 2015

Well said Andrew. More power to your elbow! Nice to see that you know how to spell "Ballaarat" with the full complement of "a's".
£ance Nickson | 12 June 2015

Dennis, speaking from experience and research, you have NAILED it. Also, as much as people from both sides of the church disliked Kevin Lee, he, too realised this but 'tragically died' not long after releasing his book. I think he was 'disliked' simply because he did call a spade a spade (for once someone was). This is an area of this whole issue which, for some reason, just isn't getting aired - but it won't be long now if people here are starting to join the dots. I know of clerics is many orders, bishops, and so many priests who have these 'special relationships'. Tragedy is when they end, as they almost always do, the 'victim' is left on their own, realising they have been used by the cleric 'exploring his sexuality', 'experimenting' on his journey towards celibacy. And when it's over, the cleric returns to the arms of mother church and often is promoted into higher positions. Trust me, it happens. And if an abusive priest is called to account, it then becomes a "you tell on me and I'll tell on you"; so easy to then relate this to 'covering-up' - it's a double cover-up. And Joan, I think you are right in that Andrew was talking more about reporters and bystanders, but, you have to admit, and the responses here are evidence, that the 'childish hatred' is all too easily transferred to victims/survivors simply by association.
Ed | 12 June 2015

To Frank S. Thank you: You are correct. I suppose one of the most complete destruction of me came about when I realised that the church, religion and even spirituality can (and were by me I am now sure) used as a way of escaping pain and trauma rather than facing the causes of pain and trauma. So, when it is realised that that church (its representatives), religion, spirituality on which you grounded yourself for so long was itself a problem, you become deeply ungrounded and this is so painful. How I long for the relationship I once had with God, the church and even my fellow believers. But it's all been shot to pieces now. However, while this is a tragedy, it has also been a freeing. Once one understands all this, understands the workings of the human psyche, especially the one that has been affected by childhood abuse, power abuse and sexual assault, once I understood how these result in expressions of adult behaviour akin to escapism, a new grounding occurs. This grounding is based on having, developing a personality not borrowed, not transferred, from another's version of what what life and humanity is about, but, on one's own experience, one's own responsibility and one's own reason. In the end, this is what has brought me the peace I have so longed for, for so long. I have now an epistemic advantage that anyone commenting from the church just cannot seem to, do not want to, are afraid to acquire. Until then, they can only speak in theory and that is why they just do not reach anyone, well those screaming from outside the walls anyway - even those 'hating' all that they are seeing and hearing and experiencing..
Ed | 12 June 2015

Andrew it is those perpetrators who HATE, not those the spectators, not the victims, nor families of victims. It is the perpetrator who behaves in a most 'childish' manner, as exhibited by Ridsdale during questioning at the RC. It was the murderous hatred by Ridsdale and his ilk which destroyed victims. You don't get it. I hope you will.
M Hall | 13 June 2015

I have tried to have a gospel approach to sexual abuse in the church. Having experienced it in 1969 while working at Rupertswood and then at Doveton and resigning my position as Principal. The church Authorities accused me of not seeing the priests behaviour as serious because I stated if we are true Gospel people we owe support to both victims as well as the perpetrators.They question my belief system as to have any other approach would be to carry only hatred in my heart and this is not the gospel way This is hard but This is how I believe Jesus acted in all situations. As Francis states It is not our role to judge. we owe support to all peoples. Thank you for your coments.
Graeme Sleeman | 14 June 2015

I get the impression that some of the people commenting have simply read the headline and not the whole article. My impression is that the hatred is being directed squarely towards George Pelll and a couple of weeks ago when the same issue RE: disclosure regarding the Ridsdale/nephew affair surfaced again, I started to feel sorry for Pell and wondered what more he could possibly do. In a climate where even the mere mention of of being Catholic is Church is met with snide remarks about paedophilia, Pell is in the unenviable position of being damned either way.
AURELIUS | 15 June 2015

But as the famous scientist asked so many times, Aurelius, 'Why is it so". It's hard for people to answer that question, isn't it.
Ed | 15 June 2015

M HALL, with due respect, and without wanting to support Ridssdale in any way - the RC was not a retrial of his guilt. He's already been tried, convicted and condemmed to prison. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think he was obliged to speak before the commission. If anything, his comments have revealed the delusional thought processes and lack of empathatic insight sex predators have. I wonder if Rolf Harris will one day reflect on his actions and admit the damage he did.
AURELIUS | 15 June 2015

Thank you Andrew for a very thoughtful article.
Jean Sietzema-Dickson | 15 June 2015

Quite so, Aurelius.
John Kelly | 18 June 2015

Hi Andrew I think it best if you withdraw this page from the server. The mixed metaphor of Football against the State investigations into Child Rape and Misprision of a Felony by senior Clerics, and your theological explorations have in some way not helped the debate but hindered it. When writing on the royal Commission especially as part of a Catholic Order such as the Jesuits it is vital to not alienate victims. The road to forgiveness is one that is individual and anger and hatred are part of that journey Perhaps you could focus more on writing from the Survivors perspective,and also explore how why and what measures are needed in Institutions making amends as well as looking at the issues surrounding denial cover up and victim blaming. I found this article distressing and my advice is perhaps to remove it less other survivors looking for theologically caring narratives become distressed. The comments from others I feel think back up my argument. The Jesuits have always tried to help the wounded and powerless as is indicated by the current Pontiff. Wishing you well in your ongoing editorials
Richie | 26 June 2015

Peace be with you Ed. You have faced the reality of abuse and your response is authentic. I am afraid Andrew's article is based on a theoretical belief that denies your reality. When the church acts to put its beliefs into practice in healing the broken-hearted, then perhaps it may start to be taken seriously again by the broader community.
Richie | 26 June 2015


Subscribe for more stories like this.

Free sign-up