Monday, 29 February 2016

Cardinal Pell: a plea in mitigation

Two questions keep being posed as Cardinal Pell gives his evidence to the Child Abuse Royal Commission: why were allegations of abuse not reported to police? And why was the church so anxious to avoid scandal that it exposed its most vulnerable members to harm?  I think it can be argued that the actions (and failures to act) of His Eminence and others were in part motivated by a desire to protect both the church and its members.

It wasn't so long ago that Australian Catholics were openly viewed with contempt.  For one thing, their loyalty was assumed to be suspect.  In 1950, the High Court of Australia heard a case attempting to disqualify a political candidate on the basis that he "was, at the time of his nomination and election, a professed member of the Roman Catholic Church.  As such he, as in the case of all members of that Church in all Countries, is under 'acknowledgement of Adherence, Obedience or Allegiance to a Foreign Power' - the papal State [and he] is therefore incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a Member of the House of Representatives": Crittenden v Anderson (1950) 51 ALJ 171.

Astonishingly, these views remain current in 2016.  Supporters of the 'Australian Christians' political party openly claim that "it's the Jesuits who formed the illuminati, and are the shadowy figures behind domination of the world for the Papacy" and that
it will be the same governing roman empire in the form of the vatican n pope that will bring a one world government who will unite nations to rise against Israel.
This sort of bigotry was unremarkable enough to form the basis of litigation in 1950.  It remains a meaningful stratum of belief 66 years later.  Is it hard to understand why even recently the Church adopted a fortress mentality: why expose priests to the sort of hostility that even today leads people to say "catholics molest our kids around the world every day and are allowed to do it, catholic churches shud be burnt down"?  Why leave the lay faithful open to the accusation of being their aiders and abettors (From the same place: "Amen to all the catholic child malesting supporters, goes to show how many people would actually give up their kids to a priest"

Any excuse that sounds like "now look what you made me do!" is based on a big hunk of self-indulgence.  But at the heart of this scandal lay a genuine tragedy.  The church's decisions were wrong, but the culture it contended with was far from right.

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