by Greg Spearritt
This week’s newspaper coverage of the impending Royal Commission into child sexual abuse has been amazing. The ‘Abuse’ section of Religion News Australia (SoFiA’s roundup of articles touching on religion from the Fairfax press, News Ltd and the ABC) normally features a few to a half dozen items. This week it’s over 120 - eight A4 pages’ worth!
Of course the issue has been building over time, but the floodgates are at last well and truly open. And if it’s a flood, it’s only because there have been (if you’ll pardon the pun) damning obstructions, most notably from some within the Catholic Church hierarchy.
To portray the church as a victim in this filthy business was an Orwellian reversal of the polarity of right and wrong, truth and fiction. With self-serving hypocrisy, Pell delivered yet another slap in the face to those hundreds if not thousands of children, and their families, who suffered abuse.
You don’t need to hear too many of the awful stories of those abused to know this is not the time that a man of genuine compassion would be defending the institution. (Even before the Royal Commission begins, the stories abound. For example… and also… and here…)
It’s another instance, in my view, of the tendency of institutional Christianity to do as it has almost always done: overturn the values of the one it claims as founder in favour of self-preservation. Of course within the Catholic Church there are the Bob Maguires (many of whom, like Bob, have been shown the left foot of fellowship) who have the integrity to make that very point and to work against the tendency.
Is it just the Catholic Church? Of course not, though the statistics suggest there’s a particular problem there. We’ve seen the same culture of cover-up in the ADF, the Murdoch press, the BBC, various police forces and innumerable governments: anywhere a lack of openness and inadequate checks and balances are evident.