Religion News Australia

December 15 – 22, 2019

Religion news stories from Australia

(Research: Greg Spearritt)



Nightmare at Xavier College: New claims of abuse, ritual humiliation (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 17 – Physically small and a long way from his parents’ farm, Albert* was doing his best to fit in during his first year as a boarder at Xavier College’s Burke Hall campus in Melbourne.


Remote Santa Teresa’s Christmas lights competition marks two decades of shining bright (ABC News)
Dec 19 – To find the picturesque former Catholic mission of Santa Teresa, (Ltyentye Apurte), all you need to do is follow the rough, corrugated and dusty dirt road 85 kilometres south-east of Alice Springs.


Brazilian spiritual healer ‘John of God’ jailed for rapes (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 20 – A Brazilian spiritual healer with a large Australian and New Zealander following has been sentenced to more than 19 years in jail for rape in the first of many cases of sex abuse against him.

Catholic Church

Pope Francis abolishes ‘pontifical secret’ in clergy sex abuse cases (Brisbane Times)
Dec 18 – Vatican City: Pope Francis has abolished the “pontifical secret” used in clergy sexual abuse cases, after mounting criticism that the high degree of confidentiality has been used to protect paedophiles, silence victims and keep law enforcement from investigating crimes.

Also: Pope ends ‘secrecy’ rule on child sexual abuse in Catholic church (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 18 – Pope Francis has announced sweeping changes to the way the Roman Catholic church deals with cases of sexual abuse of children, abolishing the rule of pontifical secrecy that previously covered them.

Religious Violence

Why protests are erupting in India over a new citizenship law (ABC News)
Dec 17 – Protests over a new citizenship law based on religion have spread across India, causing division, conflict and chaos across the country, but what’s the new law about, and why is it causing controversy?

Also: Indian protest death toll climbs to 23 following violent clashes (ABC News)
Dec 22 – Nine people have died during clashes between demonstrators and police in northern India, raising the nationwide death toll in protests against a controversial citizenship law to 23, police say.

Also: Gandhi’s great-grandson joins wave of protest at law isolating India’s Muslims (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 22 – Last week 25,000 protesters gathered in Mewat, in the Indian state of Haryana, to begin the historic five-mile walk to Ghasera village.

The women of IS are not demons and must be brought home: author (Brisbane Times)
Dec 21 – When three 15-year-old English girls from London’s Bethnal Green ran away to join Islamic State, it was front-page news.

Islamic State is creeping into India’s tropical state of Kerala to lure away young men and women (ABC News)
Dec 22 – Twenty Islamic State recruits from Kerala in India are suspected to be among hundreds of foreign fighters who have surrendered to authorities in Afghanistan.

French forces kill 33 Islamic extremists in Mali, says Macron (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 22 – French forces have killed 33 Islamic extremists in central Mali, Emmanuel Macron has said.


Netflix show portraying Jesus as gay sparks anger in Brazil (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 17 – A comedy on Netflix depicting Jesus as a gay man has prompted widespread anger in Brazil with almost two million people signing a petition calling on the streaming service to remove the show.

Black Protestant sermons are four times as long as those in US Catholic churches (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 17 – Sermons delivered in black Protestant churches in the US are nearly four times longer than sermons in Catholic churches, and evangelicals are the church-goers most likely to hear about sin, punishment and redemption, according to a new analysis.

Woman allegedly forced to remove hijab for mugshot gets $120,000 in settlement (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 18 – A Minnesota Muslim woman has received $120,000 to settle her lawsuit alleging she was forced to strip in jail and remove her hijab for a booking photo over a traffic offense, the woman and her attorneys said Tuesday.

‘Profoundly immoral’: Prominent evangelical Christian magazine calls for Trump’s removal (Brisbane Times)
Dec 20 – Austin: The magazine founded by the late Reverend Billy Graham that is influential with conservative evangelical Christians in the United States called on Thursday for President Donald Trump to be removed from office.

Also: Donald Trump blasts Christianity Today magazine in tweet after it called for his removal (ABC News)
Dec 21 – US President Donald Trump has blasted a prominent Christian magazine, a day after it published an editorial arguing that he should be removed from office because of his “blackened moral record”.

Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings compared to trial that led to the crucifixion of Jesus (ABC News)
Dec 22 – A Republican politician has compared the impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, declaring Christianity’s messiah was given a fairer trial than the US President.


‘World-class’ Holocaust museum, Jewish community hub on the cards for Perth’s north (
Dec 18 – A Jewish community hub with a “world-class” Holocaust museum and daycare centre is on the cards for Perth’s northern suburbs, following a $6 million cash splash by the Morrison government.


What Australia can learn from Finland as Federal Government unveils alarming new changes (The West Australian)
Dec 17 – (Opinion: Jenna Clarke) Last week the Government released changes to its proposed religious discrimination laws. Some were alarming and would make any woman worry about access to things such as family planning.

Also: Examining the second draft of religion bill (The Saturday Paper)
Dec 21 – (Opinion: Kieran Pender.) The second draft of the government’s religious discrimination bill, released last week, was intended to appease critics of the contentious legislation.

Also: The second coming of religious freedom: churches back ‘significantly improved’ bill (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 22 – The Morrison government appears to have rescued its religious discrimination bill from disaster with major religious groups declaring they are pleased with revisions made in a second draft that will go to Parliament early next year.

Also: Top Jewish body wants more power for religious hospitals, aged care homes in discrimination bill (The Age, Melbourne)
Dec 22 – The country’s top Jewish body has warned draft religious freedom laws could restrict the power of religious hospitals, aged care facilities and housing providers to give preference to people of their own faith when admitting patients or choosing board members.


Australian cyber soldiers hacked Islamic State and crippled its propaganda unit  (ABC News)
Dec 18 – At an undisclosed location, in a windowless room, Australian cyber spies snooped on Islamic State, plotting an online attack that would ultimately cripple the terror group’s propaganda unit.

Also: Licence to hack: using a keyboard to fight Islamic State (ABC News)
Dec 18 – Her life at work is so secret, not even her family knows what it involves.

Sunny nihilism: ‘Since discovering I’m worthless my life has felt precious’ (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 18 – (Opinion: Wendy Syfret) Nihilism is back in fashion, and for younger generations the idea that existence is meaningless is cause for celebration

‘Every human life matters’: Church leaders share their Christmas messages (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 22 – Church leaders will tap into the mood of anxiety over bushfires and the changing climate in their Christmas messages, while the Catholic Church has linked the NSW abortion laws and debate over voluntary euthanasia to King Herod’s “slaughter of the innocents”.

‘A beacon of hope’: How property development became God’s work (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 22 – Churches are embarking on large-scale residential and office developments across Sydney worth hundreds of millions of dollars, prompting questions about whether religious organisations are paying their fair share of taxes and other property levies.

Cult member, anti-vaxxer, Senate candidate: The bizarre past of Isaac Golden (The Age, Melbourne)
Dec 22 – A leading Australian anti-vaxxer and Senate candidate has a secret past as a key member of a bizarre quasi-religious cult whose leader was jailed for sex crimes against the children of cult members.

Don’t expect a Christmas card, but let me share a story of a vulnerable God (The Age, Melbourne)
Dec 22 – (Opinion: Natasha Moore) I don’t send Christmas cards.