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Widespread Child Sexual Abuse in Australia’s Catholic Church

royal-commissionThe Australian government set up the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2013. There were ongoing revelations in the media of institutions moving alleged abusers moving from school to school rather than reporting them to the police. Further, some people, usually senior church, government, and law enforcement figures, allegedly hadn’t tried to stop further abuse when they were in a position to do so.

The majority of the allegations relate to the Roman Catholic Church though they were not the only ones at the sharp end of accusations. There had been calls for a Royal Commission into the issue since the 1990s. It got to the stage there was such a flood of allegations the government could no longer ignore those calls.

As per Wikipedia, in the terms of reference for the Commission,

The commissioners were directed “to inquire into institutional responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse and related matters”.

Revelations Regarding the Roman Catholic Church

There was a partial release of information from the Commission on 7 February 2017. As a result, the horrific story of the abuse of children in Catholic Church institutions hit the headlines in Australia and New Zealand.

This is the take of one New Zealand television news service, 1News.

 

 

The Scale of the Abuse

BoystownThe scale of the abuse is beyond belief, with the Roman Catholic Church receiving the most allegations.

The Royal Commission spoke to 4,444 victims of various Roman Catholic institutions, which made up 37% of all the victims they spoke to. The average age of female victims, who made up 22% of those the Commission spoke to, was 10.5 years. A huge majority of the victims (78%) were male, whose average age was 11.6 years. I think we can assume that in reality there were a lot more.

There were 1,882 perpetrators named and more than 500 unnamed. The average length of time between the abuse and the time of reporting was around 33 years so therefore some memories were unclear. Also, some of those abused did not have, or no longer had, the capacity to fully remember the incident.

Of those who could name their abuser, 32% (597) were religious brothers, 30% (572) were priests, 29% (543) were lay workers, and 5% (96) were religious sisters. Overall, 90% of the abusers were male and 10% were female.  Clearly, with more than 2,400 perpetrators and 4,444 victims, some perpetrators had more than one victim.

anti-gay-but-sex-abuse-okThe victims attended more than 1,000 different institutions in 93 different Church authority areas. To say the abuse was pervasive is no exaggeration.

The Commission’s calculation is that an astonishing 7% of all Catholic priests ministering in Australia between 1950 and 2010 were abusers. In some dioceses, the figure was as high as 15%.

Abusers in Schools

Further, some religious orders seem to be a haven for abusers. As noted in the 1News story, the Commission received allegations relating to 20.4% of Marist brothers, 22% of Christian brothers, and 40.4% of St John of God brothers. Of course, these are the orders that mostly run schools. In particular, the Order of St John of God runs schools for mentally and physically disabled boys.

It seems paedophiles are more likely to join orders where they would have contact with large numbers of children. In the case of the Order of St John of God, they joined an order where the children were especially vulnerable.

Where is Jesus?

Kill MumThe responses of the family members of some victims shows a level of cognitive dissonance. This is common due to betrayal by an institution they should be able to trust above all others.

In the 1News video above a survivor’s husband, Ian Isaacs asks,

“Where is Jesus? Where is He? He’s in that courtroom today in the form of those sitting on the Commission, seeking justice for Australian children.

The truth is that, although they have been very slow about it, justice is coming from secular authorities. History tells us that in countries where the Church of whatever religion sets the rules, they protect themselves. Whoever is in charge, there needs to be a separate institution or branch of government that is able to act as a check on power.

In the same video Chrissie Forster, a victim’s mother, says, “The Catholic priesthood gives God a bad name.”

Anyone who thinks God has a good name in relation to children or anything else hasn’t read their Bible.

Kill Children

 

The Catholic Church’s Response: Truth, Justice, and Healing Council

In response to the Commission, the Catholic Church established the Truth, Justice, and Healing Council to speak for the entire Church. Their CEO, Francis Sullivan spoke to the commission following the release of the figures. He was clearly upset him. Following his appointment he spoke via YouTube about his mission. You can watch his statement here.

benedict on abuseHe is saying all the right things, and I’ve no reason to doubt he’s personally sincere. The trouble is the actions of the wider Church are very troubling and do not demonstrate a commitment to the process. As recently as last year, the Vatican was continuing to refuse to provide documentation and information to the Commission.

It was senior counsel Gail Furness who read the statistical details regarding the allegations of abuse relating to the Catholic Church.

The Guardian reports:

Ordain Women[Furness] also revealed that the Holy See had refused to hand over documents involving Australian priests accused of abuse.

“The royal commission hoped to gain an understanding of the action taken in each case,” Furness said. “The Holy See responded, on 1 July 2014, that it was ‘neither possible nor appropriate to provide the information requested’,” she said.

Furness said the responses of Catholic diocese and orders across the country were “depressingly similar”.

“Children were ignored or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious [brothers] were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past,” she said. “Documents were not kept or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover-ups.”

Breaking News

 

Father Peter Searson

The story surrounding one priest in particular, Father Searson is especially worrying. One Guardian article on Searson includes charges of:

Separate bathrooms for priests… pointing a handgun at a child; holding a knife to the chest of a young girl and threatening it would “go through her”; showing children a dead body; torturing a cat and stabbing to death a bird in front of children; loitering in children’s toilets; and forcing children to kneel between his legs to say confession.

He was also allegedly stealing parish funds. Another Guardian article says:

Father Searson was plainly nuts, but the Catholic Education Office couldn’t get rid of him. They’d run complaints up to the then archbishop of Melbourne, Frank Little, but nothing would be done.

The headmaster of the school Graeme Sleeman gave the church an ultimatum: the priest had to go or he would. The church backed the priest. Sleeman never worked in the Catholic education system again.

Along came [Cardinal George] Pell. Doveton was in his territory. But [Pell] did nothing effective about this vicious priest despite receiving a delegation of teachers complaining about him in 1989 and another of parents in 1991.

Searson would stay in Doveton for eight more years until he bashed another altar boy whose parents went to the police. Pell was archbishop when the priest was finally sacked in 1997.

Cardinal George Pell

Catholic molesterFather Searson was only one man. Even more concerning is the case of Cardinal George Pell. As well as doing nothing about Searson, he kept several other abusers on the job even though he knew what they were doing.

He gave evidence to the Commission on multiple occasions, vowing they could trust his word.

Then the victims gave their evidence. Every time, their evidence was in contradiction to his on vital points. Soon his failure to protect the children in his care became obvious to all, and there was a major scandal in Australia. Pell was made safe by his bosses – he got a new job at the Vatican. He is now prefect of the secretariat for the economy in the Vatican. The Guardian says that makes him “the third most powerful man in the Catholic Church”.

HypocrisyDespite continuing in such a high-powered role, he is apparently too ill to return to Australia to face the Commission. The Commission has taken the word of Vatican doctors that Pell is too ill to travel and he now gives evidence via video link. You can bet he’ll never return to Australia again.

It’s Not Just the Catholics

As a organisation, the Catholics have the largest number of allegations against them, but they only make up 4,444 (37%) of the total cases of institutional sexual abuse in front of the Commission. That means the total number of cases is more than 12,000.

There are some horrific allegations that relate to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Salvation Army, the Mormons, the Jews, the Anglicans, and several others. Some of the cases do not relate to religious organisations.

Background checks

 

Child abuseWhy?

One of the problems with religion is that it teaches children not to question. Religious leaders in particular are set up as authority figures that children must believe, no matter what.

Too often in religious settings people teach that being unquestioning is synonymous with respect and that faith is a virtue they should aspire to. This is why some children believe they are the ones in the wrong when they are the victims of abuse by someone they should be able to trust.

So the abuse goes on, sometimes for years. And once the abuse stops, the associated mental abuse means the suffering may never go away.

 

Secular Education

 

Choose well

 


 

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6 Responses to “Widespread Child Sexual Abuse in Australia’s Catholic Church”

  1. rickflick says:

    Ugh. Gut wrenching. But, not unexpected after all the other places this has been identified. I think there is a good reason to outlaw the church. It’s celibate priesthood is a menace to society. You’d think the Catholic lay community would rebel. Well, maybe not.

    • Homosexual men are taught from earliest childhood they’re sinners of the worst kind. Celibacy is their only option. Then in their late teens, at a critical time in their psycho-sexual development they’re bundled into seminary with other young men and never get the chance to develop normal adult relationships. No wonder they’re screwed up. I often wonder if the Church caused what would have been otherwise normal gay men to become paedophiles, or if it just attracts paedophiles because of their failure to deal with the issue.

  2. HaggisForBrains says:

    The way the Vatican has behaved throughout these investigations in several different countries is truly appalling. How can such a church claim the moral high ground when it is complicit in cover-up upon cover-up? By shifting priest around they have effectively condoned and indeed encouraged the child abuse. I would like to see an international court such as the European Court of Human Rights bring charges against them, but guess what, the Vatican City is not a member, along with Belarus and Kazakhstan.

    One is left wondering in how many other countries is this still going on, and still being covered up. This makes me so furious that words fail me.

    • I’m quite sure it’s still going on and still being covered up at the highest levels. If this was Ford or Sony they’d be destroyed forever along with everyone involved. The Church gets away with it. There are tens of thousands of horrific stories relating to multiple religions and the institutions that enabled and covered up the abuse continue to be seen as the arbiters of morality. It’s sickening.

  3. Yakaru says:

    I don’t know how anyone except pedophiles can stomach being a member of such an organization.

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