Only paedophiles and sexual abusers would argue against the government’s call for a Royal Commission into institutional sexual abuse. Following the initial excitement of yet another Gillard, lousy performance diversion, this popular initiative to hunt down and deal with all wicked “priests” may have, at the outset, failed to foresee the complexities and the many byways to wrongdoing. The commission’s designing architects will quickly learn that sexual abuse is not the exclusive domain of the Catholic Church.
However, Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney did within hours of the commission announcement call a press conference to sing the government’s praise. In mounting his charge for glory to the church and government approbation, has placed his church in the front line of enquiry.
That no other institution or alleged sources of such abuse were mentioned or came forward—George Pell was the lone piper. Amidst what would certainly be no small amount of panic in the ecumenical catacombs of confidence, Cardinal Pell, like his namesake the Red Cardinal songbird, began to sing a tune not of contrition but perhaps more of relief. Will it be a welcome confession of truth, or the fear of uncontrolled consequences?
Nevertheless, George Pell is not noted for statesmanlike deliveries. In April this year he shocked the Executive Council of Australian Jewry with his remarks about Jews saying they were ‘intellectually lesser than the Egyptians, including Jesus Christ.’ Maybe in vino veritas hold true with church wine.
Cardinal Pell for a long time has battled sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. We may never know his instructions from Rome. But under the cloak of secrecy and denial complaints are many, mostly documented and filed. The satisfaction rate for the abused has been meagre but demands for justice are now echoing loudly throughout the cloisters. All church leaders would no doubt be gravely concerned about the number of skeletons languishing in vicarage cupboards around the country, so George played the “victim” card and canted about a “smear campaign against the Catholic Church.”
For hundreds of years churches have swept rampant sexual abuse under the carpet. This alone proved their willingness to accept the biological inevitability that the human sexual drive can and will dilute the vows of celibacy no matter how fervently offered at the time. The very nature of religious venues provokes an aura of mystery and fear regulated by God’s officials—mere earthly mortals. Secrecy is exemplified with the power of the confessional in mind. But, it doesn’t stop there.
Any abuse is traumatic, perhaps none to the extent of sexual abuse. Of late, suffering victims call talkback radio hoping that purging their demons will ease their pain—the stories are heart-wrenching—the damage mostly permanent and often lethal. The suicide rate is 17 times higher for sexual abuse victims.
Cardinal Pell can assert a smear campaign against the Catholic Church but a report by Monash University lawyer and researcher Judy Courtin who said recently, that much of the reported abuse will have happened in Catholic institutions. The Sydney Morning Herald this week ran an online poll. The question: “Is Cardinal George Pell in denial over sex abuse by clergy?” 92% said yes, 8% no.
Some say a Royal Commission may run for 10 years. Once the terms of reference is established and with little restriction, 10 years may not be enough as the abused gain confidence and in their newfound catharsis and cry for justice and punishment to the perpetrators.
Senior police investigator Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox last week publicly challenged NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell to launch a royal commission into child sex abuse by clergy. Other investigations will be called for even among the normally taboo religions such as Muslim Australians, some of whom have to face cultural abuse such as female genital mutilation.
Northern Territory Country Liberal MP Bess Price, a Warlpiri woman, pulled no punches. “A lot of abuse happens out here. It needs to be addressed. Aborigines are Australians citizens, they can't be ignored or excluded,” she said.
Australians had better tighten their seatbelts when this enquiry gets into full gallop. The stories are sure to shock, if not sicken. The extent of, the cover-ups, the lies told, the hindered police investigations, the destruction of evidence and the high offices of meddlers will change the rulebook forever.
This Royal Commission in Australia will not only be closely watched around the world but it will spark similar investigations. The Vatican will be forced to consider what may be a root cause of sexual abuse in their houses—the oath of celibacy.
The oath of celibacy, against which earthly forces tempt, and trust becomes sullied.
Thought for the week: Since there is no time like the present, john thought it was time to
present the present.