The hunt for abusers within the church is a recent happening in Australia. While not intending to dilute the need to weed out those who use the power of the alter that ultimately destroys the lives of abuse victims, I note, like all sensational news stories that the subject quickly becomes “the flavour of the month.”
The current atmosphere is mindful of old American movies where escapees from the road chain-gangs would be hunted down through alligator infested Everglades by heavily armed men on horseback, trailing packs of baying hounds. The runaways were of course shot and left to be eaten rather than captured and returned to hard labour. It was a deadly hunt sanctioned by law.
Cardinal Pell was first shoulder to the wheel in welcoming an enquiry into sexual abuse under the auspices of the Catholic Church. Not, however, without implying that such matters were not exclusive to his dominion. Nevertheless, other denominations and institutions remain curiously mute hoping that ducking for cover and being quiet, along with a few fervent prayers, might see the whole nasty business go away.
Well, as it is “flavour of the month” time, prayers offered in earnest will go unanswered. Not to be outdone in the repentance stakes is the Australian Defence Force. Under a newly appointed abuse taskforce, the former military judge Len Roberts-Smith, father of Ben Roberts-Smith, the recent Victoria Cross recipient, and 50 criminal lawyers and police will examine 1000 abuse cases deemed to have substance.
Readers will recall the well-published high jinks occurring at Royal Duntroon Military College when certain consenting amorous moments were made available to others in a separate room via video link. The “abuse” may have been the sharing. There have been other incidents almost exclusively between male and female members. What a surprise; hormone-charged young men and women succumbing to the laws of nature. What would Darwin say?
It always amazes me as to what smart people will say when being interviewed by media.
Mr Roberts-Smith, a former Judge Advocate General, said the scale of the allegations his team would be examining horrified him. What! Surely, given his experience he is pulling our legs. Trying for “the buck stops here” authority he then said: “Raping someone is not a satisfactory way of hardening them up for battle. It is totally counter-productive. It doesn't go to the operational effectiveness of the military, it actually erodes it significantly.” Good one Len, if Larry Pickering doesn’t forever immortalise you in a deservedly rude cartoon, jokes around the regiments will.
The hunters that will soon dedicate their every waking moments to ferreting out “abusers” will be astronomical in their numbers. Guided by books similar to WWII coastal enemy aircraft spotters, witch identification booklets will aid the hunters because the category list will be endless. Sexual, verbal, deprivation, innuendo, mockery, humiliation, and ridicule are only a few classifications to come under the broad term of abuse.
Once the inquisitors have their day, and the seriously abused have suicided to avoid exposure, the matter of compensation will become the headline. Even false and vexatious complaints will be compensated to avoid potential bias. So, who pays the bill? For that answer we need only to look to Canada and how they paid up in a similar scenario. The Anglican Church may have been the first to feel the sting.
Beginning around the 1930s, up to the mid-1990s, native Canadian children were sent to residential schools in Canada. They were supposed to learn the ways of the European settlers. Sound familiar? Around 12,000 people have filed lawsuits, but only about 500 had been settled when arguments continued over who should pay the compensation.
Duncan D. Wallace, the Anglican bishop in Regina, said with resignation, “I simply see us going broke.” The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a Roman Catholic Order, want to give the Canadian government all their property if Ottawa assumes liability for about 2,000 claims against the Order. The Order believes that legal costs will eat up their holdings before any compensation flows to legitimate claimants. Spot on.
In a recent decision the government agreed to a deal with the Anglican Church of Canada to share the costs of the many lawsuits brought by native Canadians who claim abuse in residential schools during the 20th Century. The government will pay 70% of the costs, leaving the Anglican Church to find more than $16m. Although the government owns the schools, four Christian churches administrated them.
The similarity between the Canadian experience and of that now being launched in Australia is worthy of note: the indigenous factor, and the government bailout, for starters. Other matters include court settlements, out of court settlements and the usual feeding frenzy of young lawyers jostling for a seat at the smorgasbord of what must ultimately be the taxpayers’ pavlova of plenty.
Thought for the week: Show respect for the office of the Australian Prime Minister—you’re kidding?