Is the Catholic Church guilty of crimes against humanity?

The Age

Michael Short

The Catholic Church, which has presided over a decades-long international cover-up of countless cases, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of child rape and other sexual abuse is arguably guilty of crimes against humanity.

In Australia, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, launched in 2013, has heard much harrowing evidence that for decades child rapists have been protected by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Only a few days ago, the Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, told the commission the response of leaders of his church to allegations of child sexual abuse amounted to “criminal negligence”.

And although it beggars belief, such despicable betrayal of natural justice and of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth continues. Also last week, County Court Judge Geoffrey Chettle declared that evidence the Catholic Church continued to pay – taking the total to as much as $1.5 million – for the defence of one of Australia’s worst paedophiles, Robert Charles Best, “just blows me away”.

Well might he say that, for Best, 76, pleaded guilty in the County Court of Victoria to the sexual abuse of 20 children between 1968 and 1988 at schools in Ballarat, Box Hill, Geelong and Moonee Ponds. With withering understatement, Judge Chettle said he was struggling to contain his emotion at the gravity and extent of Best’s abuse. “It’s hard not to get angry, and I’m trying.” A lot of Best’s victims have died by suicide. Many others have experienced mental ill-health, substance abuse, addiction and difficulty maintaining professional and personal relationships.

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