Right holy mess

Townsville Bulletin

December 23, 2017

By Shari Tagliabue

It must be difficult to be Catholic at this holy time of year; anyone who follows a faith from baptism to the grave should have been shaken to the core after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its findings this week.

After four years of investigation, the pomp and ceremony, immense power, vast wealth, traditions and rituals of the once-revered Catholic Church counted for little as thousands of testimonials documenting sexual and physical abuse weren’t able to be silenced by denials, shifting of blame, secretive payouts, gag orders or clandestine transfers.

The past month marked 2017 as the year victims found the courage to speak out, safety in numbers has allowed working-age women affected by sexual predators in the entertainment industry to break their shame-based silence, yet the victims of the most gross abuse of power imaginable weren’t in an industry of their own choosing and weren’t young adults, but children attending school, care facilities or church, with young boys just over 63 per cent of the victims.

It has been well documented that those affected have carried the trauma with them throughout their lives, with many, including a once vibrant, intelligent and carefree kid I knew well, unable to give evidence.

He, like many others, was abused at boarding school.

Unable to form relationships as an adult he masked his pain with drugs and alcohol before taking his own life.

What an irony that while suicide is considered a mortal sin by the Vatican, the same institution decreed in 2010 that ordaining women as priests was a sin on par with paedophilia.

There is no punishment harsh enough for the depraved predators who targeted children under the guise of caring for them. One of the 409 recommendations from the royal commission was that priests who heard confession from a paedophile should report the information to the police.

The church’s unwillingness to allow this shows a complete lack of understanding of their role – protector of innocents, not criminals, while another recommendation that priests should not be celibate is curious – depravity causes paedophilia, not celibacy.

For those of us that live without religious influence, it is unfathomable that an organisation can enjoy privacy, privilege, power and tax-free status under a belief system that absolves devotees of unlawful acts merely by secret confession and a few Hail Marys.

Police spend countless hours tracking paedophile networks online, surely protected confessionals have allowed like-minded men to collaborate and these vile networks to flourish?

The figures speak for themselves. Of the abuse documented, 68.3 per cent came from Catholic Church organisations, 14.7 per cent Anglican, 7.3 per cent from the Salvation Army and 4.2 per cent Protestant.

If the Catholic Church is now forced to depart from long-held traditions, so be it.

Abuse of minors has flourished for decades, but we cannot tolerate this protectionism any longer, or the long-held belief that churches are pillars of society.

What kind of society supports child abuse and paedophilia?

Equality, and protection of the vulnerable should be the core of any organisation, religious or otherwise.

Anything less is criminal.


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