Fr Anthony Paganoni Cs: a Deafening Catholic Silence

The Record
September 6, 2010

Church authorities and the Catholic media have in general overlooked the international extent of the problem of abuse. Why should I hide the fact that I have a problem with this “silence”? We, as a church, have been called to conversion, not certainly to silence.

Fr Anthony Paganoni CS

There would be no evangelisation and no conversion of the heart, unless the message were uttered loud and clear.

Or does the Church leadership prefer to uncover or allow the media to uncover painfully its seamy side and call for punitive and redeeming action, without worrying about the very many who are in similar situations all over the world? Is the Church called to just protect its rank and file members or is the mandate of the Founder rather more embracing and universal?

This silence in Australia and elsewhere may have had the unwanted effect for the average reader (and Catholics are no exception!) that the Church’s weakness in responding to the many accusations, even when proven to be inaccurate or false, was due to the fact that the accusations were believed to be correct in the first place. And that the sex scandals were eminently a Catholic story!

Some will espouse the approach that before cleaning up somebody else’s backyard, we have to ensure that our own is tidy. That’s fair enough.

But that does not prevent a Catholic Community founded to serve the world to completely forget, as the Vatican Council suggests, “the joys and sorrows, the pains and aches, the problems and dilemmas” faced by other members of the human family.

Particularly when, as problems have been identified in a series of United Nations Reports, a perfect silence and oblivion have removed a disproportionate number of fallacies from public knowledge and consciousness.

With the exception of very few, Church leaders may be very quick in lamenting the deleterious effects of negative and biased reporting by the media, but they seem to be ill-prepared to comprehensively engage with it.

In a society where the media is known to set the agenda and set it persuasively, either by focusing or by obscuring important information, individual bishops’ conferences need to equip themselves, preferably on a national level, with professional communication offices and astute professionals.

Along with a very competitive media office, needed also is a national database of cases reported, investigated and substantiated, in much the same style as the Resource Sheet published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS). It would then be possible to compare the numerical extent of the problem experienced by the Catholic Church within the context of civil society. All abuse of children and adolescents is a crime to be considered by civil as well ecclesiastical law.

Meanwhile, a recent interview with Fernando Keuleneer, a lawyer of the Malines Bruxelles Archdiocese, aired by Vatican radio, has revealed the following.

Due to the highly irregular procedures followed by the Belgian police during a much publicized raid, all documents confiscated will not be utilized during the on-going inquiries into sexual abuse of minors.


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