A pox in both their houses

By Claire Harvey
Perth Now
November 26, 2016

Telling the hard truth is the duty of a true Christian.

Paedophiles will try any possible means to get children alone — even entering the ministry.

Bishop Greg Thompson of the diocese of Newcastle leaves Newcastle Court after the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
Photo by Ryan Osland

Anglicans like to think of themselves as a bit better than everyone else.

I should know. I’m an Anglican.

I went to an Anglican school. I’m well-used to the casual sectarian snobbery of many people who consider themselves Church of England, and I’ve spent a lifetime observing the way many Anglicans carry themselves in the firm belief that they are better, smarter and more sophisticated than others.

Actually, only Catholics. That’s all the Anglicans really care about. The other strands of Protestantism are regarded as uninteresting but essentially harmless. Who really cares if the odd little people down at the Uniting Church want to sit in a circle with a guitar? And the Seventh Day Adventists? They’re harmless, really.

But the Catholics. Ooh, the Catholics. Well, there’s far too many of them, for a start. All those children. And the carry-on about Mary. Really. Rosaries. Incense. All that carry-on.

If you’ve ever shaken your head in confusion about the obscure interpretational disputes that tear apart the Muslim world, check out Anglicans v Catholics in a diocese near you.

They can’t stand each other — still. It’s not so long ago that Catholics couldn’t get into law school or preselected for the Liberal Party — but they’re not that far behind us. Even, as in many families, when there are both Catholics and Anglicans, the Protestants quietly consider themselves more sophisticated.

I’ve always secretly preferred hanging out with Catholics. I love going to Catholic mass: the smells, the smoke, all that. There’s the same ridiculous excess of prancing around by priests as in the Anglican Church, of course, and way too many baby Jesus dolls on pillows, but there is a wonderful cultural diversity and sense of community about Catholicism that the Anglicans just can’t match.

I often take myself to Christmas Eve midnight mass at a Catholic cathedral because it feels so much more like Christmas. And the Catholics let their kids stay up later.

Your average Anglican congregation is 30 women in cardigans, 14 bored private school teenagers and some old blokes in tweed. A Catholic crowd is all ages, Filipino and Italian and Vietnamese and a bit of everything else. I love it.

Guess where else Anglicans think they’re better than the Catholics?


There has, I think, been a quiet and largely unspoken feeling among many Protestants that the abuse of children is a Catholic problem, probably created (or at least exacerbated) by the fact Catholic priests are supposed to be celibate.

The Royal Commission has proved that all wrong.

Now we know any institution where there was access to children was rich with paedophiles. The Scouts. Surf lifesaving. Orphanages. Boys’ camps. Charities. Churches of every kind. Schools of every kind.

We see it, too, in the courts: just last week we told the story of a man sacked as a primary teacher for touching kids who tried numerous routes to get back in range of children: disco schools, photography studios, driving school buses.

Paedophiles, we now know, will try any possible means to get children alone — even entering the ministry in the nearest available church.

That’s an inconvenient truth for many Anglicans. We’re struggling to accept our nice married priests were up to it as well. We can’t pretend this is someone else’s problem if it was happening in our elite Anglican boarding schools and our pretty Anglican churches.

In a funny way, this notion is the last vestige of sectarianism: the idea that predatory behaviour was more likely within one Christian denomination than another.

One courageous man has challenged that belief, and he is paying for it in an Anglican community that doesn’t like his message.

Bishop Greg Thompson of the Anglican diocese of Newcastle has been brave enough to reveal that he himself, as an adolescent, was a victim of priests who used his dream of becoming a minister to break down his defences, and essentially intimidate him into accepting their sexual advances. He kept quiet for years, thinking he was the only one — thinking he was somehow chosen as special by his abusers.

Bishop Thompson spoke at the Royal Commission on Thursday of the appalling toll the abuse has taken on his life, and that of many others. In fact, the Newcastle Anglican diocese has been revealed as a sanctuary for violent paedophilia of the most revolting kind, thanks in part to the leadership and personal fortitude of Bishop Thompson and all the other victims who have spoken out.

Bravo to Bishop Thompson. I hope he stands firm against the members of his own congregation who have turned their backs on him and accused him of treachery. Telling the hard truth is the duty of a true Christian.


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