14 September 2011

Don’t Trust the Catholic Church to Seek Justice

I was reading an article this morning about Senator Xenophon publicly naming a priest accused of rape many years ago, with my initial thoughts being around the legality of naming and shaming people. I had heard his ultimatum yesterday, and was wondering not only if he would do it, but also if he should do it. As far as I know this isn’t the same as the recent kerfuffle surrounding a certain Hinch, as there is no ongoing case, but then again that turns out to be part of the problem.
As I read further the more striking issue seems to be how the Catholic Church likes to see itself as somewhat anterior to the normal routes of justice in our, or indeed any, country.
For instance the insidious George Pell had the following to say about the way the Church deals with ‘complaints’ (a rather benign word when we are talking about child rape I think):
“When someone who has been abused chooses to bring his complaint to the church rather than to the police, the integrity and implementation of the church's protocols (Towards Healing in this case) are of first importance in achieving justice for the complainant, and indeed for all concerned."
Oh really? Because I would have thought that the thing of foremost importance in this country would be ensuring that justice is sought through the proper channels, and through institutions that are designed, and one would hope qualified, to meet out justice.
All pretence aside; I have no idea as to the legality of this case, or whether the Senator should be giving this information to the public. But I think it is somewhat overshadowed by the constant behaviour of the Catholic Church all over the world in putting their own rules and regulations above that of not only the nations they live in, but the societies they are a part of.
In the Church’s letter to Xenophon pleading that he not go ahead with the naming, they pointed out how an investigation had already been conducted by the Archdiocese in question, making reference to the fact that they wanted to ensure “natural justice and procedural fairness”, perhaps not realising that in Australia we have actual departments centred around both of these principles. But then again, it’s all in the term ‘natural’ I guess.
Australian justice would be seen as paling in comparison to the justice of an institution that believes it has its own communication line to the answers of the universe, and that one slightly sinister looking guy in Rome has his ear to the lord of the universe. Considering this mindset I am not surprised that they seek to circumvent our own earthly legal institutions.
That's the Pope on the right I think
The letter also goes on somewhat absurdly to state that "The priest concerned has categorically denied the allegations and, objectively speaking, it is not irrelevant that he has been a priest of good standing in the Archdiocese for almost 50 years". Now I am no expert on the matter, but I don’t think that a priests good standing is enough to absolve them of any accusations leveled their way, after all there are numerous examples throughout the churches history of seemingly upstanding members of the church being anything but upstanding behind the scenes.
Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can trust the Catholic Church these days, and given the recent opposition in Ireland, a former stronghold of the Church, it seems as if less and less people are trusting of them.
I read another article recently that goes over the way the Catholic Church words its official responses to make it appear more cooperative, regarding compliance with the laws of whichever country it finds itself infecting, than it actually is.
In a recent response to the Cloyne Report (an investigation into sexual abuse (cf. Rape) into a diocese in Ireland), the Vatican said:
“From the foregoing considerations, it should be clear that the Holy See expects the Irish Bishops to cooperate with the civil authorities, to implement fully the norms of canon law and to ensure the full and impartial application of the child safety norms of the Church in Ireland.”
A seemingly innocuous response, I thought, which even gives a hint of proper cooperation on the Churches behalf. That is until I read Michael Nugent’s thoughts on the matter. Apparently the important thing to notice here is the use of the word ‘full’ or ‘fully’. Note its absence when talking about cooperation with civil authorities, but its adhesion to anything Church related.
Nugent compares the lack of the adverb when dealing with civil authorities to an example from another abuse case the Church faced, again in Ireland, back in 1997:
“This missing word “fully” is the exact formulation that the Dublin Archdiocese used in 1997 to mislead people about its response to the sexual abuse of Marie Collins. When the priest who had abused Collins was convicted, the Archdiocese issued a press statement claiming that it had cooperated with police in relation to her complaint. Collins was upset by this and told her friend Father James Norman. Father Norman told police that he had asked the Archdiocese about the statement and the explanation he received was that “we never said we cooperated ‘fully’, placing emphasis on the word ‘fully’.””
So here we see again that when it comes to matters of justice, the Catholic Church cannot be trusted to be forthright and open with the civil authorities, and is more than willing to hold back information which might throw them in a bad light, than it is to help those who have suffered sexual abuse and rape while in their supposed divine care.
In this case the Church was made aware of these accusations, but it was ultimately the civil authorities who ensured justice prevailed, through no help from the Church. Oh sure they cooperated, but just not fully. And to me it seems that anything but a full cooperation with the law smells of an intent to hide things, and circumvent the proper channels of justice and truth.

Well I think that’s the end of that rant. I suppose after two more laid back posts, it was about time I let fly with a rambling rant.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hey. Nick Xenophon is entitled to do what he did under the Parliamentary Privilege Act. But of course whether he should have is an entirely different kettle of fish.

    Ego boost complete!