SINS OF THE FATHERS
We have all been shocked and appalled by the stories of Roman Catholic priests preying on many hundreds of Australian boys and girls in their care in the most despicable manner. And no doubt the Royal Commission into child abuse will unearth more experiences from the victims that will make for heart-breaking reading.
In this they will join similar revelations and commissions of inquiry in Ireland, Belgium, France, the United States, Poland, Germany and a number of South American countries. And there are more to come. In each case, the story has been the same. Victims of priestly rape and other forms of sexual assault have suffered for decades before the authorities have been prepared to listen, but now at last the crimes and the cover-ups are being revealed.
However, in all the hundreds of reports and commentaries an essential ingredient has been missing. We have been so shocked by what’s been revealed in our own communities that no one has taken the larger view and asked the obvious questions:
Is it simply a coincidence that exactly the same perversions have been practiced in all these countries without any apparent link between them? Are we really expected to believe that they arose spontaneously in all these different places? Or was there an underground link that created the perverted mindset and/or facilitated the attacks?
We know, for example, that Church leaders frequently transferred paedophile priests from one country to another to hide their crimes. Could that really have happened without the receiving priesthood knowing about it?
Alternatively, if indeed there was no conspiracy – either active or passive – in permitting its spread around the globe, was there something within the teaching and practices of the Church that led inevitably to this criminal pandemic? And once established, did word spread among paedophiles that they could find an outlet for their lust within the protection of the Catholic hierarchy? Or did young priests, denied the natural outlet for their sexuality, quickly discover that their colleagues turned a blind eye to paedophilia and so they just joined in.
Perhaps there’s something within human nature that inclines us to take advantage of the smaller and weaker among us. That, after all, is why we have built an edifice of law to govern our behavioural excesses. The church, of course, regards itself as being governed by different laws – those it says it has received from its God – and apparently they are able to ‘forgive’ their priests their outrages against the young. Is that the key to unravelling the global scandal?
There is nothing in the terms of reference of our Royal Commission that requires it to address these questions. But until we do, we are not getting to the heart of the matter. It is highly unlikely that the perversion arose only in the 20th century. Who knows how many suffered in silence and spread the contagion in the lay community in previous centuries. We can but hope that Justice Peter McClellan and his fellow commissioners will delve a little deeper than simply exposing the crimes against youthful humanity. The time has come to unearth the causes that underlie them…and to the have the courage to propose measures to end them.
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