I’ve only ever been to confession twice, both times when I was a young child. The first time I couldn’t think of anything to confess to so I made up some sins and was rewarded with penance of two Hail Marys.
In hindsight the Hail Marys were probably for lying to God. Our parish priest was a good man who would have known when an 8-year-old was talking it up.
But even then it felt very weird to me that children would be expected to enter a dark little box on their own and open up the conversation with: “Forgive me Father for I have sinned”.
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Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox has just joined a very small, specific club; people willing to put their career and reputation on the line in the name of principle, to help others.
Julia Gillard’s announcement last night of a Federal Royal Commission into child sex abuse has been a long time coming. But the pressure became too much for the Prime Minister to resist the moment Peter Fox went public late last week with his demand NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell launch an inquiry into a Church and police cover-up.
His bravery was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back.
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There is a textbook study in how not to handle allegations of systematic child sexual abuse and it was written by the retired Anglican bishop Peter Hollingworth. The mistakes made by Hollingworth cost him his job as Governor-General. They are now being repeated, arguably to an even graver and more offensive degree, by Catholic Archbishop George Pell.
Hollingworth’s biggest misjudgement in the scandal surrounding his knowledge of and response to child abuse in his church was to go on Australian Story and declare that a young female victim of abuse had actually instigated the sexual contact herself.
George Pell had his own Hollingworth moment on Sunday when he declared that he wants the NSW Police to wade through the total number of child abuse cases on their books so that the public can get a sense of what proportion of such cases involve the Catholic Church.
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BREAKING NEWS: Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just announced a national Royal Commission into child abuse - beyond just the Catholic Church to look at abuse in all religious organisations and in state care, as well as schools and not-for-profit organisations. She said any instance of child absue is a “vile and evil thing”, and that “there have been too many revelations of adults who have averted their eyes”. She hopes the terms of reference will be finalised by the end of the year after consultation with victims’ groups and the states and territories.
Meanwhile, Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney and the country’s most powerful Catholic, is acting like a child just when he most needs to man up. In the face of the latest horrific allegations of systemic child abuse and coverups within the Catholic Church he has cried, by turns: ‘it wasn’t me’, and ‘they did it too’.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, a senior investigative cop, has revealed new depths in the scandal that has haunted the church for decades. He said “the church covers up, silences victims, hinders police investigations, alerts offenders, destroys evidence and moves priests to protect the good name of the church”.
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I went to Sydney Uni, fell in love with a girl who attended one of the residential colleges and married her 10 years later. Our courtship didn’t start smoothly. One night, just as things began to get steamy for the first time, a vomit competition started up in the hallway outside her room.
Yes, a vomit competition. On the hallway carpet. A projectile vomit competition, to be precise. Don’t ask me how the contest worked. Maybe it was a distance thing. Maybe it had something to do with the ratio of carrot chunks. Either way, those competitive vomiters embodied (or should that be disembodied?) everything that is wrong with the old communal colleges in the sandstone universities.
This week, Sydney Archbishop George Pell announced he would step in and try to fix the ongoing mess at Sydney Uni’s St John’s College. His intervention comes after years of shameful incidents, including the near-death of a female student after an initiation ritual gone wrong. It’s a good move by Pell, but I’ve got a better one. Disband the colleges altogether.
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The best assessment Cardinal George Pell could offer this week on the Catholic Church’s handling of the decades of irreparable damage caused by paedophile priests was the Church had “an adequate story to tell.”
Even if that were true, “adequate” is, well, inadequate. The worst thing about the episode of 4 Corners that aired on Monday night was that it was just a handful of stories among many.
The young men whose lives were destroyed, their parents, siblings, friends and children permanently damaged, and the priests who appear to have been completely let off the hook, are not alone.
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The other day I was watching ABC’s The Drum where Peter Singer was talking about the importance of giving to charitable causes to help alleviate global poverty. Good stuff from Singer, but out of nowhere comes a reference to Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell from one of the panelists.
Apparently Pell, at some point, had said that there is no genuine altruism, people only do good because it makes them feel good (well duh, I’ve heard that before). Anyway, next thing I know the inference is being made that Pell would rather have us walk around flagellating ourselves than giving to charitable causes.
There I am, watching the show, and I’m just baffled as to how went from generous giving to medieval self-mutilation at the behest of George Pell. Then it finally dawns on me, “Of course, this is the The Drum, the final credits can’t roll without at least one Catholic being bashed.” I should have known better.
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That wonderful institution called marriage has been in the media a lot this week – and for two very different reasons.
In the US, President Barack Obama has faced down deeply conservative voters to reverse his opposition to gay marriage. Interestingly, he cited his Christian values as the primary reason for reversing his thinking. “In the end, the values that I care most deeply about ... is how we treat other people,” he said.
Hallelujah to that, and we can only hope our own Prime Minister Julia Gillard – usually so eager to warm to Mr Obama but on this occasion very quick to shrug him off – reverses her own thinking on the issue sometime soon.
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Dawkins was snooty. Pell was outwitted. The questions were predictable, as were the mentions of Hitler and Stalin. There were titters at Pell’s reference to ‘preparing’ boys and sniggers when he clumsily criticised Jews as intellectually inferior shepherds.
Last night’s Q and A starring Cardinal George Pell and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins went pretty much exactly as expected.
But then, an epiphany. According to Pell, the highest Catholic authority in the land, a man with a direct line to God, ATHEISTS CAN GO TO HEAVEN.
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“It is not ideal that religious freedom is protected by so-called ‘exemptions and exceptions’ in anti-discrimination law, almost like reluctant concessions, crumbs from the secularists’ table.”
Cardinal George Pell’s recent lament to Prime Minister Julia Gillard about the “secularists’ table” seems odd, given that religion still defines our nationhood. Just ask our atheist Prime Minister. It is hard to imagine then how exceptions and exemptions are metaphorical “crumbs”, when they have a vast reach in excluding minority groups in Australia.
While each state and territory currently has anti-discrimination laws which protect against some forms of sexuality or gender identity discrimination, the inconsistency in terminology, and the wide-ranging exemptions (particularly for faith-based bodies) means there are considerable gaps in protecting the rights of individuals accessing health services, goods or services, aged care, employment and education.
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Cardinal George Pell has been a spiritual adviser to Tony Abbott and he would have provided welcomed guidance to the Opposition Leader over the years.
But a mild-mannered weather forecaster has raised the prospect that Cardinal Pell might have misled his closest friend in his political flock on the secular issue of climate change policy.
Dr Greg Ayers is director of the Bureau of Meteorology and on Monday night he used a Senate estimates committee hearing to take on the cardinal, his scientific adviser, and a handful of senators who thought they could talk him down.
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