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Why a royal commission into Catholic child abuse is necessary

A royal commission into child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is the only mechanism that will provide full justice for victims. But politicians will be reluctant to start it.

In what is, these days, a rare display of bipartisanship, both major parties are running from the idea of a federal royal commission into the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse of children, its cover-up of crimes and protection of child abusers.

Undoubtedly many people calling for a royal commission are doing so because they believe it will damage an institution much reviled by progressives, regardless of whether it will assist victims of child abuse and bring the perpetrators and their protectors to justice.

But the case for a federal royal commission is compelling.

Under the Howard government, royal commissions were innately political. That government launched an investigation of the construction industry as part of its war on trade unions in 2001, justified by John Howard on the basis that “there have been many detailed allegations involving intimidation, involving standover tactics, involving threats of force and violence” (observations that might equally apply to what many churchmen did to children).

Later, mired in allegations of corruptions over AWB, Howard was forced to call a pseudo-royal commission into the wheat bribery scandal, carefully limited to make sure it couldn’t examine corruption by his ministers or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Political pressure also forced him to call one into the HIH collapse, albeit on the pretext of legal advice that the Australian Securities and Investment Commission had a conflict of interest.

Traditionally, however, royal commissions — think Aboriginal deaths in custody, or British nuclear tests, or the Stewart and Costigan royal commissions — dealt with matters beyond the remit of the criminal justice system, government policies that in retrospect were profoundly wrong or that reflected such systemic and pervasive wrongdoing that the criminal justice system was inadequate to the task of effectively investigating it. State-level royal commissions have similarly focused on issues that reflect such extensive and systemic problems that regular institutions are unable to cope with the task of investigating them, frequently because key institutions such as police forces were at the centre of them.

This history provides the core reasons why a federal royal commission, or inquiry with royal commission-like powers, is the only appropriate mechanism for addressing child abuse by the Catholic Church.

1. Existing institutions are not up to the task. The criminal justice system can only prosecute individual incidences, or individual perpetrators, of abuse. The institutional arrangements that enabled the cover-up of offences and the protection of offenders is beyond the direct scope of trials of paedophiles. Moreover, the criminal justice system, with its focus on prosecution, creates an adversarial environment that is confronting and painful for victims. A royal commission, which specifically cannot make judicial findings about individuals, can provide a more comfortable environment for abuse victims to tell their stories.

And existing state inquiries, such as the Victorian parliamentary inquiry and the newly-announced NSW inquiry into child abuse in the Hunter region, are ultimately ill-equipped to deal with an international institution. The Catholic Church operates on a global level, able to transfer paedophiles and their protectors out of jurisdictions — whether regional or national — where their activities have come under scrutiny, and operating under instruction from a controlling entity that poses as a nation-state, the Vatican.

2. The Commonwealth and other governments have subsidised offending institutions. The Commonwealth and state government, via the tax-exempt status of religious institutions, funding for Catholic schools and contractual relationships in areas like employment services, have subsidised the institutions in which child abuse, and the protection of paedophiles, has occurred. Any royal commission must address the sources of financial support for processes of abuse facilitation, including government funding.

3. It is the culture of abuse and cover-up that must be investigated. While existing processes and cases focus on individuals — the offenders, those who protected them or, from a media standpoint, high-profile church leaders like George Pell — the issue of most relevance to victims and their families is surely not merely bringing offenders to justice, but investigating the institutional culture that facilitated abuse and its cover-up, including the refusal to take victims seriously and identifying the systemic causes of it, rather than focusing on any single individual.

An inquiry such as a royal commission, which specifically lacks a determinative power such as that possessed by judicial bodies, is much better placed to explore cultural and systemic issues than courts, which focus on single instances. Without an inquiry into the “abusegenic” culture of the Catholic Church, there can ultimately be no full justice for its victims; the account of what happened to tens of thousands of people at the hands of paedophiles, and then the insult of having their abusers protected, will remain only partial.

A federal royal commission or royal commission-like inquiry is the only mechanism that will be able to provide some sense of justice and comfort to victims. But it won’t be a rapid process. The Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was established in 1999 and didn’t issue its mammoth, and truly sickening, report until 2009. That inquiry had wide-ranging terms of reference and dealt with institutional arrangements in which the Catholic Church was far more deeply embedded than in Australia. But nonetheless, major royal commissions in Australia have a history of being repeatedly extended, and it is unlikely this would be any different.

However, it is likely major party politicians will remain reluctant to support a royal commission. That probably reflects not so much any sectarian bias as an unwillingness to confront an institution that, for most politicians and particularly House of Representatives MPs, is one they deal with on a routine basis as part of their electoral duties. It also reflects the simple political equation that the victims of abuse are relatively politically powerless, while the institution that abused them remains a potent political foe if roused. It takes a lot for justice to trump political calculation.

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  • 1
    Holden Back
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    There is a sense in which a Royal Commission could clear the air for the Catholic church at a grassroots level. How can individual, blameless priests stand in their communities with any certainty they are not now considered potential predators, or part of the conspiracy to shield these people from exposure? The good people in these roles deserve better than to have this stench of suspicion billowing around them.

  • 2
    Liz45
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    The fact is that the catholic church is NOT conducting itself as a responsible ‘citizen’ of the country. We’re all aware of the lack of concern for victims is still NOT a priority. We also know that the main issue for the perpetrators and the hierarchy is to avoid the legal system that the rest of us MUST abide! I find it reprehensible that the police are still finding a ‘brick wall’ when investigating these horrific crimes.

    If ANY other organisation was behaving in this disgraceful manner, there’d have been screams of outrage before this. How many peoples’ lives have been destroyed by these horrific abuses; how many victims will be driven to suicide, not only due to their traumatic abuse, but by society’s inability to champion on their behalf. It is mind boggling to say the least. It’s not as though the catholic church does NOT know of how these abuses affect people - they know! But to their shame, they have chosen to ignore the truths.

    How many deaths by suicide do we have to hear of. How many stories of abuse so violent and destructive must victims speak out about in the hope that SOME responsible government or police body will take seriously.

    I find it disgusting, that as an ‘ordinary’ member of this country, if I omitted to pass on information about a crime already committed, or indeed of a planned crime, and not inform the police, I am deemed as guilty as those who performed the act/s, and punished accordingly - even with a custodial sentence! Why has the Catholic Church and others been allowed to blatantly abuse our justice system.

    Moreover, the brave Detective Inspector, Peter Fox, who came out on Lateline and asserted of police people’s attempts to silence him deserves our gratitude. Thanks to him and his determination to tell the truth, the Federal Govt may be forced to initiate a long overdue Royal Commission. I hope I don’t hear any of the worn out platitudes re protecting peoples’ privacy etc. We all know that’s a euphanism for ‘we’re too gutless to do anything’ response’

    Isn’t it telling that Cardinal Pell has chosen to keep his mouth shut! Too many of us know of the disgraceful role that he has played for decades. Too many of us know the role the present Pope played for 25 years (at least) by covering up the horrific abuse perpetrated by pedophile priests who (allegedly) r***d little girls as young as 5 yrs old - not to mention the numbers of boys who also suffered awful crimes while young - and some were r***d for years!

    I personally know of four people who were sexually abused as young children or adolescents. Too many of us know of people who were abused. None of these people have complained about their abuse. As a person raised a catholic, there’s no way I’ll ever kneel in front of a priest ever again (for this and other reasons - misogynist attitudes also). I know of many others who feel the same way. ‘Ordinary’ catholics must demand justice for victims. Their silence only protects the perpetrators! Shame on them too!

  • 3
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    What is growing from the rejection of the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell watered down inquiry. Is being driven by victims and picked up by political opportunist. The Newcastle Herald site crashed for almost an hour earlier today. I have no doubt because the grass roots community of victims and families of victims who are up on their hind legs and shouting the SP! Edward James

  • 4
    Steve777
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Well said Bernard and Holden.

  • 5
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Benard While I can’t actually reject this from you; Undoubtedly many people calling for a royal commission are doing so because they believe it will damage an institution much reviled by progressives,. I will point out the calls from victims of institutionalized pedophile activity for a Royal Commission is being driven by people many of whom are politically ignorant. Starting out with those in and around Newcastle Maitland and out lying areas after the suicide of Mr Pirona. What Barry O’Farrell has offered to diffuse the growing calls for a wide ranging Royal commission is like a slap in the face of disenfranchise victims and their families. NSW parliament has attempted to open another information black hole. It should be rejected in the strongest term by everyone with an entitlement to vote. More importantly every one of our elected representatives should be overtly supporting the peoples public calls for a Royal Commission, nationally would be better but NSW will suit me just fine. Edward James 2 10

  • 6
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Royal Commissions have a somewhat dubious history. They are expensive and often are not empowered to enforce the directions or outcomes. Much better to charge all those involved quickly and judiciously in a Court of Law.
    In the meantime close those religious organisations that have been flouting the law so often and for so many years. Close Saint Mary’s Cathedral and charge Cardinal Pell for a start.

  • 7
    beachcomber
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Will an Abbott Federal Government be the one forced to call a Royal Commission? He could avoid the difficulties that would pose for himself by calling for Gillard to start one now. Apart from being the right thing to do, it would tell voters that he understands the problem, and that as PM he would not be beholden to anyone.

  • 8
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    I think I understand the point you make Bernard with your last paragraph; It also reflects the simple political equation that the victims of abuse are relatively politically powerless, while the institution that abused them remains a potent political foe if roused. It takes a lot for justice to trump political calculation. People in my community have tasted political blood. After being encouraged to rise up get on board a supplied bus to state parliament. Winning the return of our “stolen” Rehabilitation amenity to Woy Woy Public Hospital on our Woy Woy Peninsula. I believe the Newcastle Herald on line site crashed because we the peoples are beginning to understand we give direction. Political allsorts who think they can simply refuse to take our electronic directions are on the way out! Edward James 2 32

  • 9
    zut alors
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    I can understand Mr Rabbott running from it but the PM has no vested interests in any church - consequently she’s in a position to view the Royal Commission proposal objectively.

    So, what gives…?

  • 10
    The diving swan
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Surely it is a no brainer for the Federal Government to have a Royal Commission? What could work better than Abbott and the Parrot opposing it and being wedged by it. Can’t they get the independents to force them into convening one?

  • 11
    Andybob
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    If not now, when ?

  • 12
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    The way our all our political allsorts Federal, State and Local dance for us. Is entirely dependent on the tune we the peoples, their constituents play. The plane flying over Newcastle on the weekend with the banner trailing behind asking readers to call for a Royal commission is there for all to see including political allsorts and understand, because we the peoples are over the political delays, while people die. Here is the link for concerned people and more importantly relatives of victims to get overtly involved http://www.theherald.com.au/story/948241/church-sex-victims-want-investigation/?cs=311
    Edward James 3 20

  • 13
    NeoTheFatCat
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    It is interesting to see the Church’s response completely avoid Fox’s key allegations. As I understand it, the issue at hand is not that abuse of children has occurred, but that the Church has actively prevented or hampered police investigations.

    The Church’s response is:

    1. child abuse is not limited to the Catholic church,
    2. the abuse was all in the past,
    3. in any case, there is no single Catholic church but a variety of dioceses and other organisations reporting to Rome.

    Notice how they are trying to divert the argument away from the alleged cover-up, and back on to the issue of the child abuse itself - where we can all agree it is horrific, perpetrators should be charged, blah blah blah.

    We need to keep the focus on the cover-ups.

  • 14
    CML
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    @ zut alors - While the PM doesn’t have a direct vested interest in this whole abominable business, the “faceless men” who put her there, DO. Think about Shorten, Farrell, a lot of sitting MP’s and many of the NSW Labor right. All take their orders from George Pell - pillars of the RC church, so to speak. If Gillard wants to stay in her current position, then she will do as she is told. Totally appalling, but that is where we have come to, I believe.
    As far as the Royal Commission is concerned, it should be national for a start. Also, it should be widened to include ALL charities, religions and organisations who have as part of their remit, the care of children. While the Catholics are “flavour of the month”, there are many, many other stories of child abuse from all kinds of places. I do NOT in any way seek to downplay the role of the Catholic church - merely to point out that child victims everywhere deserve the opportunity for justice. If we are going to have a Royal Commission, then let it be an all encompassing one.
    However, I have my doubts that the rich, famous and powerful will ever agree to it getting off the ground. We shall see!

  • 15
    JMNO
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I think the Catholic Church needs the cathartic Royal Commission for its own sake as well as for its victims, the good priests and all the parishioners. The bits that are rotten, hidden, and defensive need to be blown open and exposed to light so they can be cleansed and renewed. The Church will have no credibility as a moral and spiritual authority until that happens.

  • 16
    Damian Lloveda
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Its pretty fundamentally clear that if you force a human (animal)to abstain from s-xual activities and to go against our inherent instinctual humanistic desire they will ‘sin’ in the most heinous manner. Power is all consuming and corrupting, isn’t it all the more evidenced in matters such as this. This isn’t one diocese, one country nor one hierarchy ‘accused’. There are thousands of cases, thousands of examples the world throughout. How one can stand in the face of it all and listen to them ‘preach the word of god’ is just absolutely nonsensical. How can this institution get away with all this, there is a fundamental stench in western democracies, that of a non-separation of church and state.
    Great points Bernard with a strong neutral scent of impartiality. Difficult in the face of the demons inside each and every one of us sinners, born faulty - in need of repentment.

  • 17
    Mark from Melbourne
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    This is a blight on our society which goes beyond the Catholic church although obviously it still has significant questions to answer and wrongs to right.

    Too little has been done for too many years to protect our children and vulnerable citizens. Not sure if a Royal Commission into all institutionalised child abuse (or support of abusers) is the best way to proceed but I’ve yet to hear a better one.

    Bring it on and soon and let’s be done with this evil.

  • 18
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m no lawyer, but from reading Geoffrey Robertson QC’s excellent ‘The Case of the Pope’, it seems to me that a Royal Commission is a necessary step, but won’t be sufficient, because of the Holy See’s status as a defacto nation state.

    This status was granted by Mussolini (thus neatly evading Godwin’s Law) in the Lateran Treaty (1929).

    It means that the Vatican gets to use diplomatic immunity as the ultimate protection against state apparatuses such as Royal Commissions.

    The sufficient resolution of the Catholic Church’s sexual violence crimes will have to involve removing it from the UN system, or at least clarifying that it does not have the rights and privileges of an independent nation state.

    The alternative solution is far more adverse to the Church.

    It is to accept the Vatican’s insistence on state rights, and treat it appropriately, as a criminal, pariah state.n’s insistence on state rights, and treat it appropriately, as a criminal, pariah state.

  • 19
    Shaniq'ua Chardonnay
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Yes a royal commission is needed. I would also add that I find the ‘outsourcing’ of social services to religious and semi-religious organisations to be a policy fraught with inherent dangers.

  • 20
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    The real hot spot is the Newcastle Herald on line
    While another suicide has set this off. Every person who has been sexually abused and their families and supporters have a civic duty to rise up and dictate the tune we want our politicians to dance to on our behalf. It will always be up to us to direct our elected reps to do what we want, or be booted. Edward James

  • 21
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Link to Newcastle Herald http://www.theherald.com.au/news/ i forgot to submit it at 3 51 pm

  • 22
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Before reading the article……”“Venise Alstergren
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    There was an infamous crook called John Wren who used to say that the only use for a Royal Commission was to clear the guilty. HOWEVER, the fact that a RC can access information from interstate and federally is an enormous step forward.

    There is a way to stop the dog collarariat. En masse the taxpayer should protest to the government against the whopping amount of funds going to prop up a crooked religious organisation.

    The one bit of good to come out of all this is George Pell’s campaign to become the next pope will hit a brick wall. Not because of the thousands of small children sodomised by the Catholic priests. It will be because it was under his watch the whole thing became public.”“

  • 23
    Liz45
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    @Damian Lloveda - I disagree with you re the celibacy aspect. There are many men who for one reason or another don’t have a sexual partner - they don’t go out abusing kids or r****g women! To suggest such a thing is an indictment on those decent and honourable men. Pedophiles are ONLY attracted to children. They believe that children are sexual beings, and many do NOT believe that they’re doing anything wrong! I won’t call them ‘sick’ as I think that almost explains their behaviour?

    Noticed how quiet Pell and Abbott are? So much for leadership? As I’ve said earlier, those who remain silent are just as bad as the perpetrators! Disgraceful!

    @Dan Cross - Wasn’t that book interesting? Disturbing but very enlightening indeed! I was shocked to read that even as recent as a few years ago, the Pope sent a letter to every bishop about the ‘importance’ of loyalty to the church etc. This is the type of thing that needs to be brought to the public’s attention.

    As for someone saying that these crimes happened years ago. They should speak to those tortured people whose lives are still ruined - 50+ years later! The priest who r***d those little girls had been abusing kids since the 1940’s? 60 years! How many victims did he have? How many times was he moved? How many priests are being protected in Rome?

    While other religions and organisations have had people who preyed on kids, the overwhelming culprits are catholic priests and other clergy - brothers etc. And they have top billing in respect of how far they’ll go to intimidate victims into silence by paying ‘shut up’ money - in return for a vow of silence! They had no right to do it in the past, and from what we now know, they’re still doing it!

    Those little girls I referred to were taken by that priest out of their class rooms (a catholic school with nuns). Why did those women allow those kids to go with said priest without asking questions? He allegedly had an unused ‘room’ on the school premises! How on earth was that allowed to happen. The nuns didn’t spill the beans - a brave young man initiated the public being informed. The parents of those girls almost breathed a sigh of thankfulness that it was a boy who’d been abused. The mother felt ashamed later, but it’s easy to understand isn’t it? Momentarily feeling relief that her daughters were ok! She co wrote a book called, ‘Hell on the way to Heaven’? It’s most revealing about Pell! The role he allegedly played was nothing short of diabolical - to say the least! Put Chris Foster or the title into your search engine. She and her husband have been agitating for an Inquiry for years. They’re often in the news from Victoria! Brave people indeed!

    @Edward James - Indeed! As someone famously said once “It’s Time”!

  • 24
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Yes George Pell certainly owns this result of failure to act in the best interest of his flock! Edward James 4 36

  • 25
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    What a surprise http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/political-news/dont — confine-child-abuse-inquiry-to-catholic-church-abbott-20121112-2976e.html
    Tony Abbott says the Coalition would support a government-backed royal commission into child sexual abuse, providing it inquires beyond the Catholic Church.
    His move came as former prime minister Kevin (Heiner) Rudd said he backed calls for a royal commission on child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church if state inquiries required bolstering. Talk about johnny come latleys Edward James rudd has unanswered question relating to the destruction of documents about to come up under consideration again in december again in december Oh the technogly ahd ucked me again!!!!

  • 26
    Anne Cooper
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    I wonder where this will end. Certainly it must affect Pell, not only because of his own history. But this, along with the St Johns college uproar and Barbara Ramjan’s defamation matter soon to become public will also hurt Tony Abbott. Surely fatally.

  • 27
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Seriously Mr Kean Kevin heiner Rudd is still wandering around with people proclaiming he is prime minister material. And you over paid typist call yourselves journalist! Edward James 0243419140

  • 28
    Tom
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    So as far as finding the truth, accountability and responsibility are concerned, it’s not just Rupert Murdoch that has those in a position to do something about this horrible mess so frightened as to do nothing in fear of political retribution?

    Think I’m going to puke.

  • 29
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    It seems as if this grotesque situation with the catholic priests will continue for the simple expediency of votes. Julia Gillard, atheist, is terrified of losing the Catholic vote. Ted Baillieu, Premier of Victoria, perennial chicken, only won the last state election by one vote. Namely, the NCP vote as delivered by the devoutly Catholic leader of the Victorian Country Party and Deputy Premier of Victoria, Peter Ryan.

    Ideally, the nation’s taxpayers would stage a massive protest and refusal to pay their taxes which support the Catholic church and its licensed brain-washing schools, until such time as a royal commission was held.

    The only reason the Pope can continue to ignore the laws which bind other people to front up to the legal process when accused of wrong doing, is because of a squalid deal done between Mussolini and Pope Pious IX in 1929-known as the Lateran Treaty.

    ”It had little to do with permitting the church to accomplish its world-wide moral mission: Mussolini needed the pope to secure the electoral hegemony of fascism in Italy and the Pope was happy to agree in order additionally to secure the church’s hold over Italian Catholic youth.”“
    (Geoffrey Robertson QC) ‘The Case of the Pope, London 2010’

    As a result of the Lateran Treaty the Pope has been able to be called a Head of State (of the Vatican). Presumably an attack on the Pope’s priests also has come to be regarded as an attack on a head of state. “”But upon the Vatican’s claim to have more than just ‘international personality’ and to be a fully-fledged state, much depends. It brings many advantages, two of them especially prized: sovereign immunity for itself and its head in respect of any legal action, and direct access to the United Nations….”” (Ibid 63 ff)

    Upon the above actions the catholic church has been able to prevent undue examination from outside. Many countries do not exchange ambassadors with the Vatican. Australia, naturally, does so.

    Hopefully some of the above explains the special hold the catholic church has on the so-called secular nation of Australia. Not to mention the grudging agreement of State’s premiers to pursue limited investigation of this mass crime against humanity. However, the chances of a royal commissin are indeed limited.

  • 30
    ianjohnno1
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/australian-government-it-s-time-for-a-royal-commission-into-child-abuse-by-the-clergy-including-the-catholic-church

  • 31
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    HOLDEN BACK: How can any priest be totally blameless? Certainly, many priests have not been involved with paedophilia. However, what priest has been totally ignorant of a practice as widespread as this? (and as ancient)

  • 32
    beachcomber
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    It’s reported elsewhere now that Abbott agrees a Royal Commission is needed. Miracles do happen.

  • 33
    Andrew Watkins
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Essential to have Royal Commission, if only for ability to force testimony under oath and to ensure properly competent investigation and cross-examination.

    Needs obviously to include evidence of abuse, individual cases and overall pattern

    MUST include really forensic examination of those who have covered it up, including access to the paper trail

    Must also include examination of structures used to limit liability - for, example, priests are not employees of the Church in a legal sense, so there is wiggle room about liability. Should any liability be established the legal structures are such that the liability of the Church as a whole is limited and one can end up attempting to get compensation from a “straw man”.

    Other manouevres can be even more interesting, such as the suggestion by former head of Doctrine for the Congregation of the Faith ( now in another job ) to the American bishops that any papers that were better not seen should be lodged with the Nuncio in Washington to allow a claim of diplomatic immunity ( documented in Geoffrey Robertson’s rather good book on the issue)

  • 34
    Liz45
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Breaking News! The PM has just announced a Royal Commission into the sexual abuse of children in Australia! YES!

    Leadership at last! I wait for those who’ll criticise her for political point scoring! I wonder how long it will take! We could take bets? Typical isn’t it? For years there’s been traumatized people begging for action, and it takes a female PM to rise to the challenge! Well done Julia, I say! I await the details with interest!

    The positive is, that out of the heartbreak and obvious misery and pain to arise when people tell their stories, the rest of us can merge together in support and show compassion and empathy to the victims! This goes beyond political affiliations I believe! This is about righting awful and terrible wrongs! And bringing a sense of justice to the victims and their families!

  • 35
    rummel
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Well, PMJG has called a royal commission.

  • 36
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    The people have prevailed over politicians who have sat and absorbed their earnest complaints for decades while doing absolutely nothing. Review the Newcastle Herald strings and Melbourne Age for some guidance as to where the “backbone” for these politicians came from! Edward James 7 4

  • 37
    AR
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    As much as I loathe religion & its perpetrators it is a distraction to blame celibate men in dresses for the abuse when, as Nixon (and every other authority brought to book)demonstrated, it is the cover-up and the wilful blindness of those who know that is the real canker in society.
    As long as the majority of people show the originality & cohesion of slime mould, those with the wit and lack of ethical roots to exploit obedience will always come out on top.
    A mob/grou/society is always less than the sum of its parts.

  • 38
    Graeboy
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Bernie you pushed the print button a bit quick as by 5.45PM PMJG did the job at last

  • 39
    Achmed
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Finally a Govt that has the courage to do something.

  • 40
    CHRISTOPHER DUNNE
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    Our ‘childless’ PM is going to defend the rights of children from institutional r-apists. Hallelujah!

    Meanwhile, there are quite a few politicians who should just die of shame.

    Let’s see the puss squeezed out of this pedo ring. It’s not before time.

  • 41
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    One of the other things that needs to be achieved by this now-announced royal commission is to probe further up the chain into those involved in covering up and hiding the perpetrators. They must also face criminal justice.

  • 42
    Liz45
    Posted Tuesday, 13 November 2012 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Anyone watch Lateline? Fr Frank Brennan related an experience he had when in Rome at the Vatican. He went with two American Jesuit priests. While they were there one of the priests commented…’see that priest beside the Pope, if he was in the US he’d be in jail’? This only happened in the recent past! So the covering up for these monsters goes right to the top as we know - just one more confirmation of it.

    Those who assert that the catholic church not be singled out, or have excessive emphasis placed on it should know, that the senior police person in Victoria? asserted that there’s 6 times as many catholic priests as predators than any other organisation - church one I believe!

    The other fact is, almost every story I’ve heard in recent times has the perpetrator as a catholic priest or clergy. In fact, this evening, a Brother and lay teacher at a school have been arrested and charged with criminal offences, and there could be more! The stories just keep on happening, and most involve members of this church. I’ve also heard that the number of priests could be one in 15?

    Abbott had nothing to say until the last minute? Then, he didn’t go before the media, but via a press release? How disgusting is that? Barnaby Joyce’s response was also pathetic. They’re more concerned that the catholic church could be the major guilty party than they are about the victims! How disgusting! The journalist should’ve asked Joyce why the Howard Govt did nothing - nearly 12 years of inaction?

    Do people remember the Judge in NSW who committed suicide in the 90’s? Before then? There was a strong hint that he could’ve been part of a pedophile ring? I think the RC should include not only clergy, institutions (orphanages etc), sporting bodies, police officers, but the judiciary as well! It could go on for years! Perhaps it will be divided into different parts? So it doesn’t get bogged down? Have a plan!

  • 43
    CML
    Posted Tuesday, 13 November 2012 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    The hero in all this is Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox. He risked everything to achieve a Royal Commission for the victims. Gillard risked nothing. But fortunately for her, the “faceless men” who back her (all Catholics), had nowhere to go given the public reaction to Peter Fox’s open letter to the NSW Premier and subsequent appearances on ABC’s Lateline.
    Credit where credit is due, I say!

  • 44
    mikeb
    Posted Tuesday, 13 November 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Well done JG and the Govt. Also good to see that the RC is not limited to one particular church. My male best friend was molested by a serial molester at a public school. The offender was apparently well known at the time but nothing was done. Times have changed fortunately but the air needs to be cleared and the crimes confirmed and acknowledged. Until that happens the 99% of priests and boy scout volunteers and etc etc who are blameless will have a smear of doubt hanging over them.

  • 45
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Tuesday, 13 November 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I do agree that Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox should be applauded for his dogged determination and impact on bringing these people to the public’s disgrace and perhaps georgie pell, the frocked magician and clown extraordinaire, should nominate him for a papal knighthood.

  • 46
    Holden Back
    Posted Tuesday, 13 November 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    @Venise there are a number reason why some priests - particularly parish priests - would have little knowledge of abuse or its perpetrators and not be able to act on it in a timely fashion. Firstly, that there is a lag time between the abuse and reporting, secondly that the orders send their members around of their own accord, and operate internationally outside the parochial system.

  • 47
    Madonna
    Posted Tuesday, 13 November 2012 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    @Holden Back, I understand your well -meaning intentions. I agree, not all priests are paedophiles and I’m sure the public’s able to discern this and not label all priests paedophiles.
    This Royal Commission isn’t about protecting priests ego’s, it’s about exposing law breakers and those who knowingly protect them.
    It’s about accountability for generations of sexual abuse within these organisations.
    It’s about shining a spotlight on predators shielded by these organisations.
    It’s about persons of interest who engaged in criminal acts on vulnerable children unable to defend themselves against these predators.
    It’s about the years of abuse suffered as a consequence and living with the psychological trauma or not (suicide)!
    And it’s not only the Catholic Church in question.
    I was told by my mother earlier this year of a previously convicted paedophile in a Pentecostal church on the north side of Brisbane. He was given duties minding children while their parents attended the service unbeknown to them of his ‘former life’! I was outraged by this fact and voiced my concerns to my mother at the pastor’s lack of judgement and misplaced trust! Apparently he thought now the paedophile was seeking God then it would be okay and he wasn’t a threat.
    The group think is a little water over the head (baptism) or a good dunking is going to renew the man and make him born again into a new person! I doubt that.
    I phoned my brother today; he told me he no longer attends that congregation but had sent a letter and approached the pastor with his concerns.The child minder was changed. The pastor,who was apparently touchy ‘feely’ with women in the congregation has moved on and no longer preaches at the church.

  • 48
    Edward James
    Posted Tuesday, 13 November 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Yeldham. Gassed himself.

  • 49
    Posted Tuesday, 13 November 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    LIZ: Yep, I saw Father Brennan on Lateline. No one should be fooled by his apparent frankness. He has said he would rather go to jail than report abuse coming from the confessional. Obviously jail is too good for the man.

    Meanwhile, in sunny Victoria, our gutless premier, Ted Baillieu, has already capitulated to the Catholic Church by stating that the confessional shall be exempt from mandatory reporting.

    Attitudes like these will prove to be a roadblock on any royal commission.

  • 50
    Holden Back
    Posted Tuesday, 13 November 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Madonna - it’s not priests’ egos, it’s about a public trust which has now been broken. If people of good faith cannot place that trust in someone who works hard at doing good in their community because of the behaviour of predators elsewhere, something precious is lost to all.

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