I recognise it’s not only a Catholic Church problem (end of disclaimer) but the list of folk who have complained about the treatment of children by members of the Clergy goes well beyond the last century. Probably several centuries when you consider how humans react to holding absolute power.
Unquestioning Faith was demanded of, and given by, the congregation. The rise of different off-shoots who parted company with Rome created an “us and them” mentality between Churches which allowed bad behaviour by Priests to be hushed up for the greater good of the Church.
The obvious end result we see before us today. A bureaucracy so entrenched it makes the UN seem like a Supermarket Express queue when it comes to not getting things done.
A mark of just how slow the process of change can be is reflected in the Church’s reaction to the Spanish Inquisition. An event that started in the 1400’s and saw many folk tortured and some burned alive by overly zealous believers, was finally apologised for by Pope JPII in 2004.
And he was regarded as a progressive chap.
What does this mean for the upcoming Royal Commission in to the sexual abuse of children in institutions? In short, bugger all help from Rome in fixing the system as it pertains to the Church processes.
But we should not be disheartened for a number of reasons.
- Aussie Priests are generally a progressive group who are regarded by Rome as far too modern for their liking. Of course Cardinal Pell doesn’t quite fit this category or, I suspect, the Priests who are still assaulting children.
- There are members of the Laity (non-priests but regarded as higher order Faithful) who are dismayed by the bad behaviour and have insights into the workings of the Church. There will be some whistle-blowers from this group and hopefully one with the recorded process for dealing with paedophile Priests.
- A very angry Public.
- FaceBook and other Social Media.
- The Nuns.
- The intransigence of Rome itself.
Points 1, 2 and 5 give us great hope of exposing what is really going on inside the Catholic Church. They also hold the key to setting up effective change to rebuild a clearly broken process.
In point 6 I see an organisation that can’t help but infuriate those who are concerned for the kids. If they think it’s going to blow over quickly they could be being a trifle optimistic. We must make sure it’s a false dawn for them.
Points 3 and 4 are where we all get to contribute. Commitments made by the Catholic Church during the Ryan Royal Commission in Ireland (published in 2009) have since been broken. The contrite face shown the Public was just another PR exercise which has even seen the Irish Government lose patience.
We should expect the same here in Australia. It takes a huge effort to bring these matters into the light so we must ensure real change is expected and delivered. The culprits will be assuming folk will be so relieved to see something being done that we will fall for more spin.
We need to keep an eye open for apologists, too. Especially pollies. Already the WA Premier, Colin Barnett is working the “its going to be expensive” card. Apparently he places a higher value on cash than the well being of our kids. Others will follow.
The current Opposition Leader has remained amazingly quiet of late. In earlier days he was a big fan of Cardinal Pell to the point of even denying visits to the Cardinal prior to an Election. For a bloke who spent 3 years training to be a Priest, he has some sympathy for the Church. Not allowing a free vote on marriage equality gives a pretty good indication where his heart lies and he must be scrutinised if momentum is to be maintained.
The ball is in our court. Watch the process. Keep a careful eye on detractors especially pollies. Treat announcements made by the Catholic Church with a healthy dose of scepticism.
It could all be over in a mere 10 years leaving the Vatican suffering a severe case of motion sickness but the future of kids in their care looking a good deal safer.