What a crazy day it has been on the Floating Life blogs! « Ninglun’s Gateway — blogging myself to make sure you don’t miss this, or this. I find it quite amazing. I have also been revising and refining the page mentioned there on Art Monthly Australia.
Daily Archives: July 8, 2008
Lateline – 07/07/2008 delivered a bit of a bombshell, especially as it is the week before World Youth Day. The second interview with Chris McIsaac, the President of Broken Rites, the group established to help victims of church-related abuse, is if anything even more significant. I believe the story continues tonight.
From the first interview:
As the Australian Catholic Church prepares to host the Pope for World Youth Day, Lateline can tonight reveal new evidence showing how its most senior figure, Cardinal George Pell, misled a man who complained of being abused by a Sydney priest. Lateline has documents that show George Pell wrote to the man telling him his sex assault allegation wasn’t being upheld because the church had received no other complaints of sexual assault by the priest.
But on the very same day, the Archbishop signed a letter to another man, upholding his claim that the same priest had sexually assaulted him when he was a young altar boy. The new documents also show that Cardinal Pell ignored the recommendations of the church’s own investigation.
While many in the church are anticipating that the Pope will shortly apologise for the Australian church’s role in sexual abuse, the victim in this case says George Pell destroyed his faith and damaged his life.
From the second interview:
TONY JONES: Can I ask for your immediate reaction to the story that you’ve just seen?
CHRIS MCISAAC: Well, it’s quite shocking. It doesn’t surprise me, though, because we have complaints all the time about the Church’s process. But this case shows the great weakness of the process. It’s left to each individual bishop or church authority to deal with the matters, and their decision is the end of the line for victims. So if there’s something done that’s incorrect, like in this case, there’s nowhere for that victim to go. Luckily for this particular victim, he had the ability to go further forward and go through the criminal process. Broken Rites always advises people if it’s possible, go through the criminal process first.
TONY JONES: And indeed he was able to go through the legal process and find documents which lay behind the scenes, telling a very different story to the one that appeared in the letter that Cardinal Pell sent him?
CHRIS MCISAAC: That’s correct. Well, obviously, whatever made Dr Pell act that way on that particular day, that’s just very strange and very hard to understand. I mean, there’s no reality in this. You’ve got two letters signed on the same day, one going completely against what your investigator has told you, the assessor I assume. That’s what they’re called in the process. And there’s just no rhyme nor reason to this. I don’t know why a decision like that would be made. It can’t be a mistake.
TONY JONES: Have you ever seen anything quite like this? I mean, in terms of the contradiction between the two letters that you’ve just spelt out? You’ve looked at many, many cases obviously involving different bishops and so on?
CHRIS MCISAAC: Nothing quite like this, but we have seen lots of situations where it’s impossible for the victim to get any justice from the particular church authority, only because that authority, that person has dug their heels in and refuses to do anymore. Even though the processes tended to say well, “We believe you”, the victim has felt going right through the process that their allegation has been accepted, but get to the church authority and it’s dismissed.
I know very few Catholics who have a high regard for Sydney’s Cardinal George Pell, but then perhaps the Catholics I know are exceptional, though I rather think this is not the case. For example, this man once told me he hoped to live to see Pell, whom he knew very well indeed, come unstuck; he didn’t, but perhaps that day is approaching, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the spack-filler is laid on with a trowel and the whole issue goes away. [@ update]* Meantime, I can’t help thinking of the old jingle, give or take a letter:
I Do Not Love Thee, Dr Fell
I do not love thee, Dr Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not love thee, Dr Fell.
– Tom Brown 1680
There are fundamental issues here for the church: its teaching on sexuality and its celibate priesthood. Both have a tendency to boomerang badly, and the former issue is of course not uniquely Catholic.
As for the issue of sexuality, an event on Sunday 13 July promises to be of interest. I have mentioned it before: Pitt Street Uniting Church on 13 July 2008. See also Welcoming young lgbt people to World Youth Day Sydney 2008. Dorothy McRae-McMahon from South Sydney Uniting Church has sent me the following press release: