Catholic Church sex abuse investigations ‘a joke’ and other WYD reflections

18 Jul

riley Catholic Church sex abuse investigations ‘a joke’ | is a most interesting story, coming as it does not from outside but from inside the Catholic Church, from Father Chris Riley, a kind of living Mary McKillop in my book and as troublesome perhaps as she was in life.

THE Catholic Church should scrap its program to investigate sex abuse within the church because victims have been denied justice, a maverick Sydney priest says.

Father Chris Riley [right], who heads Youth Off The Streets, a Sydney welfare service that assists homeless, drug addicted and abused young people, said the Towards Healing program hurt the church’s credibility and meant victims often did not have their day in court.
He told the Nine Network tonight that any family confronted with sexual abuse should go straight to the police and have the matter dealt with in court.
“Towards Healing, to me, I have to say, is a joke,” he said.
“The perpetrator is the only winner there because often they are not charged, because it (the case) is settled.
“This is obscene, settling those sort of cases behind closed doors,” Father Riley said.
“It should be out in the court, and then if they (victims) want to deal with the church, we then do that after the person is … found guilty, and my position is, jailed for a long time.
“Then, if they want to go to the church, let’s heal them then, but get justice first.”


Visit Youth Off The Streets via the logo on the left.


Last night’s Q&A on ABC1 featured “former Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, author, journalist and critic of the Howard government, David Marr, columnist, Angela Shanahan and rising star of Young Labor, Rose Jackson.” Inevitably it became something of a forum on faith, politics, and reason. I won’t bother to go into it much here, but do commend you visit the program and even watch it if you can. I must say I have never actually read Angela Shanahan, and don’t think I will after her performance last night. I also found Alexander Downer’s attitude to the church quite puzzling, though it is not an uncommon position. He is clearly uncomfortable with theological honesty.

David Marr’s passionate response to Angela Shanahan’s parroting of traditional dogma on GLBT people certainly scored with me, even if I do worry that his somewhat patrician delivery would alienate quite a few punters; still, he can’t help being in his own way just as “posh” as Downer. Lindsay Tanner was good; Rose Jackson embarrassingly got her Pavlovs and pavlovas mixed up and will, I hope, outgrow her school debating style.

I should add that so far as my own church is concerned David Marr would have expressed most nearly what we believe.

Quite opposite is a story on SameSame (of which I am a member) that Arthur blogged yesterday: World Youth Day Pilgrims: “Gays Will Burn In Hell”.

So World Youth Day is now officially opened. Last night more than 150,000 pilgrims converged on Sydney’s Darling Harbour, resulting in what some have called a “Catholic Woodstock”, complete with singing and dancing.

Although not everyone is in a celebratory mood. Like Andrew, who called ABC’s Radio 702 yesterday to share his story.

“I’m a Catholic and through our local church we volunteered to host five pilgrims at our house,” said Andrew. “We thought it would be a good way to kind of share our house and [do the right thing]. Anyway we had them come to stay and we put on a big – they’re Kiwis these five people that came – and we put on this big spread for them, seafood, wine everything.”

Andrew said that at one point one of the pilgrims said, “I thought we were staying with a couple,” to which Andrew replied “Well you are!” It was then that he introduced them to his partner. “I said, well I’m gay and this is my, you know, boyfriend. And they said, oh we have to leave, that’s against God.”

Not only did the pilgrims leave, they actually went so far as to tell Andrew that he’d burn in hell. “They said, you know, we have to leave and they were going to stay for a week and they got in the cab and left on the first night.”

Toni Matthews, host of the program, consoled Andrew by saying, “Well, my understanding is that you’re not burning in hell, but they will definitely try to help you.” She added that obviously this mustn’t be the official World Youth Day stance on the matter, given that Andrew had gone through all the proper channels. “I’m sure they wouldn’t have been billeted with you otherwise.”

“I was quite offended really,” said Andrew. “But, I suppose, you know, what are you going to do?”

So much for generosity and goodwill between Catholics. It’s sad that this man had taken these people into his home out of the goodness of his heart and all he got in return was a slap in the face.

Unfortunately, this is not all that surprising, if very regrettable. I guess we must take some consolation from noting that Andrew quite clearly feels accepted in his own congregation, and I know of other gay Catholics who are fortunate enough to have that experience. But I will be wearing black on Sunday.

Theologically speaking, I would quote what Dorothy McRae-McMahon from South Sydney Uniting Church learned from her minister father: if you ever find yourself morally superior to God, then there is something wrong with your idea of God. In the case of those pilgrims, there is definitely something wrong with their idea of God, but they have not yet come to see how morally weird the God they currently envisage really is. For those hanging off the pap of certainty this can be a life-long challenge, which I hope they come to meet in due course. Not everyone does meet the challenge, as Angela reminded me last night.

One of the great paradoxes of God, as far as I am concerned, is that the ground of being does not confine his/her (neither pronoun really applies) activity to the doctrinally pure or to particular human institutions, no matter how venerable; nor has the Spirit confided in us through infallible writings or immutable bodies of teaching. In fact, whenever we lock ourselves into one of those propositions we tend to cut ourselves off from the Spirit to a greater or lesser degree by reducing the Spirit to the size of our own intellects or egos.

Thus I find more of the Spirit in M, for example, schooled as he was in Communist China yet mightily impressed by the Dalai Lama by whom he was taught in India in 1999-2000, than I find in many a committed Christian, and I discern more saintliness in a person like Sirdan — who will be embarrassed by that as he is not a believer — than I discern in unfortunates like the pilgrims cited in that SameSame story. And that is just to mention two people I know.

At the same time it was a Catholic priest, Val Rogers, who helped me more than most people when I was “coming out” by simply saying: “Tell me, N, do you have someone you can put your arms around? It doesn’t matter if it’s male or female; it’s the quality of what’s happening between that matters.” He also used to say, “You know, they’re a bit behind the times in Rome…”

RELATED: “A Life of Unlearning – a journey to find the truth” and A Life of Unlearning — a journey to find the truth — the book.

And striking another note, a delightful post from The Other Andrew: YOU May Be Slumming Honey, But I LIVE HERE.

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Posted by on July 18, 2008 in Australia, Christianity, faith, faith and philosophy, Gay and Lesbian, gay issues, generational change, humanity, inspiration, interfaith, M, politics, religion, right wing politics, South Sydney Uniting Church, TV



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