Suffer The Little Children

The Four Corners on priest-pederasts last night was every bit as upsetting as it had to be, mixing cradle-Catholic suicides and their bewildered Catholic parents into the intergenerational vileness (priests abused as choirboys become, in vengeance, abusing priests) of the ever-unfurling story. But it raised as well the question of the punishment, by gaol or community service, of those who knew and did not speak.

This puts a lot of people in the gun. One is Archbishop Hollingworth, shamed GG, who on Australian Story defended Bishop Shearman, whom he knew about, and his decades-long affair with an initially twelve-year-old girl, calling her on national television the predator. Another is Bishop Shearman, still at large. Another is Pell, who on the screen was brimming with concealment and haughty denial: he is hiding still, I would imagine, a dozen cases he did not report to any non-Catholic authority.

Another, of course, is Tony Abbott, as revealed on page 68 of the Duffy book about him and Latham.

But there are thousands of others. Thousands of cradle Catholics later Communist or libertarian agnostics who, like Jim McLelland, were abused themselves and kept it dark, or had friends abused and broken and suicidal and told no authority about it.

I do not know why this is. I myself knew of cases — at Knox, at Cranbrook, at King’s, at Woodlawn — I did not report after finding out, years after, what occurred. I had a collaborator, now dead, who availed himself of early-teenage girls. The tendency to forgive what is ruining children is an almost universal one, I sorrowingly own. It is as if children remain expendable, disposable, discardable as they were, in most minds, when foetuses. Because we do not know their potential we look upon child whores in Pnomh Penh and Manila with sympathy, and pass them by. We note the existence of child soldiers forced to kill their parents and put it out of our minds. We laugh at the climactic scene of Little Miss Sunshine, knowing precisely what it means, and speak of it admiringly.

By the Four Corners’ reasoning we all should be in gaol. And perhaps we should be.

I invite discussion of this.

I think we all have much to say.

Leave a comment ?


  1. hudsongodfrey

    This is almost freakish! I just finished watching the show on iview, and am writing with the tears still wet on my face. The girl at the end got to to me.

    My father went to one of those schools and I nearly to another. I was lucky, but most people knew of something or someone affected. As children we could do nothing, and as parents our parents thought they were doing the right thing.

    Events described make me wonder how vulnerable I was, whether I was close to abusers on occasions when the opportunity was barely denied them.

    It wasn’t understood then and it still isn’t now what the nature of the damage done really is.

    What I will say is that the nature of the injustice is understood.

    The catholic church and its clergy believe in reward or judgement beyond the grave and in forgiveness for sin in this life. And I believe they use this doctrine of vicarious redemption to perversely avoid the primary recourse to justice that their victims are owed.

    Needless to say relations between myself and the church are strained. And by stained I mean I reject the institution of the church and the tainted individuals within it. But more than that I reject theism.

    I seek to live an examined life and nothing more. The notion of a god is immaterial to me. I’m just trying to be the best person that I can, and I’m lucky that many around me are embarked upon the business of doing likewise.

    We don’t want to attack and get rid of religion like militant atheists. We just figure it will die as people realise they’ve no need of it.

    In the meantime the guilty do need to be dealt with and the notion of compensation for victims that was outlined in the four corners show is clearly only a half hearted attempt to settle matters without addressing victims’ need for justice and the community’s need for protection from further incidents of abuse. Victims need to know that where compensation is in order that the legal system will get it for them so that they should not enter into the church’s process, but instead they should report this to police in full confidence that justice will be forthcoming. To this day they don’t have that reassurance and that I think is something society needs to provide them at long last.

    • Hudson, I saw the Four Corners last night and found it hard to watch, I have to admit it brought tears to my eyes. The whole families are affected, the old parents still feeling bad for encouraging their innocent young sons to be a choir boys.
      Pell does not seem to me a very compassionate man…anyhow I don’t think there is any chance of him becoming the pope…

      • hudsongodfrey

        Thanks Helvi,

        And let’s hope he doesn’t become Pope. I don’t think it would bode much better than tarnished reputation of the present one has.

  2. I was living in Rome in the mid 80s when an rumours of a change in Vatican policy came out that I don’t believe is well-known. The then Cardinal Ratzinger, having assumed control of the Constitution of the Doctrine of the Faith, was told of the scale of the clerical paedophilia crisis and persuaded John Paul II to no longer allow the US church to export priests accused of child abuse to other dioceses or indeed abroad. The rest is history: dioceses in the US are still going bankrupt paying compensation in what amounted to a powerful lesson.

    But more should have been done. That’s why I left the RC church - the abuse may have been done by individuals or even rings, but the conspiracy of silence was institutional and went to very high levels, possibly the highest.

    Which is why, as a Brit patriot, I believe it is hypocrisy for the British establishment to condemn clerical paedophilia and often become an accomplice after the fact to child-abuse perpetrated by Muslims, with the cry of “it’s their culture!”

    • hudsongodfrey

      Gerry if you’re talking about the crimen sollicitationis document I believe it dates back to the 1960′s or earlier. And to be fair I’m not sure it is still in force, or at least one might say it is inconsistent with the church’s public policy. Fact is they’re still acting very much like it is!

  3. I raised this earlier today (See ‘Lines For Albo’ 11) — Billy Connolly covered the subject in a SUNDAY (7) interview two shows ago, pointing out that if the Catholic church were a political party or, say, Apple, and these same abuses occurred, people would be in jail. And Pell is,
    supposedly, on the list for next Pope…

  4. Jack Robertson

    The ABC could make a more contemporaneous, confronting and urgent 4 corners program on Indigenous child abuse every week for a year and still not get close to giving those victims a proportional voice.

    That’s where the very worst conspiracies of silence fester.

    • They should send the army into the Catholic church. Quarantine Catholic people’s paypacket so they can only spend it on certain items at certain places. That would supply them with moral backbone and teach them how to be like us - mainstream society. Mainstream society is good and pure and does not abuse. So this approach would categorically fix the problem.

      • hudsongodfrey

        Well no Reader. While I do sympathise wholeheartedly with an expression of the anger which I obviously share over this, the truth is that’s the exact opposite of what is needed in a way.

        You see religion supposes a kind of moral authority over people believing in effect that they couldn’t be moral without it, and that punishment will come if not in this life then redoubled in the next. It is a mindset that I think we have to break by demonstrating that morality exists in this world for worldly reasons so that the law we’ve made for the good of society is able finally to deal with this properly.

        Funny thing about religion is that with the best of all intentions among the best religious people that I know they live with a kind of double standard that is implicit in the idea that belief in the least credible doctrines somehow obtains most merit. They do this by remaining just as subject to moral reasoning in their lived experience as are you or I. So the upshot of all this is that if you create a disproportionate response then being as sensitive to injustice and discrimination as is anyone then they’ll take this underground and defend it rather than doing what we need them to do for the victims’ sake which is to fess up and get it over with.

    • You wont get an adequate response here Jack Robertson.

      The Left can’t handle the truth and need to sweep things like indigenous child abuse under the carpet.

      In fact your comment will just be ignored.

      Its too hot a potato.

      Best just criticize the Catholic Church and George Pell. Its a much safer and easier option for the group herd to follow.

      • I think Reader1 was parodying the christians who led and lead the charge for the NT intervention,and its shameful continuation and extension by Labor. While it is difficult to generalise about a faith which has as many variations as it has followers, generally it is members of such “follower” organisations that love the idea of regimentation and force to solve human problems.

        As to child abuse in general, let us not fool ourselves - we live in a world where all of us are responsible for all sorts of rotten things done to other humans and to animals. This is not to excuse any particular set of criminals, such as child abusers. But let us remember where our iPhones come from, where our coffee comes from, where our oil comes from, where our wealth in general comes from (grinding terms for the poor nations who supply basics; dispossesed Australians), how many our government killed in Iraq, where our bacon and eggs come from (remember hens debeaked and confined-for-life and cruelly slaughtered after a few months)

        The power of humans’ ability to shut things out of our minds is what makes the world go round

        To return to Christianity: if needed after 2000 years of crime and folly, what could be better proof of the failure of christians to be better than the rest of us than the breathtaking refusal of their leaders to acknowledge their fellows’ sins against children

    • hudsongodfrey

      Jack you’re welcome to your opinion but if it tends to function as some kind of defence to the catholic church then I think its a disingenuous one.

      I agree that the left struggles with the problem of Aboriginal child abuse. We’re egalitarian on the whole and that makes the idea that one culture is disproportionately worse in some regard that all others antithetical. But supposing you had proof that all was comparatively rosy among white Anglo Saxon Australia would involve explaining why the people we came to trust most didn’t commit acts of abuse against children too.

      So yes I lean to the left on social issues and no I don’t think that one culture is much worse than others. And if it is then that’s confusing because many in the medical profession regard paedophilia as a disease, and what we’re criticising here isn’t just the disease and its symptoms. We’re talking about something far worse. The ingrained culture of denying the victims help and covering up the problem!

      Had the acts just have happened and been dealt with at the time it would have been regrettable but somewhat more understandable. We had and have the infrastructure to do so, whereas I doubt remote indigenous communities share that luxury. There’s work to be done there too but this is different work under different circumstances.

  5. “the question of the punishment, by gaol or community service, of those who knew and did not speak.”

    I think that gaol should be kept for people who commit sex crimes with children.

    But for people in positions of authority, like William Lynn (the first senior U.S. Roman Catholic Church official to be convicted for covering up child sex abuse), I don’t know that a gaol sentence serves any useful purpose.

    Child sex abuse seems to me to fit within the general area of crimes against humanity: . . . as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Explanatory Memorandum, “are particularly odious offenses in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings . . . atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. - and I’d like to see an international criminal tribunal set up to investigate child sex abuse.

  6. These grotesque serial offenders should be brought before an international court and be dealt with under the crimes against humanity articles.As for the results of such offenses one only has to look at a probable future leader to note the resultant product and its ramifications on the whole country. Victims such as this shouldn’t be allowed to take their justified anger on the whole country. After all Tony what did we do to you.

  7. Jack Robertson

    Frank, Godfrey, it’s no more appropriate or useful to introduce an ideological generalisation like ‘The Left’ into a discussion on child abuse than it would be to drop it into one on pancreatic cancer or gravity. You can’t generalise about it; each case is suis generis. And as such, utterly amenable to a process if moral triage. The repeated full penetrative rape of a prepubescent girl over several years by an adult indigenous male continuing in the here and now is by any measure you can think of more deserving of our attention than the molestation of a boy by a priest thirty years ago. Cultural relativism has nothing to do with it.

    I’m not defending the Catholic Church, but it does tend to be a target of disproportionate scrutiny on this, and I think it’s not because it is largely impervious to it (as seems to the 4 Corners thesis)…but precisely the opposite. You can leverage the innate sense of guilt and masochistic pleasure at self-castigation and think you”re ripping the lid off a Vast Conspiracy of Satanic Evil. .

    A lifetime tragedy for the individuals - those who haven’t been able to process it properly, anyway - but there are a million bigger problems in the world just now than the Catholic Church.

    • hudsongodfrey


      I only responded in terms of speaking from the left in part because someone else mentioned it earlier, and also because it fitted in with the other ideas that I was trying to develop.

      There’s a certain disdain for aboriginal culture that I think comes from a bad place when we presume to be so superior as to “rescue” them with our intervention. Perish the thought that the same kinds of abuse are happening in Sydney or Melbourne tonight.

      And yes there may be bigger problems with this issue than just the one that the catholic church faces, and beyond those even bigger problems in the world. The fact remains that they aren’t the subject of this article, or last nights’ four corners program.

      Moreover the other the argument you seem to make is built on the fallacy that attending the victims of sexual abuse by priests come at the cost of forgoing the need to prevent and attend the damage done by other abusers elsewhere. It is as if we can’t attend both simultaneously. So that by your account we’d be compelled delay all action on child abuse until we achieve world peace.

      Anyone who can walk and chew gum at the same time might be forgiven for wondering why your arguments seem to apologise for the catholic church in ways they just doesn’t deserve after this.

      • Jack Robertson

        Hi Godfrey,

        I take your point about attending to child abuse not being an either/or proposition but I do stand by the concept of moral (outrage) triage: it is a matter of proportion. As last night’s 7.30 Report follow-up on on-going abuses in the indigenous communities illustrates, our focus ought not become too broad on ideological grounds and thus miss where the most pressing priorities lie. Your suggestion that my concern is somehow to defend the Catholic Church is a case in point: I have no interest either way in that kind of higher issue. My suspicion is that right now there is far more abuse going on in the remote indigenous communities than in the urban priestly cloisters. So that’s probably where the bright light of contemporary scrutiny should mostly - not ‘only’, just ‘mostly’ - be pointed.

        • … are we short of bright lights of scrutiny, Jack?

        • hudsongodfrey

          Sorry Jack if I can only speak personally to the things that intersect my own experience. I’m not trying to be selfish in this. I acknowledge that I lack the capacity to speak in the same tone about remote aboriginal communities.

          Be that as it may you’ve made statements repeatedly here that are unsupported. What makes you so sure that abuse in aboriginal communities is out of proportion to the general rate of abuse within the rest of Australia’s cities, suburbs and towns. Maybe the abuse done by priests represents a negligible proportion of the overall number of cases. But even then I think your repeated low opinion of aboriginal communities speaks to a skewed perspective that I simply don’t share.

          And as RJ says not only is there no shortage of bright lights, there seems also to be no reduction in the number of people who’re willing to point them towards anyone other than themselves.

  8. “there are a million bigger problems in the world just now than the Catholic Church.”

    No, but there may be a dozen or so which are; very few of them are amenable to any solution within our grasp. The Church, on the other hand, is present in the here and now. And amenable to criticism.

  9. Surely the abuse of power expressed by damaged and limited “adults” experienced and remembered by “children”, goes far deeper and is more damaging than the mere sexual.

  10. I didn’t see the show, but they should all be tracked down and where the evidence is available, face what is coming to them. And everyone who protected them.

    But don’t forget the politician paedophiles and child molesters, some of whom the MEDIA covered for. The Press Galleries. You should know of them, we all should. Bill D’Arcy, Keith Wright, Bob Collins and Milton Orkopoulos. Collins and Orkopoulos had been ministers in a government and Orkopoulos was one when arrested, thanks to the assistance of a later-victimised whistleblower Gillian Sneddon . If anyone wants to know what political parties can do to whistleblowers, just google that name Gillian Sneddon!

    Yes make them pay, but don’t excuse the press galleries for not realising that the succession of young (and always different) “nieces” and “nephews” meant that their negligence deepened their pain.

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