February 10th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Blackouts due to closure of coal-fired power stations

EDITORIAL Behind China's push for global power

CANBERRA OBSERVED The left's appetite for change can't be satisfied

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY The Four Ideologies of the 21st century: Transgenderism, Libertarianism, cultural and Economic, and Radical Environmentalism

SEX-TRAFFICKING Meet modern slavery - in your very suburb

EUTHANASIA Delivering Victoria's death law: an unedifying spectacle

ENVIRONMENT Too hot? Too cold? Blame global warming

OPINION Report on child sexual abuse aimed at Church

FREEDOM OF RELIGION 'Equality' and equally disingenuous terms

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Saudis, Israel confirm Middle East alliance

OBITUARY To the memory of a multimedia Chestertonian: Tony Evans

MUSIC Straight to the heart: for the listener, at least

CINEMA The Commuter: And my criteria for reviewing films

BOOK REVIEW Essays take 'settled science' to task

BOOK REVIEW A pathway through a tangle of nonsense

BOOK REVIEW Quarterly Essay


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Report on child sexual abuse aimed at Church

by Anne Lastman

News Weekly, February 10, 2018

Recently a new report was published on the issue of sexual abuse within the Church. This “report” was issued by the Centre for Global Research at RMIT University and is another tome of statistics and a type of history of clerical of sexual abuse.

This new tome, with 384 pages to read, apparently took two former priests five years to research and write, and appears just as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse published its report.

This latest offering, entitled “Child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church”, has as its lead author Desmond Cahill, who, it is acknowledged, testified before the Victorian Parliament on the issue of sexual abuse. The second author is Peter Wilkinson, who was involved in the founding of the so-called Catholic group called Catholics for Renewal, a dissenting group whose aim is to change the nature of the Catholic Church via the medium of secular influence. Both authors appear to seek to see the Church changed into a caricature of its true nature and true reality.

Each author brings to the research his own personal angst against the Church. They believe that the Church can no longer function morally and that the governance of the Church should be handed to the state, which would in effect render the Catholic Church sterile and snuff out its life-giving essence and being. A state-controlled Church is the answer because the Catholic “Church as it is is incapable of reform, so the state will have to do it”. (Cahill). Wilkinson seconds this, saying that there is a “growing conviction that the Church must now rely on outside secular authorities to give it moral guidance”.

So, we can see from both authors that the aim of their tome is the destabilisation of the Church and the handover of the Church to Caesar.

It is a long report, with lots of statistics and personal opinions and an undercurrent of angst against the Church. They believe that the Catholic Church’s Popes, Bishops and priests have not really committed themselves to resolving the sexual abuse issue within the Church, and further, that the Church’s law (Canon Law) is not capable of handling the matter of sexual abuse.

There is an agenda here, and that agenda is to change Church norms, including getting rid of priestly celibacy and restructuring the priesthood, even to allowing female priests. Further there is the notion that, as the Church is unable or has been unable to handle such a matter as the sexual abuse of children by priests, then the “state will have to do it”.

Co-author Peter Wilkinson writes that there is “a growing conviction that the Church must now rely on outside secular authorities to give it moral guidance”.

The authors consider that Bishops globally have not been able to handle the sexual abuse issue and that the Holy See and its Bishops have not been committed to resolving the problem within the Church.

The confessional – a red herring

The cherry on their cake is the seal of the confessional, which, of course, they link to sexual abuse. This, according to them, together with celibacy, has led to the scandal that has wracked the Church.

However, the link between celibacy and sexual abuse is without foundation and their attack on the seal of confession is spurious. Moreover, they do not even understand abuse.

First. Celibacy, accepted and understood in its spiritual sense, is not the bunny out of the hat. That celibacy may at times be difficult is understood; but so is married life with its need to accommodate two different kinds of thinking and with its sexual component.

If celibacy were the issue, then sexual abuse would occur only in Catholic Church. It would not be found in denominations that have a married priesthood. It would not be found in groups, it would not be found in the Jewish faith. It certainly would not be found in the family. It would only be found in the Catholic Church; or perhaps in the Buddhist religion, in which monks and nuns choose celibacy, completely abstaining from sex in order to reach enlightenment and Nirvana.

So, removing the seal of confession and having a priest report what a penitent has confessed will bring a perpetrator to justice? What rubbish. A child abuser will not go to confession and confess his or her past or ongoing acts of abuse against a child.

These two authors do not know what they are talking about. A perpetrator will not go to confession but rather will slowly, very slowly, withdraw from meeting Jesus in the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist and will even stop celebrating Mass or going to Mass. This because there is an inner sense and knowing that what is happening is wrong. Slowly, the religious life is changed and the person looks towards God ever less.

I have dealt with both victims and perpetrators and neither retains the faith they had before the abuse started. Victims believe that “God” is abusing them and He didn’t do anything to help them. Perpetrators lose their faith because of the growing and then overwhelming sense of “wrong” and because of the shame. If a perpetrator does go to confession, just like an adulterer, he or she will confess every expletive when stubbing a toe and every perceived minor mishap, but not the real reason for the need for confession.

It is lunacy to believe that a perpetrator will go to confession while still intending to abuse his victims. Besides, any adult male or female abusing children knows that a priest, while not being able to report the offence, will do his utmost to urge the perpetrator to hand himself in to authorities and to cease immediately their behaviour.

Breaking the seal of confession will not stop child sexual abuse because this type of abuse is an addiction just like any other addiction. It is a perverted sexual addiction that begins with the perpetrator’s own interrupted psychosexual development, maybe even due to having being abused him or herself.

“The Bishops around the world have been found incapable of addressing the problem of clerical abuse on their own”; and of course the Holy See has not committed itself to solve the issue of sexual abuse in the Church.

That this issue has not been handled well is today understood. My belief is that the damage sexual abuse does was not and perhaps is still not fully appreciated. It was believed in former times that removing a perpetrator from access to a certain child in conjunction with helps, spiritual activities, retreats, prayers, fasting and the sacraments would deal with the difficulty or sinfulness. At the same time the deep and lasting damage done to the child was not realised.

That it was morally wrong I’m sure was understood – thus the spiritual penances – but that it caused so much pain and grief not realised.

The royal commission’s recommendation that the government be enabled to insist on the violation of the seal of confession if anything shows that, for all the information it has heard, it has understood little.

The sound of axes being ground

A disturbing aspect of this report is that both authors are former priests with axes to grind. One, Cahill, left the priesthood 40 years earlier and linked his departure to “fundamental restructuring of the priestly ministry”. At the time of his resignation, there was no hint of his concerns for abuse of children.

Cahill in his own right has dissented from Catholic life. His view is that the Catholic Church has a need for renewal and inclusion of more women into the governance of the Church and the teaching of future priests, and lay involvement in the selection of Bishops – Bishops not invited.

Wilkinson wants what he calls “gender balance” in the governance of the Church. Indeed, Wilkinson to achieve his aims helped to found the dissident group, Catholics for Renewal. This group unashamedly is out to change the Church from the Catholic Church in Australia to the Australian Catholic Church. This group had the courage to write an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 challenging the “patriarchal attitude towards women within the Church”.

Let it not be forgotten that the Church, together with society, has also had to deal with the sexual revolution of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Today we all have to deal with a liberated sexuality, a visible sexuality, and, of course, the scourge of pornography.

That some priests were caught up in the mire is not surprising, because priests are human too: they do not float on air or walk on water and are vulnerable. That perpetrator priests committed crimes against children is inexcusable. But that the norms of the Catholic Church are the reason, is utterly without foundation.

For Cahill and Wilkinson, the agenda has nought to do with sexual abuse of minors and much to do with changing the nature of the Catholic Church: have the state take control of the Church and slowly secularise it so that the separation between Church and state is nullified.

At a time when society most needs the voice of the Church to be heard, authors like these ensure that the society they purport to want to protect is actually deaf to the voice of hope.

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