Archive | February, 2016

Pell at the RC: I don’t remember if I remembered…

29 Feb

clerical-abuse

 

I just spent the morning watching Cardinal George Pell give evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, from Rome, via video link.

You may recall that despite Tim Minchin’s musical appeal, Pell refused to return to Australia to give his evidence on the grounds of ill-health.

The Commission is attempting to ascertain what Pell knew and when he knew it. It is Pell’s task to thwart them at every possible opportunity.

Pell predominantly uses the “I don’t recall” defence in its many variations to achieve his goal. Gail Furness SC has the responsibility for persisting when possible, ironically thanking Pell when persistence proves futile, and weaving her web of questions in such a manner that Pell hopefully slips up,and honestly answers one or two.

Ms Furness is brilliant. Pell, not so much.

For most of the lengthy questioning (beginning at 2am Rome time) Pell was controlled and careful. However, now and again he became rather snippy, allowing his mask to slip and his arrogance to momentarily show itself in impatience and curmudgeonly testiness.

It is inconceivable that a man with the ambitions of Pell worked his way through the church hierarchies without acquiring considerable knowledge of the widespread paedophilic activities of priests in his parishes. Someone of such ambition would make it his business to know what was going on around him. It was politic for Pell, and continues to be so, to refrain from any kind of involvement or acknowledgment of these activities, even when living in the same house as one of the most infamous, Gerald Ridsdale.

When it became impossible to avoid acknowledgement of these crimes against children, Pell minimised them, as he did again in his evidence today, stating that he did not know if they were crimes or merely “misbehaviours.” He went so far as to accompany Ridsdale to court when he was finally charged, because he had no choice at that stage but to pretend disbelief of the priest’s crimes if he was to maintain consistency.

At one point in the questioning, Furness forces Pell to admit the “misbehaviours” of a certain priest were known to practically everyone in the community, except, apparently, Pell himself. This was explained by Pell as follows, and refers to several well-known abusers of whose activities Pell denies knowledge:

No parishioners told me about problems with brothers. I was rarely in the parish. I did three masses on Sundays. I had Saturday off. I wasn’t around 
I heard they swam naked. It was common knowledge. It wasn’t uncommon but no improprieties were ever alleged to me

I didn’t hear anything at that stage except about Fitzgerald kissing boys, but that was done in front of everybody it wasn’t hidden. It was common knowledge he kissed the boys. It was harmless enough, he was an older man

No he didn’t mention any incidents of sexualised conduct by Christian Brothers to me 
I know next to nothing about him. I can’t remember him. I’ve never heard of any massages

It’s difficult to answer that absolutely. 

I can’t remember. 

I’ve no such recollection 
I can’t remember, not clearly, not definitively, but as a possibility

A woman in Mildura said Day was innocent & I was impressed by her view. 
I wasn’t around. I wasn’t in Australia

You’ll find all of this and much more on my Twitter feed, but you get the gist.

Pell is far from stupid. It takes some intelligence to focus on what you aren’t supposed to remember, and continue to get it pretty much right. He hasn’t slipped up so far.

The victims in this are the survivors, and truth. Pell cares little for either. If he indeed, by some miracle, did escape knowledge of  crimes against children perpetrated so prolifically under his nose, he is an appalling failure as a church leader and ought to admit that and cower in shame, not seek to publicly defend his ignorance and lack of awareness.

But for mine, any ignorance on the part of Pell was and continues to be wilfully and disingenuously chosen by him, inspired by rampant ambition, and persisted in to save himself.

To paraphrase Dylan, sometimes Satan comes as a man of god.

 

 

 

Turnbull sells out young people to the deranged, to save himself

26 Feb

 

Malcolm Turnbull

 

One of the (many) problems I see with religious ideology is that it offers people whose intelligence and experiential curiosity is limited by cowardice and fear, a socially legitimised avoidance of the challenges of thinking differently.

This is what we’re witnessing in the current outburst of venomous denial expressed by Cory Bernardi, George Christensen, Lyle Shelton and their fellow travellers towards  the Safe Schools program.

This is an extremist group resistant to any change in what they perceive as the traditional order of things. They use nostalgic reification of “tradition,” underpinned by religious ideology, to legitimise what is nothing more than personal emotion and private insecurity.

This isn’t to say only religious people are closed to difference, or that all religious people are closed, and religion isn’t the only ideology that closes minds and hearts. However, in this instance, which is focused on human sexuality and its many expressions, the religious appear to be dominant in their vicious objection to there being any expression other than the one they endorse.

Not one of them is able to take personal responsibility and say, for example, I am frightened of sexual difference and its expression and this why the Safe Schools program causes me such discomfort. Instead, they resort to what they claim has been “traditional” for “millennia” and/or the will of a transcendental exteriority they define as a Christian god.

These are frightened, cornered people, and frightened, cornered people are no less dangerous than any other frightened, cornered animal.

As Nietzsche observed “…systems of morals are only a sign-language of the emotions.” This isn’t a difficult concept to test: what upsets us humans are inclined to declare in some way immoral, while what brings pleasure and ease is intellectually defined as morally good. But as Hamlet observes before Nietzsche “… there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Bernardi, Shelton, et al have embraced the man-made doctrine that any sexual feelings and expressions other than those their peer group considers right and good are aberrations that they have set about attempting to destroy, regardless of the consequences of that destructive rampage for their fellow human beings. They do this in the name of some god. They are, quite frankly, deranged.

They are now supported in this endeavour by our government, as Prime Minister Turnbull endorses their demands for an inquiry into a program designed to alleviate the suffering of children and young people who do not express their sexual feelings in ways the religious consider moral. That our government should agree to the demands of religious extremists rather than wholeheartedly support acceptance of differences in youthful sexual expression is appalling.

Turnbull’s  support of those who would cause suffering to the young, based entirely on religious ideology, must be greatly discouraging to young people as well as to those adults who want to make acceptance of difference commonplace.

Turnbull has made a Mephistophelean covenant with religious extremists. If there is such a thing as a soul, he has likely sold his in an exchange that benefits himself to the detriment of the young. Surely it must be clear by now to even the most optimistic that Turnbull is no improvement on Abbott, indeed, there’s probably an argument to be made that he is at best, little different and possibly worse.

Turnbull will continue to capitulate to the demands of the extremists in his party, to the detriment of the country and the majority of us living in it. He is a man without courage, and his ideology is personal ambition, and he is blinded by these factors  as much as is any other ideological extremist.

 

March of the Wankpuffins

24 Feb

Wankpuffin

 

Safe Schools Coalition Australia is a national coalition of schools dedicated to creating safe and inclusive learning environments for same-sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, school staff and families. The aim of the program is to prevent bullying.

Hard to see what anyone could find problematic about that. Nobody wants kids bullied, right?

Wrong. The Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton is once again prophesying the falling of the sky, as is his wont whenever the issue of anything other than heteronormative sexuality and the traditional family unit is publicly raised. Safe schools is “prematurely sexualising our children” he declared, and a whole bunch of good Christian women pulled their kids out of schools.

Shelton is now being supported by Cory Bernardi, a man of such astounding ignorance that he yesterday expressed outrage that children “as young as eleven” are encouraged by the program to contemplate issues surrounding LGBTQI people, a group of which some eleven-year-olds may be part.

This, Bernardi trumpeted, is indoctrination. I find the allegation a bit rich, coming from a religious zealot who teaches children there is a universal imperative to believe in a sky fairy from birth.

We do not send children to school to be indoctrinated, bellowed Bernardi, a statement of such breathtaking hypocrisy it momentarily left me gasping on the kitchen bench like a dying cod.

Bernardi has obviously forgotten the outrageous school chaplaincy program, a venture that consumes millions of dollars in the pursuit of religious indoctrination of infants and upwards in secular schools.

Bernardi’s ignorance about the sexuality of eleven-year olds reminded me of Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen’s equally ignorant observation, made at the time of Scott Volkers’ alleged crimes against children, when she declared it was ridiculous to think a thirteen-year-old girl could have an orgasm when fingered by a male swimming coach, and besides, Ms Cunneen went on, girls that young and younger don’t even have breasts for men to fondle.

Ms Cunneen is apparently a special friend of the Reverend Fred Nile, Christian Democrat and religious zealot in the NSW Upper House, who may have the deciding vote on whether or not the ICAC is gutted when the current parliamentary committee concludes its investigation into that organisation’s efforts to investigate Ms Cunneen on the matter of her son’s girlfriend’s accident in Ms Cunneen’s car.

Yes. I know.

I don’t know what cylinder is not firing in the brains of these people, but I do wish they’d get it attended to instead of projecting their neuroses onto the entire community.

Prime Minister Turnbull, whom Paul Keating has described as “one of those red bungers you light on cracker night, all hiss and fizz then it burns out” or words to that effect, has now proclaimed an enquiry will be held into the Safe Schools Program.

The wankpuffins are on the march, friends. Gird your loins.

So to speak.

 

Henderson, Marr and the privileging of “rational” thought

22 Feb

 

Feels

 

Watching this exchange between David Marr and Gerard Henderson on ABC TV Insiders yesterday, I was struck by how Henderson, at first a rather uneasy, black-clad fidgeting figure, suddenly discovered strength and energy in contemptuously accusing Marr of “emoting.”

Marr is vocalising his anger at the Turnbull government’s refusal to allow refugees in off-shore detention to be settled anywhere other than the most difficult country imaginable, having refused New Zealand’s repeated offers to accept them. Obviously, if refugees are permitted to resettle in a first world country the boats will start again, is the government’s rationale for this refusal.

There’s a long-held psychological theory that what we profess to most despise actually contains the seeds of what we most desire. This theory is often used to explain homophobia, for example, and I think it can be applied to the Henderson-like figures who use another’s expressions of feeling as a weapon with which to bludgeon them into irrelevance. Their opinions are invalid, this argument goes, because they are “emoting.”

Emotion is a normal human response to situations, and the more appalling the situation, the more appropriate it is to feel distress. The privileging of thinking over feeling, and the moral bifurcation of the two equal capacities has created an atmosphere of shame around the expression of emotion, as if there is a moral value in denial and restraint. Henderson clearly believes he embodies this moral value while Marr, in Henderson’s opinion, does not, therefore his views are to be dismissed as emotive and unworthy of serious consideration.

I don’t want to demonise poor Henderson, for whom I feel considerable pity, however, he does strike me as an outstanding example of a man who deeply, if unconsciously, desires what he publicly claims to despise: the ability to feel and to express that feeling.

Being a woman, I’ve grown up in a society only too ready to dismiss me as emotive and that old favourite, hysterical, if I express emotion. Indeed, it often seems to be the task of my sex to both carry and express all the feelings hegemonic masculinity determines inappropriate for men. Ascribe them to the feminine, whether a woman or what that version of masculinity perceives as a feminised man, and those individuals and groups are immediately framed as irrational, and unworthy of serious consideration.

The reality is, we are capable of thought, feeling, and action. There is no inherent moral value in any of these capacities. The privileging of thought over feeling has for centuries been demanded by those who cannot feel, are uncomfortable with feeling, or afraid of what seems to be the uncontrollability of feeling. So we have insults hurled at those who express feeling: bleeding hearts, hysterics, lynch mobs, losers…the list is long.

In those few moments of television this entire conflict between those who express feeling and those who despise them for that expression was played out. Henderson found his energy in condemning Marr’s emotion, if you watch carefully you can see him perking up and finding his feet when he remembers that in denigration there is an illusion of strength. Marr, very used to such attacks, states clearly that he is not emoting, he is disgusted, calling Henderson on his framing of emotional expression as a disqualifier in debate.

Using “emotive” as an insult derails the discussion, as is the intention, and is designed to invalidate the “emoter’s” argument. It is only successful because as a society we consciously or unconsciously accept the privileged moral values ascribed to “rational thought,” rational having been cast as oppositional to emotional.

I’m willing to bet Henderson’s contempt of Marr’s ability to emote conceals a deep envy that springs from lack: Henderson has learned, probably in a hard way, that to “emote” is to disgrace oneself. No one can learn this without carrying a sense of profound loss, and anger towards those who can do what he or she cannot.

We develop in a society addicted to binaries, dominated by either or. Currently, we appear to be governed by groups who are adverse to feeling and its expression to a pathological degree. People like Marr insist on feeling and its expression, as well as the splendid thought he is also capable of, and the actions he takes in utilising both in the service of his values. Feeling, thought, action. Humans can’t do well without any one of them. Just look at Gerard.

Well, now Cardinal Pell, you’re beginning to smell…

19 Feb

 

Cardinal Pell Three

 

It’s reported this evening that Cardinal George Pell is the subject of a twelve month investigation by Victoria Police over allegations of child sexual abuse, dating from the time he was a priest to when he became Archbishop of Melbourne.

Pell has issued a furious statement, demanding an investigation into Victoria Police leakages, and denying the allegations. The full transcript of this statement is in the above link.

In his statement Pell refers to an allegation of sexual molestation made against him in 2002, referred to as the Philip Island allegation. This series of alleged incidents with one complainant was the subject of a church inquiry, headed by retired Victorian Supreme Court Judge A.J. Southwell, who was selected and paid by the church to conduct the inquiry, within terms of reference set by the church. Southwell found that both Pell and the complainant appeared to be speaking the truth, and he could not find substantial grounds to proceed with the complaint.

Pell claims to have been “exonerated” by this inquiry, however a Sydney Morning Herald editorial saw it otherwise:

Mr Southwell’s conclusion is exquisitely balanced. He accepts “that the complainant, when giving evidence of molesting, gave the impression that he was speaking honestly from an actual recollection”. However, he says Dr Pell “also gave me the impression he was speaking the truth”. A significant part of Mr Southwell’s report concerns the standard of proof; because he considered what was alleged against Dr Pell as serious, he was inclined to apply a strict burden, akin to the “beyond reasonable doubt” of criminal proceedings. That helped Dr Pell. It also made Mr Southwell’s careful conclusion – that he could not be “satisfied that the complaint has been established” – rather less than a complete exoneration.

It’s not known if the allegations currently under investigation by Victoria Police include this one. They are referred to as “numerous” in initial reports, as well as having occurred throughout a considerable time frame, as Pell worked his way up the church hierarchy from priest to Archbishop.

Victoria Police have also issued a statement this evening, saying they do not comment on specific allegations.

In case anyone has forgotten how ruthless Pell has been in his pursuit of child sex abuse survivors who’ve attempted to obtain justice, it’s worth re-reading the John Ellis case in which Pell’s legal team managed to obtain the verdict that victims can’t sue the Catholic church (it doesn’t exist in law) or the trustees (who aren’t responsible for supervising priests) but only the offending priest (dead) or the offending priest’s supervising bishop (also dead). Pell also instructed his lawyers to pursue Ellis for costs.

Pell, confessor and mentor to sacked Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is now safe in the Vatican, beyond the threat of extradition treaties.

I wonder how those who leapt to Pell’s defence after Tim Minchin’s protest song are feeling right now.

Of course we can’t possibly comment on Pell’s guilt or innocence. It is interesting, however, that Victoria Police have seen fit to devote twelve months of their time so far, to investigating complaints.

 

Ummm....

Thanks to my good Twitter friend Comrade Nick for this image of Anthony Hopkins in the role of Hannibal Lecter. Again, I can’t possibly comment. 

 

This song is for the survivors. Not nice enough for you? Tough

18 Feb

Pedophilia Catholic Church

 

 

If you haven’t already heard Tim Minchin’s excoriating musical appeal to Cardinal George Pell, I’ve linked below.

It’s called “Come home, Cardinal Pell” and it is everything you’d expect from a satirist and comedian of Minchin’s calibre.

Father Frank Brennan, Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer, has accused Minchin of damaging survivors with his song, and, wait for it, putting the entire Royal Commission at risk of ridicule.

This is, for mine, a bit of an hysterical stretch: the Royal Commission is solid, respected, honoured and about as far from being ridiculed as it is from the sun, so quite what Brennan thinks a satirical lyric from Minchin is going to do to upset that apple cart is a mystery.

It’s also emotionally manipulative: Brennan attempts to turn the tables by accusing Minchin of hurting survivors, when every survivor who has spoken on the matter has made it absolutely clear that they are being damaged by Cardinal Pell’s attitude to, and physical absence from, the Commission.

Philip Adams, ABC broadcaster and well-known lefty has criticised Minchin’s use of the word “scum” in the song, as well as finding it distasteful overall. “Scum” is, of course, a word usually employed to deride the lower classes: the middle-class are bound to feel initially unsettled when it’s used to describe a cardinal of the Catholic church. But hey, since the extent of pedophilia in that church came to light, the gloves are off. They’ve long since forfeited respect, and scum is exactly what too many of them have, unfortunately, proved to be.

Amanda Vanstone also flew to Pell’s defence, claiming he is being unfairly treated as he hasn’t been charged with anything. True, but the Royal Commission has the power to recommend charges be brought, with the agreement of victims, and as Pell has yet to be further questioned, we don’t know what the Commission’s recommendations will be.

The Project’s Steve Price was appalled that Minchin should personally abuse Pell.

And Gerard Henderson of The Sydney Institute says the song is “personal abuse set to music.”

To be honest, I find it difficult to conceive of any personal abuse of Pell that comes close to the abuses suffered by survivors, and those who have died, and all their families, as a consequence of sexual abuse by catholic priests. So I’m not losing any sleep over Pell being described as “scum.”

I can’t help but think that none of the above objectors actually have any real idea of what sexual abuse does to victims’ lives, or of the sheer magnitude of the catholic church’s offences against children entrusted to their care. A few mean words about Cardinal Pell whose role in the scandal is, at the very least, dodgy, and they’re outraged and offended?

It isn’t Pell who needs public support and protection. The sympathy is misdirected. Pell ought not to be shielded from the consequences of his actions, and one of those consequences is being described as scum and a coward. It doesn’t seem a very high price to pay for the luxurious life the Cardinal lives within the safety of the Vatican’s walls, while victims of pedophile priests suffer ongoing trauma, injury, and too often, death.

So suck it up, Father Frank, et al. Minchin’s song is an expression of popular feeling towards Cardinal Pell and the catholic church. If it isn’t worded as nicely as you’d like, tough. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to be rude and nasty, and sometimes rude and nasty are the only expressions that cut it.

PS: If you are interested in music, this analysis  in The Conversation of Minchin’s “pitch-perfect protest song” will give you great joy

 

 

 

Christian Lobby claims it needs hate speech to argue against ssm

16 Feb

ssm

 

In a new and bitter twist in the ongoing debate about the plebiscite we’re having because politicians lack the courage to do the job they were elected to do and just change the damn marriage laws, Lyle Shelton, managing director of the right-wing fundamentalist Australian Christian Lobby, has now called for anti discrimination laws forbidding hate speech against LGBTQI people to be relaxed, so that his tribe can argue the “no” side in the same-sex marriage plebiscite without fear of legal action being taken against them.

It’s difficult to know where to start deconstructing the bigotry of this: a Christian lobby group is demanding the right to use, with impunity, what the law defines as hate speech to argue its case against same-sex marriage.

If any group needs access to hate speech in order to argue its case about anything, it obviously has no case. The very request for impunity from the law is all the evidence needed to demonstrate that its case is already illegal, before any argument is embarked upon. However, Shelton argues that anti-discrimination laws have “such a low threshold,” anything the no side argues will make them vulnerable to the constant threat of legal action.

Shelton intends to use what he describes as “the millennia-old argument” that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. Millennia-old arguments are not the best place to start when debating a point of view: they can be refuted in seconds, and besides, before proceeding with such an argument the proponent must demonstrate why longevity is an argument for anything.

I’m not a fan of marriage, however, it is currently a powerful institution and every man and woman who wants to live in that institution has the right to do so, regardless of sexual orientation. Shelton, et al, are arguing for their religious ideology. They have now admitted that they can’t make that argument without employing bullying, and discrimination. This, to me, says their religious ideology is tyrannical, as is their determination to inflict their views on those of us who do not wish to be subjected to them.

I don’t think Shelton has a hope of having anti-discrimination laws relaxed to enable him to use whatever speech he likes to argue against marriage equality.  However, the upside of this unforeseen aspect of the debate about how we should run the plebiscite debate before we actually get to debating the plebiscite, let alone voting on the most unnecessary plebiscite EVAH, is that it demonstrates as nothing else can, the bigotry and tyranny of the no faction.

It also demonstrates the level of stupidity with which we are dealing, and it isn’t all on the ACL side.

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