Tag Archives: Frank Brennan

How it’s never Pell’s fault.

10 Feb
'It's only a sin if you talk about it...'

‘It’s only a sin if you talk about it…’

 

It really has come to something when politicians call on the Vatican Treasurer and Pope Francis’s right hand man to come out from his Vatican sanctuary, and face up in person to allegations of having sexually abused children.

On Wednesday, a Greens motion calling on Cardinal George Pell to return to Australia from Rome to assist police and prosecutors investigating allegations of criminal misconduct against him was supported by the Senate.

Predictably, Pell launched an attack on the Greens, calling them anti religious and characterising the motion as a political stunt, despite the motion being supported by parties other than the Greens.

Pell is well-known for his bellicose self-defence. In 2012 he threatened to sue comedian Catherine Deveny for a tweet she posted that the Cardinal considered defamatory. He also threatened to sue Twitter, but resiled from that threat.

Then there was the church’s prolonged legal battle against complainant John Ellis, who attempted to sue the Archdiocese of Sydney, at the time under the authority of then Archbishop Pell. Mr Ellis spent more than ten years seeking compensation for the five years of sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Father Aiden Duggan. Pell later apologised for the “vigorous and strenuous”  battle he ordered the church’s legal team to conduct against Mr Ellis with the aim of discrediting him, thus protecting and vindicating the honour of the institution in which Pell was a rising star. During the apology, Pell refused to even look at the frail Mr Ellis, who was sitting across from him.

In 2013, human rights lawyer and commentator Father Frank Brennan commended Pell for “being man enough and priest enough” to publicly apologise for the torment Mr Ellis suffered at the hands of the church’s lawyers. Four years later, Brennan’s comment seems both naive and misplaced.

In 2014 Pell was transferred to Rome to sort out the Vatican’s complex finances, and, many speculated, to get him out of the sewer that is the church’s increasingly sordid and public history of sexual crimes against children.

We are still not done with Pell. He has consistently responded with belligerent denial to allegations of abuse and cover-ups, at one point claiming that the ABC and Victoria Police entered into a conspiracy against him, and furiously demanding an investigation.  Pell also claimed that Victoria Police leaked confidential information in order to denigrate him, when it was clear the information in question came from victims interviewed by media. Pell also blamed numerous priests and bishops who he alleged failed to inform him of the rampant sexual abuse of children occurring on his watch over decades.

It isn’t possible to judge Pell on the question of child sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by him, and currently under consideration by the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions. It is possible, however, to form an opinion of the man based on the manner in which he’s conducted himself throughout the years of the Royal Commission into allegations against catholic clergy, and the cover-ups by the church’s hierarchy that made abuses possible, and ongoing.

The Cardinal’s attitude is not encouraging. At every turn he’s resorted to accusation and blame, in an effort to exonerate himself from all responsibility. If we generously give him the most enormous benefit of the doubt, he must at least be held responsible for what can only have been wilful ignorance, innumerable turnings of a blind eye that resulted in horrific abuse of children over decades, abuse he could have taken steps to prevent.

Instead, Pell appears to have prioritised his own career, and the reputation of the institution that sheltered and promoted him, over the awful suffering of thousands of children. Every single act of sexual abuse affects untold numbers of people, as well as the victim: family, other kids who knew and had to hide their knowledge, friends, possible partners, possible children of victims. The scale of damage as a consequence of every act of sexual abuse is incalculable. George Pell is responsible not only for failing to intervene and protect individual children  when he had the opportunity, but for the consequences and aftermath of the individual child’s experiences.

Thus far Pell has been neither “man enough” nor “priest enough” to face what he has done and the magnitude of the intergenerational repercussions, instead continuing to enjoy the safety and security of the Vatican’s protection while attempting to obfuscate grievances against him by attributing them to anti religious sentiment and political stunts. The man is a scoundrel. That much is clear. The full extent of his scoundrelly has yet to be revealed.

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

 

 

 

Pedophile priests make a mockery of confession

18 Jul

The Victorian inquiry into the handling of child sex abuse by religious groups poses this question in its submission guide: “To what extent should the reporting of suspicions of abuse be circumscribed by laws, customs and ethical codes of religions?”

Currently, the Catholic church regards confession as sacrosanct, and forbids its priests from revealing anything told to them during the performance of the confessional sacrament. Should an offending priest confess that he has raped and or sexually molested a child, his confessor is bound to keep his admission confidential. The priest escapes trial and punishment by the legal system, and is free to continue his criminal practices without fear of discovery and retribution.

No doubt the religious would argue that the mental and emotional anguish of facing the wrath of the sacred is far worse than anything incurred by facing the wrath of the profane. I can imagine suffering such self-inflicted spiritual torment, however my question is, why would anyone consider this punishment enough? Surely the offending priest must be made to face both his God and the wrath of the human world?

I’m reminded of the story of Jesus, who when asked if believers should pay taxes remarked “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God, that which is God’s.” In other words, if you are going to traffic in Caesar’s coin in order to obtain what to you are benefits of some kind, then of course you   must be prepared to pay  Caesar’s taxes. It isn’t too much of a stretch to understand this as advice  on how to deal with far more than taxes. For example, if you are going to indulge yourself in exploiting children for your sexual satisfaction then you must be prepared to accept the human and worldly consequences of your human and worldly activity. You must render unto Caesar’s law that to which the law of Caesar is entitled, as well as answering to your god.

But I’m no theologian, and no doubt someone will tell me I can’t make that extrapolation. To which I would respond, why not?

Quite what punishment is inflicted upon the sexual offender by his confessor remains unknown, also subject to confidentiality . His crimes and his punishments are gilded with the sanctity of the confessional, and he remains unaccountable to any human being.

The Catholic church places its own laws (laws it then ascribes to God) above all else. This is unsatisfactory from any number of perspectives, not least that it places Catholic criminals beyond the reach of the law of the land. As we can see from the sad history of the serial offenders, these men don’t stop raping and sodomizing children, even, presumably, after they’ve confessed their crimes, done whatever the Catholic church regards as adequate penance for their crimes, and accepted forgiveness. They continue to offend against children, and they do it for years and years and years. Confession and penance means less than nothing to them. They make a mockery of their own rituals.

Perhaps they don’t confess their crimes in the first place? We have no way of knowing.

The victims of the pedophile priests are completely ignored. There is no concern for them, no efforts to assist them or rescue them from further rape and exploitation, because under the seal of the confessional, the perpetrator must be completely protected. The perpetrator’s rights to confidential confession trump children’s rights to be safe from sexual attackers. In what universe is this acceptable?

Father Frank Brennan, so far the only prominent Catholic priest to have fronted up to the ABC 7.30 Report to discuss these matters, declared that he would go to jail before revealing anything told to him under the seal of the confessional. Well, let him. Let the jails fill up with priests who’ve raped children, and priests who have protected priests who raped children so that they can continue raping children. I can say with the authority of experience that a few months in jail for Father Brennan or any other priest is as nothing, compared to being a raped child.

Pedophile priests make a mockery of the sanctity of confession, and a mockery of their God. Every priest who protects them adds to this mockery.

If priests continue to choose to put the law of their church before the well-being of children in their care, then jail would seem to me a reasonable outcome. The offences are committed in the spiritual and the human sphere, yet punished only in the spiritual. This is not good enough. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. God is already getting more than his fair share.

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