Tag Archives: Royal Commission

A win for the citizens, a fail for the government

2 Aug

Turnbull zips it


There’s currently not much from which one might take heart in politics (is there ever?) however, the replacing of Brian Martin as the single commissioner in the Northern Territory Royal Commission into  atrocities against Aboriginal children, perpetrated at the Don Dale facility, is a flickering candle in the current dark night of the citizen soul.

What this development says to me is that there are individuals who will not bend to the will of the LNP federal government, individuals who will listen to discontent and outrage expressed in the community and respond to that, rather than lick the sticky fundaments of our liberal overlords.

Mr Martin had personal reasons as well, which is fair enough. It was clear from the announcement of his commission that he was the wrong man for the job, optically speaking, and Brian Martin is aware of the power of optics to bring a man entirely undone. No matter what, he was never going to come out of that gig unscathed.

I’m not going to do it, he informed Malcolm Turnbull and George Brandis (perhaps not using precisely that arrangement of words, I wasn’t there) leaving them egg-faced, their decisive agile nimble and innovative solution to the Don Dale outrage steaming and useless as a puddle of piss in a snow bank.

There have been rumblings from various elites that no “eminent” Australian will agree to perform public service if this capitulating to the will of the masses keeps up. Cry me a river.

Compare the actions of Brian Martin with those of Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon, who led then PM Tony Abbott’s witch hunt of Bill Shorten via the infamous Trade Union Royal Commission. Heydon became and remains a laughing-stock (all those vacuum cleaner jokes) an obedient slave of the right-wing of the LNP. His Royal Commission produced little of note, and didn’t unduly trouble Shorten. Perhaps Mr Martin noted Heydon’s fate.

The Royal Commission will now be headed by Mick Gooda and Margaret White, a far more satisfactory arrangement.

We probably don’t need too much more evidence of Turnbull’s incompetence, but true to his long-term policy of giving us what we don’t need, the PM keeps up supply.

Social media must be given some credit for the reconstitution of the Northern Territory Royal Commission. Complain about Twitter all you like: there’s no getting away from the fact that public opinion is conveyed so widely and so forcefully through its use, that politicians and elites who ignore the platform do so at their peril.

The resignation of Brian Martin, and the appointment of an Indigenous man and a former Queensland Supreme Court judge is a win for citizens over the disastrously inadequate decision of the LNP government. Take heart.

In which Pell crosses to the other side of the road

4 Mar

Good Samaritan

He Qi: The Good Samaritan


Over the last few days of his questioning at the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, Cardinal George Pell demonstrated the opposite of what his saviour, Jesus Christ, taught about helping those in need. Pell has proved himself to be about as far from the Good Samaritan as it is possible to get:

Luke 10:25-37 New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

In his lack of action on the sexual abuse of children that occurred under his nose, Pell took the position of the Levite and the priest in the parable, and crossed to the other side of the road. Pell didn’t perceive it to be his in his job description that he was required to take any action on their behalf, or indeed, to even acquaint himself with the nature of the abuses to which they were subjected.

It is a powerful indictment of the Catholic church globally that such a man is reputedly the third “most important” member of it.

This church obsessively occupies itself with what it perceives as the sins of homosexuality, abortion and still, in some parts of the world, the sin of contraception. Yet it is, apparently, incapable of adequately acknowledging and addressing the crimes against humanity committed under its aegis, on the bodies and minds of children in its care.

I’m not a follower of religion, but the above biblical extract seems to me to apply to anyone, not simply “believers” who imagine rewards in an afterlife. This is what makes Jesus interesting: so much of what he reportedly stated is basic decency. It is on this level that Pell is an abysmal failure, and that failure is compounded by his life’s dedication to a religious organisation founded on belief in Christ’s teachings.

For all his learning, for all the masses he has and will continue to celebrate and participate in, Cardinal Pell has failed on the most fundamental level of human decency. He’s crossed to the other side of the road when he saw a child enduring dreadful suffering, not once but innumerable times. This shepherd showed absolutely no mercy to the most vulnerable in his flock.

He could have done otherwise. Had he spoken out, he almost certainly would not be the third most important catholic in the world. But he might be a decent human being.

I think we can all guess at what Jesus would have said to the Cardinal, and it wouldn’t have been, good chap, you followed canon law to the letter.

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

29 Feb



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.




Hollingworth’s cowardice on display again

10 Nov



Last week, barrister Caroline Kirton QC approached the solicitor for BSG, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and witness at the child sex abuse royal commission, to change his testimony to remove all references to her client, former Governor-General Peter Hollingworth.

Kirton’s request that BSG alter his statement would “amount to having removed every reference to the name Hollingworth from my statement and she requested that I do that and submit that as my amended statement” BSG told the royal commission.

Peter Hollingworth was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, Australian of the Year and a Governor-General appointed by former LNP Prime Minister John Howard. Hollingworth resigned as Governor-General after accusations that he failed to act on child sexual abuse crimes in his diocese, and claims that he had sexually assaulted a woman in the 1960’s.

Phillip Aspinall, Hollingworth’s successor as archbishop, ordered an inquiry, which concluded that in 1993, Hollingworth had allowed a known paedophile to continue working as a priest.

It’s a tribute to the courage and fortitude of survivor and witness BSG that he wasn’t intimidated by Kirton’s approach, instead revealing to the royal commission her attempts to persuade him to change his statement to protect her client from further public scrutiny.

Kirton clearly underestimated BSG, or she wouldn’t have made the approach in the first place. Rather than hosing things down for Hollingworth, this act of cowardice only serves to strengthen the perception of the former archbishop as weak, and interested in protecting himself and his church, before the children in its charge.

Hollingworth was in a position to protect victims of sexual assault from predators on his watch. He failed to do that. Yet he now feels entitled to request protection from the shame further public scrutiny of his failure will cause him and his family, and he feels he is entitled to request this protection from a survivor of his failures.

If only Hollingworth and many others like him in positions of power in various churches and other institutions that offered paedophiles a safe haven, had even a fraction of the courage and strength of BSG and other witnesses and survivors, thousands of children could have been spared the ordeal of sexual assault and the devastating consequences of those assaults on their lives. Many who have died might still be alive. This is the responsibility Hollingworth bears, of having the power to protect children, and failing to exercise it.

If the ordeal of shame, humiliation and disgraced resignation have been difficult for Hollingworth to bear, to the degree that he needs to attempt to silence a survivor’s testimony to protect him from any further exposure, he might spare a thought for the suffering of the young who were abused by the paedophile he allowed to continue on his path of violence and destruction, when he could have acted quite differently, and spared them.



Cardinal spin

14 Nov

Happier times: Abbott & Pell breaking bread

In his press conference yesterday, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell gave a compelling display of belligerent bafflement as he wrangled with reality to spin his institution’s appalling record of child sexual abuse as a smear campaign by the media against the church.

It is all an exaggeration, the Cardinal protested, a breathtakingly disingenuous stance given the church’s record in the Hunter Valley alone, which goes something like this:  Four hundred known victims. Eleven clergy tried and convicted since 1995. Six Catholic teachers convicted since 1995. Three priests currently on trial. First priest charged this year with concealing the crimes of another. Twelve priests involved in compensation claims. 

As the conference progressed it became increasingly clear that a significant reason  for Pell supporting the proposed Royal Commission is because he believes it will exonerate the church by proving its clergy are no worse than any other institution’s employees when it comes to sexually assaulting children. “We are not the only cab on the rank,” the Cardinal huffily claimed, and went on to demand that the police check their stats and tell us just how many of the total complaints of child sexual abuse received are made against the Catholic church, because that’s the only way the church will get any justice and by gods, the church deserves justice, for the church has been persecuted.

It is an indication of the morally parlous state the Catholic church is in, if George Pell is its most senior member, and the best spokesperson they can come up with. The man obviously has no grasp of the magnitude of the problem and is blinded by his loyalty not to his god, but to his institution. If ever there was a time a bloke should ask himself what would Jesus say, this is it for the Cardinal.

Just what the Royal Commission will achieve is an unknown, however what the promise of a commission has already achieved is validation of the suffering of survivors of institutional childhood sexual abuse. The offences against them are being acknowledged as serious enough to warrant outrage, and there is overwhelming support for a public accounting.

There is another group of survivors, of whom I am one, who are the victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by family, friends and acquaintances. For many of us there is no hope of justice, and we have had to learn to live with this reality. I am deeply relieved that institutional sexual abuse is finally receiving the scrutiny it deserves, because my life experience is also validated by this acknowledgement, even though my story can’t be told within a commission’s terms of reference, and the perpetrator and his enablers can’t be held accountable. I want to see a profound cultural change in attitudes towards the sexual abuse of children, and I believe we are on the way at last. This is grounds enough for rejoicing.

If the Australian Catholic church wants to get on board with this change, they first need to get rid of George Pell as their leader. His sickening whining is a disgrace. Pell is yet another example of the angry ageing Anglo male who just doesn’t get it. Like the rest of his ilk, he’s a boil on the arse of progress.

Pell claims a “disproportionate attack on the church”

12 Nov

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, today claimed that calls for a royal commission into the sexual abuse of children by priests and brothers  are a “disproportionate attack on the church.”

Pell goes on to claim that the Catholic church is not the only culprit, or the only community producing culprits, and that the sordid history of coverups, removal of offenders from one school, parish, diocese or state to another is no indication of a systemic failing in the church.

If this widespread protection of sexual offenders isn’t an indication of systemic moral and criminal collapse, I’d like to know what is.

There is no doubt that the Catholic church is not the only culprit, and that sexual abuse of children occurs in other institutions and indeed, within families and friendship circles. I fail to see why this tragic reality is an argument for letting the Catholic church off the hook. “He did it too” is hardly a rational justification for avoiding investigation.

The phrase “disproportionate attack” is an apt description not of proposed moves against the Catholic church, but of the crimes perpetrated by its priests and brothers against children. Cardinal Pell continues to confirm suspicions in the wider society that he just doesn’t get it. His priority is his church, not the children who suffered abuse perpetrated by members of the church community.

Given the nature of these attacks, their prevalence, and their disastrous long-term effects on the lives of victims, it is hard to imagine how any “attack” on the Catholic church could be seen as “disproportionate” to the crimes it has allowed to be committed, unchecked, for decades.

Indeed, I would argue the Church is not being “attacked” at all, rather it is being called to account for these crimes. This accounting may well go on for some time, and may well increase in its rigour. However, nothing that is done to the Church or its hierarchy will come anywhere near the damage and havoc created in the lives of victims and their families.

Sexual abuse of a child is a crime. Anyone who sexually abuses a child is a criminal. Anyone who covers up the crime is also a criminal. George Pell continues his efforts to minimise the role of the Church in enabling circumstances in which a network of criminal pedophiles could continue their vile practices for years. He does this because his loyalty is to his church, not to his God, who according to scriptures would see anyone who offends a little one tossed into the sea with a millstone round his neck.

George Pell’s loyalty and devotion is to an institution, an institution that appears increasingly corrupt in its convoluted efforts to avoid legal scrutiny, and increasingly divorced from the passionate ideals of its prophet, Jesus.

As Leonard Cohen puts it: “It was you who built the temple, it was you who covered up my face…”

What is “disproportionate” is the Catholic church’s resistance to a Royal Commission. What is “disproportionate” are protests by the like of Joe Hockey, Bill Shorten and others who attempt to conceal their objections to a royal commission behind a faux concern for the church’s victims. In so doing, they contribute to the repression and suppression that has allowed these crimes to continue, unchecked. Victims of child sexual abuse live with the consequences for the rest of their lives. Silence and denial are not their friends. Transparency  and accountability won’t entirely take away the pain, but they will go a long way towards easing the torments of life after childhood sexual abuse.


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