Relevant to the old TAC story

I have just been given the heads-up about Archbishop Hepworth’s old nemesis, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide. He has been charged with alleged cover-up of abuse by another priest, Jim Fletcher, in the 1970s, and may face up to two years’ jail.

To be fair to institutional churches, our British Establishment is full of this stuff, from the BBC to the big political personalities of the 1960’s to the 1980’s. The tighter the squeeze, the more the rot comes oozing out! Time are a-changing…

Well, perhaps my former Archbishop will convince someone that he was abused and will get rehabilitated as a priest in the Ordinariate or in some Australian diocese. I keep an open mind…

* * *

Excursus: here’s another bit of this kind of stuff from last year: Abuse cover-up inquiry: whistleblower found to be an unsatisfactory witness. Where there’s muck, there’s brass, as we say up in Yorkshire. It’s all so bloody revolting. The world needs a hard reboot!

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8 Responses to Relevant to the old TAC story

  1. Stephen K says:

    Father, I think it is useful to know firstly that there have been three Inquiries into sexual abuse in recent years in Australia: the first was a Parliamentary inquiry into institutional abuse in the state of Victoria; the second was a special commission of inquiry, established by the state government of New South Wales, specifically into matters concerning the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle – Archbishop Wilson’s charges appear, so I gather, to have arisen out of that inquiry; the third is a Royal Commission into institutional responses to abuse, established by the Commonwealth (i.e. Federal) government, which is ongoing. To gain an accurate view of the complexion of the problem, a helpful course is to read the transcripts of the hearings into the various case studies, an example being here at http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-study/bb3eaadf-9283-41ef-9694-e560738d186a/case-study-14,-june-2014,-sydney.aspx

    It is also probably useful to point out that although the central focus is rightly placed on the responsibilities of senior officials in institutions to report, address and remedy abuse – and there are repeated examples of bishops and superiors who failed in this (and the book “Potiphar’s Wife” http://www.amazon.com/Potiphars-Wife-Vaticans-Secret-Sexual/dp/192151146X puts recent Popes in the picture of complicity) – from what appears so far to have been reported in the press, the charges against Archbishop Wilson relate to an alleged failure by him as a 24 year old not long after his ordination, and not by him in his later capacity as a bishop. Indeed, the Royal Commission transcripts to which I have linked readers above show, amongst other things, the efforts by +Wilson, as bishop of Wollongong, to deal with abuse in his diocese, and the difficulties Canon Law and Vatican processes caused him in trying to do so.

    The papers appear to be emphasising that it is because +Wilson is a senior churchman that charges of this kind are significant, and it may – I don’t know myself – be the case that no other bishop has so far been similarly charged by civil authorities. But, to my reading of the story, it seems more significant – and a greater warning – that the charges relate to an alleged failure by a junior or rank-and-filer. In other words, the real message appears to be that no-one, no matter how low down in the pecking order, is off the hook when it comes to the responsibility to report crimes. Which means we all have to be vigilant, or, to put it another way, we all have to ‘watch out’!

    That’s all I wanted to say, for, in matters of this kind, the courts have the role of finding out the truth. But it’s important for lay-readers to flesh out the headlines on such things.

    • Stephen K says:

      By way of synopsis, since I know that most people will not end up actually reading “Potiphar’s Wife”, let me simply say that the author is a former trainee for the Roman priesthood who left just before priestly ordination in the mid-1960s. He went on to have a successful and respected career as a lawyer and judge. His thesis is that with the changes to Canon Law in 1922, the Church’s historical practice of committing abusive clergy to the legal processes of the State was replaced by the Pontifical secret, which effectively imposed silence on the hierarchy wherever abuse and related crimes occurred within their knowledge. The significance of his thesis – i.e. the elephant-in-the-room – is that although bishops and religious superiors must bear responsibility in their own right for any acts of concealment “for the good (bella figura) of the Church”, it is ultimately the Pope(s) and the Vatican establishment that must be roped into not merely complicity but directive responsibility.

      To understand this thesis is to understand why it is not merely canonical or institutional practice that must be changed, but the Roman “ecclesiology” (theology of Church) at its foundation that has to be jettisoned. This is going to be one hell of a struggle, internally speaking. It may not come to pass. But, if we remember the point of Psalm 50 (51), it is God that matters, not the “Church” per se as we have been taught to accept or may have experienced it.

      A difficult subject indeed. I think we each have to confront it and deal with, as we each see best and most honestly, in our own conscience. But deal with it we each must. As a human organisational principle it may be that the “smaller the better” may apply here, but those not affiliated with the Roman church should also beware of complacency. We all stand equal in God’s eyes.

  2. Stephen K says:

    It’s all so bloody revolting. The world needs a hard reboot!

    Father, I’ve been thinking about this statement. The world may need a reboot but it has almost certainly needed a reboot at any given time of its existence, surely. Or, alternatively, it has not needed a reboot, but we all do. The fact is that it is a miracle that we can still be shocked or disgusted by different things, meaning that our moral sensibilities have not become completely jaded. So there is hope yet.

    The other thing is that we need to be realist about a lot of things. People in power – at all levels – have been buggering and exploiting and enslaving and torturing the weaker probably since soon after we came down from the trees and started being “human”. People have been lying, cheating, stealing, hurting others through excess of egotism and mal-developed personality for a long time: it is certainly true that, thanks to modern technology, we just hear about it more, and more frequently.

    Perhaps some periods are more repressed than others and less ‘stuff’ happens, but those periods may turn out to have been periods when general oppressions of other kinds have held sway, and as our dear friend, ed pacht, often suggests, it is folly to prefer one age to another: we have to deal with our own.

    The thing is that human progress is a series of skin-shedding: once we lose the old, we can never go back. Evolution is no longer at the level of the articulate thumb but in our brains. However one might deplore modern modes, one must recognise that the very fact that one can distinguish the modern from the non-modern, means it is too late to ever think of the non-modern as normal. It’s all to do with self-consciousness, which changes ever so finely our perspectives.

    The best thing going for Christianity at the moment in my view is the relentless exposure of its exponents’ flaws and hypocrisies by the non-believer; for it is only in the destruction and disillusionment of any pretence at worldly power and self-aggrandisement that there is hope that Christians can be free to see the nature of the kingdom Jesus presaged, to see that it is not burnt sacrifices but humbled, contrite hearts that will not be spurned [Ps 50 (51): 16-17)].

    • Stephen K says:

      In my post above, I have referenced my dear co-reader, ed pacht. It is important for my co-readers-at-large to know that I know that ed does not often agree with me although I find much wisdom in what ed says, and find myself agreeing with him on many things he actually says. So, I wish my co-readers to know that in referencing ed, I do not wish it to be thought that he agrees with anything I have said, unless he explicitly says he does. However, what he has said on more than one occasion about the relativity of our own existential circumstances was very consonant with what I wished to say.

      • ed pacht says:

        Why thank you! ‘Tis true that I don’t often agree with Stephen’s conclusions, but I do like the way his mind works. I thoroughly enjoy a good conversation with someone who both thinks and listens. I hope I am at least somewhat like that.

  3. Stephen K says:

    The tighter the squeeze, the more the rot comes oozing out! Time are a-changing…

    This dovetails nicely with my earlier point: like an infected sore, we have to apply pain to get the pus out. The exposure by secular institutes of Church secret sins is medicine. The rot must indeed come out. When one confronts a rotten piece of timber in the wall, it has to come out, and be replaced with a new piece. There is rot within us all, and Lent is a time to help us remember it. But we can be renewed, and Lent is a time to remember that as well.

    So, the rot of corruption, hypocrisy and abuse and deceit that plagues the Church as much as any secular power centre, has to be replaced, but it must happen in the minds and hearts of people. Bishops and Popes and Patriarchs etc have to wake up one morning – just like the rest of us – and see that in the mirror are weak, figures no better than the rest. They have to detach themselves from their self-concept – just like the rest of us – and eschew their love of titles and finery. unto dust we all shall return.

  4. Stephen K says:

    …..from the BBC to the big political personalities of the 1960’s to the 1980’s.

    This is another rich vein for reflection. It is however possibly misleading, insofar as it might suggest that this particular rot is confined to those decades. As the Australian experience shows, known abuse complaints or incidents went back to the 1940s. This does not mean anything less than that incidents before the 1940s are largely unknown, principally, if not exclusively, because complainants are dead. It is not a phenomenon of liberalism or modernism but of man wherever he has unbridled or unchallenged power. The veil of convention hung over all sorts of human cruelty and depravity where sheer fear did not. The revealing of this scandal, this scar, may turn out to be the very salvation of Christianity – and Christians – although this remains in doubt whilesoever there is the least resistance to the rightful exposure. For, more than any kind of theological polemic, the exposure of the fallibility and frailty and flaw in every human and institution persuades of the arrogance and futility of any assertion of the possession of truth or virtue.

    Thank you, Father. I find your article a very apt source for meditation at this time.

    • I was quite struck by this documentary – France from an English point of view:

      The big concern is being ruled by non-elected elites, and the problem is present everywhere in the western world. Every time this happens in history with one kind of aristocracy or another, the guillotine works overtime! We seem to be approaching another one of those historical watersheds.

      I see this whole thing as something much vaster than simple sexual abuse. We have to live for after the Revolution!

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