ANOTHER week in Australia, another round of ‘outrage,’ ‘growing calls’ (invariably on Twitter) and vilification of anybody who isn’t favoured by the country’s noisy and histrionic mobs. We have already dealt with one of the new year’s most disgraceful examples: feminists wanting Bettina Arndt “stripped” of her Order of Australia. On Thursday I discussed how other leftists want Margaret Court’s name “stripped” from the tennis arena named in her honour. Somebody should write a paper on the deeper implications of such violent hate speech, akin as it is to a rapist’s. Women who refuse to toe the line are to be stripped, ritually humiliated and ostracised. Australian feminists sound increasingly like ISIS mols policing a camp for captured ‘brides.’
By contrast, Chrissie Foster’s outrage is substantive. In the 1990s, her two daughters were sexually abused by Melbourne priest Fr Kevin O’Donnell; both girls suffered indescribable anguish and injury as a result. One of them, Emma, later committed suicide. On sexual abuse and the Church’s past failure to deal with monsters like O’Donnell, she is entitled to an open mike in any forum. This week, however, she reiterated arguments made in The Australian earlier this month about the traditional “Red Mass” for the legal fraternity held at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Tuesday. Mrs Foster says judges and lawyers should not associate themselves with Archbishop Peter Comensoli – whom she likened to a notorious criminal – or a church whose priests declare they will not obey new laws forcing them to report sexual abuse revealed during sacramental confession. I dealt with these hateful laws in November. Samuel J did so here (brilliantly) in 2012. Chrissie Foster:
There is in fact no evidence that McArdle’s claims were true and they weren’t accepted as credible by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. If anything, the McArdle case exemplifies the uselessness of such laws. McArdle swore the statement about having confessed his crimes 1500 times as part of a plea-bargain to reduce his prison term. His priest-dobbing was an easy way to establish (false) bona fides for remorse and cooperation. Added benefits for the criminal – and, by definition, such an informant (to police) will always be a criminal – are that authorities will tend to believe him, that he can spread the blame to others (always appealing to sociopaths) and that his story will be utterly unprovable. Mrs Foster’s adamant belief in the necessity of compulsory reporting of sacramentally confessed abuse is both ill-founded and anachronistic. Preponderantly, clerical sexual assaults are now historical crimes. As I wrote last year, these new laws haven’t been passed to protect children; their sole purpose is to incite hatred of Catholics. Mrs Foster’s second error is her probably innocent acceptance of wilfully popularised statistical legerdemain:
Not true. The Royal Commission established nothing of the sort. During most of the twentieth century, the Catholic Church ran more schools, orphanages, hospitals and institutions of social welfare than most of the other denominations combined. In absolute terms, it isn’t surprising that instances of abuse – alleged and established – are more copious in the history of the Catholic Church in the key investigative period of 1950 to 1989. Proportionately, however, ministers and personnel of the Uniting Church (including its antecedents) were easily the worst offenders in this criminal category. That’s according to the Royal Commission’s own statistics. As Gerard Henderson points out, “a child was safer in a Catholic institution than a Uniting Church institution any time after 1950.” That the absolute figure should have been promoted bereft of historical and mathematical context is not surprising. The Royal Commission and the media had no desire to make headlines at the expense of the Uniting Church – formerly the Australian Democrats at prayer – let alone at the expense of the ghosts of Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists past.
“Disgraced priests of yesteryear do not constitute the Church and do not encapsulate the spirituality of a people or a place.”
Neither personally nor as a writer do I believe in stridently rebutting victims of monstrous crimes. Mrs Foster and her late husband Anthony worked passionately for the betterment of children’s safety. What they were put through might be described as unspeakable were it not for the fact that the perpetrator and his enablers should not escape being spoken about, as once they would have. That silence was the crime-honoured sine qua non for persisting in their depravities. Like I said, I don’t see prudence or respect in correcting them when they’re born-of-righteous-anger wrong. But only up to a point. Mrs Foster held a banner describing St Patrick’s as a “crime scene” at a protest gathering this week. That was beneath her. The Cathedral is a haven for Catholic everyman and everywoman; a place of inspiration, desperation, refuge, connection, healing and grace. Disgraced priests of yesteryear do not constitute the Church and do not encapsulate the spirituality of a people or a place. Nor is there any merit in Mrs Foster’s plea for lawyers to banish from their culture the enlightening Christian wisdom expressed to them at the Red Mass. The world has seen that bifurcation before. It ends in the jurisprudential enthronement of man himself and the Reign of Terror. From cathedras and benches both, let us prefer instead the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.