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Reckoning: The Catholic Church and Child Sexual Abuse

Chris McGillion
Damian Grace
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: ATF (Australia) Ltd.
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has focused more public attention on the Catholic Church in Australia than on any other organisation subject to this investigation. It is a cathartic moment for the Church. Public disillusionment and a deep distrust within the community about the way the Church has handled clerical sexual abuse cases could prove more damaging – or more transformative – than any findings from the Commission itself. This book examines the public discussion around the child abuse issue and its construction as a problem of Catholicism. It considers what the Australian Catholic response to the greatest crisis in its history will mean in the long term for: • the Australian Church’s credibility, • the reputation of its schools, hospitals and welfare organizations, • and for its future cultural and political influence.

    eISBN: 978-1-921511-36-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xvi)

    The Catholic Church is the largest and most significant religious organisation in Australia. In the 2011 Census, almost five and a half million Australians identified themselves as Catholic—close to twenty-four percent of the total population and more than the number of Anglicans, Uniting Church members and Baptists combined. The Catholic Church is the biggest employer in the country aside from government. It educates one-fifth of the country’s primary and secondary school students, runs several institutions of higher education, is a major provider of health services, aged care and welfare, and for the past 100 years has been one of...

  2. 1 Awakening
    (pp. 1-24)

    In October 1984 a priest from the Diocese of Lafayette in the State of Louisiana, USA, was indicted on eleven counts of aggravated crimes against nature, eleven counts of committing sexually immoral acts with minors, one count of aggravated rape on a boy under the age of twelve years, and eleven counts of crimes involving the photographing of juveniles for the purposes of pornography. Father Gilbert Gauthie, who was eventually convicted and served ten years of a twenty year sentence, was the first widely publicised clerical sex offender in the United States and the first to be brought to trial....

  3. 2 Reined In
    (pp. 25-48)

    It is a common assumption among many people that the Catholic Church is a tightly structured and highly disciplined organisation in which all local personnel are directly answerable to bishops who are in turn strictly accountable to the pope, who holds ‘supreme, full, and immediate power in the universal Church’.¹ This power is administered through the central governing body of the Church, the Roman Curia. Each congregation that makes up the Curia constitutes a department with jurisdiction over specific matters including doctrine and faith, bishops, clergy, Catholic education, and worship and the sacraments. In turn, the work of these congregations...

  4. 3 Flashpoint
    (pp. 49-74)

    Throughout 2000 and 2001 the issue of clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church largely slid off the centre of media radar screens. Isolated cases involving allegations and/or convictions still kept the issue simmering, as did occasional stories of much wider abuse scandals involving the Church in the US, Canada and Europe. But there were reasons to believe the worst was over in Australia. TheTowards Healingprocedures for dealing with complaints, as well as the separate process introduced in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, had been in operation for some time. Few people knew aboutTowards Understandingand its shelving...

  5. 4 Open Season
    (pp. 75-110)

    When Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox alleged on Australian ABC television, in November 2012, that his investigations into clergy abuse in the Hunter region of NSW had been obstructed, there was huge media pressure not only on New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell but also on the Australian Federal Government to intervene. In MelbourneThe Agethundered:

    Enough is enough. How much more evidence of child-sex crimes by clergy is needed before a royal commission is launched? . . . There is abundant evidence not only of these cruel and despicable crimes, but that the Catholic Church has long been...

  6. 5 Reckoning
    (pp. 111-132)

    The Catholic Church has a tendency to live down to the expectations of its critics. In 2001, at the very time that Pope John Paul II ordered a review ofCrimen Sollicitationisto modernise its norms, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was instructing bishops to report child abuse to police and his congregation, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, wrote to Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux-Lisieux congratulating him for not denouncing a paedophile priest to civil authorities. Not only that, but Pican permitted Father René...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 133-142)

    The history of cruelty to children in the care of institutions is shocking, yet only five decades ago, such cruelty was commonplace. There was too little appreciation of the impact of the life-long suffering on the victim, and too much confidence in children’s resilience to abuse. Schools, for example, administered corporal punishment not only for infractions but also to get pupils to learn and even to motivate them to high achievement. The injunction in the Book of Proverbs not to spare the rod lest the child be spoiled was one applied in state as well as religious schools. Orphanages and...