About John Lilburne
1702 L Wed 20 Feb 2002
There has been lots in the media about the Australian Governor
General, Peter Hollingworth, in the past few days. He was the
Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane before becoming the Governor
General, the Queen's representative in Australia.
The editorial in The Australian begins:
The betrayal of trust in sexual abuse involving clergymen
is even more severe than it is in other cases. Priests are supposed
to offer moral guidance and pastoral care. They are not expected
to exploit their position of spiritual authority for sexual gratification
that is not only morally wrong, but is also a criminal offence.
Particular concerns are expressed about his comments on ABC
TV's Australian Story on Monday night:
... But was he up to it five years later, when he was approached
by a woman who claimed she ahd been abused by a priest (who went
on to be appointed bishop) when she was 14? It is difficult to
accept the extraordinary Lolita defence Dr Hollingworth offered
on behalf of the priest on Australian Story, in which
he shifted blame for the "relationship" on to the girl,
and excused a priest for having sex with a minor. Speaking as
Governor-General, he portrayed the unnamed young girl as a sexual
aggressor, provocateur, or worse. And he appeared to justify
the priest's behaviour on the implication that she led him on
-- and because the "relationship resumed" many years
later. Perhaps Dr Hollingworth was acting on the instruction
of his legal advisers. Yet, in admitting the girl was "under
the age of consent", then going on to deny sexual abuse
took place, he certainly appeared to reject the law of the land,
which says having sex with a girl below the age of 16 is illegal.
"My belief is that this was not sex abuse, there was no
suggestion of rape or anything like that, quite the contrary.
My information is rather that it was the other way round,"
he said. And whose information is that? Apparently the information
of his fellow man of the cloth, who says he wasn't sure if the
girl was 16 or not. ...
It is disturbing stuff. I have been reading the entry on government
in the 1972 World Book. It includes:
... The earliest test of authority was whether a government
had enough physical force to rule -- the principle of "might
is right." Later, monarchs claimed to rule by the will of
God. They pointed to the principle of "the divine right
of kings," the basis of many governments for hundreds of
years. In most countries today, the test of authority, sometimes
called the legitimacy, of a government is whether it is
based on the consent of the governed. The principle of "consent
of the governed" is the basic rule of democratic government.
In the last week in Australia there have been revelations
that have diminished the "consent of the governed".
Not just the Governor General, but government ministers, high
level public servants and Australian Defence Force officers.
Lent seems an appropriate time for this to be happening. There
is lots in the Bible about forgiveness, such as yesterday's Gospel.
Jesus taught: "if you forgive others their failings, your
heavenly Father will forgive you yours" (Matthew 6:15).
But the Catechism of the Catholic Church also teaches about
2266. The State's effort to contain the spread of behaviors
injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil
coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the
common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty
to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime.
The primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused
by the offense. When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by
the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment,
in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons,
has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute
to the correction of the offender.[Cf. Lk 23:40-43
Cardinal George's Column of 17 February 2002 discusses the
importance of finance, but says:
... The most important oversight exercised by the Church,
therefore, is not over money but over the faith itself and over
the lives of those who identify themselves as believers. This
oversight is not always welcome. Some resent being called sinners,
but when pastoral oversight and charitable concern for others
falters, lives are sooner or later, in this life or the next,
brought to destruction. When pastors are careless or negligent
or themselves trapped in sin, then something other than faith
integrates the lives of those given to their care: greed, lust,
ambition for power, self-righteous pride. ...
I admire the courage and professionalism of those who have
drawn attention to the failings and hope further action will
be taken that will contribute to the correction of them.
Copyright J.R. Lilburne 20 February 2002. Last updated
5 March 2002.
Links to other sites:
in The Australian "Hollingworth must consult his conscience"
George's Column of 17 February 2002
Story transcript on Monday 18 February 2002