John Lilburne's journal about an editorial in The Austrlian newspaper "Church must tackle abuse out in the open".



About John Lilburne







0959 L Fri 11 Jan 2002

The editorial in The Australian today has the headline: Church must tackle abuse out in the open. Here are some extracts:

... Of more concern, however, is the indirect pressure the edict will place on victims to use the Pope's preferred process rather than the police. ...

Sadly, existing laws do not even compel church officials to report any suspicion of sexual abuse to the police or child welfare authorities. .... The arguments are strong to force church officials as well to report all allegations of abuse. ...

It concludes:

We need much greater reassurance that this papal edict for a secretive, in-house process to tackle pedophilia is not just a clever way to avoid the legal sanctions applying elsewhere. No church is above the law.

The essential point that the anomyous editorial writer seems to miss is that only the Catholic Church decides who is a priest. The Church does this through its procedures, imposing as a penalty "loss of the clerical state." Civil authorities throughout the world imprison priests for what they regard as crimes. But they do not stop someone being a priest. So the Catholic Church needs to have a process for this.

I expect the Vatican has too good a memory of witch trials and show trials to be concerned about slurs of a "secretive, in-house process". Fortunately in Australia there is a "transparent, accountable justice system". But the Pope gives instructions to bishops throughout the world. It is appropriate that his instruction is silent about the involvement of civil authorities, leaving that to the judgement of bishops in various countries.

I am reminded about a line by Humphrey Appleby in Yes Minister. I think the episode had the title "Open Government":

Either you can be open, or you can be a government.

There are needs for secrecy. Particularly with regard to allegations of child abuse. But the editorial writer seems to think it would be appropriate to punish priests who refuse to be police informers.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne 11 January 2002.

Links to other sites:

The Australian editorial "Church must tackle abuse out in the open"