Rape, possible murder, silencing and hiding of witnesses, corruption, perversion of the course of justice. No, this is not the list of allegations levelled at the Rebels Motorcycle Club by the new national taskforce Aterro which I revealed in The Australian a few weeks back.
No, it’s the accusations raised against the Catholic Church by a range of people including police who have tried to bring justice to the victims of child abuse by priests and other church officials.
That Catholic clergy have preyed upon children is not new. What is new is that police like senior NSW cop Peter Fox are prepared to come out and accuse the church of hindering efforts to prosecute these loathsome individuals. Fox said that the Catholic Church had for decades been involved in actively covering up a pedophile network operating in its ranks.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell announced a special commission of inquiry to look at claims of cover-ups by police and the Catholic Church in the Hunter Valley region of NSW. Fox was outraged saying he wanted a full Royal Commission into abuse by the Catholic Church and its conduct overall. Instead, O’Farrell has picked on a side issue on how the police are handling allegations and the church’s activities in one region, says Fox.
Fox’s rage is understandable and justified. Again, the Catholic Church is set to dodge a bullet. Its systemic perversion of the course of justice will again not be subjected to forensic scrutiny. There will be no national investigation of how they have protected pedophiles by moving them to other parishes or overseas. There will be no examination of the decentralised structure of the church which enables senior leaders to establish plausible deniability when allegations of abuse are claimed.
There was Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell in The Weekend Australian saying that despite being the most senior Catholic figure in Australia he only had direct authority over churches and clergy in his immediate archdiocese. Yet he seemed to have enough knowledge of the rest of the country to say that his church was being unfairly villified. There was not enough evidence to warrant the creation of a royal commission, he said. How does he know that?
One wonders what the church knew of the suspected ring of 10-15 pedophile priests in the St John of God order who are alleged to have abused kids for years in Victoria. The allegations were raised in a Senate inquiry eight years ago but it appears no charges were laid. Instead, St John of God reportedly paid out a total of $3.6 million to 24 men who claimed to have been abused over a 30-year period from the 1950s. Among the allegations are startling claims of the unreported deaths of two boys, one of whom was reportedly thrown down a flight of stairs. How did this happen? How did they escape justice? So many questions, so few answers.
Police claims that the Catholic Church refuses to co-operate with investigations make this business all the more odious. It raises the key question: how has the Church become so emboldened to resist scrutiny? It’s long been said that the Catholic Church has friends in high places. It’s long been whispered that senior politicians and police could be leaned upon to represent the interests of the church. If that is true, nothing less than a Royal Commission into the Catholic Church will do. If Church and State have conspired to protect the activities of criminals then it’s corruption of the most heinous variety. For God’s sake, these are our children. Don’t they deserve better?
It must be put to rest once and for all. Imagine, if this were outlaw bikies accused of the same crimes. There would be no question of limiting inquiries to one state or territory. Why does the Catholic Church get away so lightly? Where is the national taskforce collating evidence from all states of Australia?
There are enough reports of child abuse from all over the world for me to confidently suggest that the Catholic Church is the world’s biggest gang. Gangs operate with their own internal code, placing the welfare of their members above that of the society they operate in. They operate above the law, dispensing justice to their own using opaque internal processes. How is the Catholic Church any different from any other criminal gang in this regard? Somehow we allow the Catholic Church to conduct their own internal investigations and pay off the victims. There is no scrutiny of how these inquiries are conducted and the church effectively buys the silence of victims. This is a rich and powerful organisation that will continue to act in its own self-interest until the system changes. A Royal Commission is the only proper way to resolve this and ultimately the only way for the church to retain any moral authority whatsoever. There are many, many good priests in the Catholic Church but they are tainted by the bad ones and the hierarchy which is prepared at best to do little and at worst to protect and harbour criminals.