By MIA FREEDMAN
Is there any crime more heinous than child abuse? If there is, I don’t want to know about it.
Legally, every Australian who suspects or knows about a case of child abuse is required by law to report it to the police.
Unless you’re a Catholic priest and someone tells you about child abuse in the confessional, in which case you’re totally free to do nothing.
No need to mention it.
Even if the abuse is still occurring.
Even if a child – or children – are in danger of further abuse.
Even if a child’s life has been destroyed and nobody is able to help them because they are too frightened, ashamed and traumatised by the abuse to say anything.
Priests are not bound by the same laws as the rest of society – including doctors, teachers and counsellors. So the church is effectively a safehouse for pedophiles who can ‘confess’ to their crimes and receive absolution without consequence.
They are then free to re-offend. Their secrets – their CRIMES – will always be kept away from authorities. They will be protected.
Surely, this is madness.
And never has this madness been highlighted so clearly as this week, when it became clear that child abuse in the Catholic Church has been so systemic over such a long period of time and has been so well covered up by so many individuals, that the Government has been forced to announce a Royal Commission into child sex abuse.
While Julia Gillard has been politically careful to point out that the parameters of the Royal Commission are more far-reaching than just the Catholic Church (it will also look into child abuse in all institutions including schools, community groups, foster homes etc), make no mistake: this is about the Church and the literal get-out-of-jail free card they wield when it comes to protecting paedophiles.
Watching Cardinal George Pell’s press conference yesterday – the same day yet another Catholic brother was arrested in NSW for child sex offenses – was an exercise in trying not to yell at the TV.
I was struck by the sight and sound of an old, arrogant man, woefully out of touch with public attitudes towards child abuse, a man who was desperately trying to justify the ongoing and systemic crimes that have been allowed to flourish within the Church he runs.