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At a time when the far right bitter middle aged white Catholic men in Canberra are pushing for religious freedom protection in response to the passing of marriage equality, the 5 year royal commission into institutional child sex abuse in Australia concluded it's long task. Despite investigating many institutions, the inquiry became an investigation into the Catholic church; why had it produced so many paedophiles, and why had the church protected them? The commission revealed that 7% of Catholic priests were paedophiles, the Catholic church numbering 60% of all complaints against religious bodies, and the church was designed to keep it out of the hands of the police/secular authorities.
The push for "religious freedoms" post marriage equality is a challenge to current anti-discrimination law. It is against the law for a commercial business to deny service to gay people because they're gay, period. Yet the far right wants to overthrow those laws in the name of religion, giving people a legal right to refuse service to David and I because we're gay. Such religious privilege would be a huge blow to our civil rights and put us back decades. It would again make us unequal under the law.
The church wants to be a law to themselves operating outside the secular state. The Catholic church considers itself above the law, the law of Rome having the final say.
So how's that worked out then?
But when I began reporting the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse I could see evidence everywhere in the squalid history of the Catholic church’s part in the abuse of children – evidence from around the world – that the only law that really counted here was the law of Rome.It gave us an institution that produced paedophiles, and protected them for it's own self interest. Church law was to not allow secular authorities deal with these crimes, leaving it to internal processes within the Catholic church itself. We now have the legacy of that uncovered in this damning royal commission. It has been the most thorough and long investigation into the Catholic church in the world. It's findings are horrifying, which I won't go into here.
Across the world the church hid paedophile priests and snubbed their victims. Whether in Buenos Aires or Berlin or Ballarat, the story was absolutely the same. There were no whistleblowers. It was a faultless, international operation to defy criminal laws in the interests of the church.
Asking questions is the business of a royal commission. Masters of the art were at work before this commission. God knows how many they asked over the last five years. Tens of thousands in all shapes and sizes: brusque and discursive, technical and folksy, kind and absolutely lethal. Two great questions mattered. To victims: what happened? And to institutions: why didn’t you pick up the phone and call the cops?
Shame, embarrassment and cowardice are, in a sense, the easy answers. Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, one of the big men of the Catholic church in this country, pointed to a deeper truth: “It was that sense of the church doing its own thing, being a law and a world unto itself.”
This was brave. “In many ways, the Catholic church in Australia has been profoundly embedded, but paradoxically, on the other hand, the Catholic church in Australia has at times looked the other way, been a law unto itself, and seen that it does things its own way: ‘We’ll look after the problem ourselves.’
“Well, we didn’t … ” David Marr, The Guardian
One of the recommendations of the royal commission was that if child sex abuse was revealed in confession then the church be obligated by law to report such crimes to the police, as is presently the the case with other professions such as doctors, psychologists, counselors and the like. The Archbishop of Melbourne has recently defied this saying he would rather go to jail than report sexual abuse against children to the police. His reasoning is that "confession should be above the law".
The archbishop of the archdiocese of Melbourne, Denis Hart, said he would risk going to jail rather than report allegations of child sexual abuse raised during confession, and that the sacredness of communication with God during confession should be above the law.In other words, because of their deeply-held-religious-beliefs, protecting paedophiles from the law is more important than the law itself.
He was responding to a report from the child sex abuse royal commission calling for reforms that, if adopted by governments, would see failure to report child sex abuse in institutions become a criminal offence, extending to information given in religious confessions.
Speaking to ABC radio 774 in Melbourne, Hart said he stood by comments he made in 2011 that priests would rather be jailed than violate the sacramental seal.
“I believe [confession] is an absolute sacrosanct communication of a higher order that priests by nature respect,” Hart said on Tuesday morning.
“We are admitting a communication with God is of a higher order,” he said. “It is a sacred trust. It’s something those who are not Catholics find hard to understand but we believe it is most, most sacred and it’s very much part of us.” The Guardian
This all happened at a time well before we belatedly won marriage equality. Now that we have, the push is on for religious institutions, particularly the Catholic Church represented far too much in our federal gov, to have religious exemptions already in the Dean Smith compromise marriage equality bill, expanded on. They want people operating in the secular commercial world outside the church to be able to refuse service to David and I because we're gay. They want their church law to be above our secular law.
Such a push to unravel Australia's anti-discrimination laws comes at a time of deep shame and embarrassment for the Catholic church. By operating in their own world above our law they have shown what they're capable of, that being the very worst of humanity at leadership levels in the church. The Catholic church became a paedophile machine interested only in it's self preservation.
Even the suggestion of expanding their religious privilege after failing so damningly morally, beggars belief. It should be going the other way with the state stepping in to protect children from these monsters. To give them more freedom to be their own law, especially in the environment in Australia after the royal commission, would be deeply wrong. Both morally and ethically. It would be a slap in the face to the royal commission and it's five long years of investigation, and a slap in the face to the thousands of paedophile victims in Australia uncovered by the commission.
BTW the review into religious freedom has been set up and you can make a submission here if you like. I've been thinking about making one myself, after all David and I found ourselves dealing with the NSW anti-discrimination board a while back after I was refused entry to a pub, being called a "fag" by the bouncer. Who's to say a religious owner of the premises could decide to refuse us service because we're gay under religious exemption laws bought about by the church?