Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide

has just been charged with covering up allegations of sexual abuse. It has taken a team of detectives more than five years to decide to lay the charge. The events are alleged to have happened forty or more years ago. The abuser (who was found guilty) was a fellow priest who is now deceased.
Child abuse is an abhorrent, vile, disgusting thing. It should never be covered up. There is no excuse for it.
However unless there is evidence over and above two things then the allegations need to be treated with caution. The allegations seem to be based on 
(a) he must have known because he was living in the same house at the same time
(b) the other priest was found guilty.
It should take more than that to find someone guilty of covering up allegations of sexual abuse but the Archbishop must be a worried man. 
I am not Catholic. Nobody in my family is. I am not a churchgoer. The only person in my family who goes to church is the Senior Cat and his views on many things are - shall we say, robust? He believes in the basic moral tenets of Christianity but not the, as he sees it, myths and legends.
Nevertheless we all have some concerns about the widespread allegations of abuse in religious organisations - and yes, it spreads beyond Christianity. Recently there have been allegations about abuse in Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist communities as well. I don't imagine any group is immune. What deeply concerns me however is that it seems to have become almost inevitable someone will be accused of abuse simply because it can be done.
It's an easy thing to do and the results can be devastating. There was a case here  recently. Two girls accused a male teacher of abuse. He had apparently kept them behind for a moment to speak to them about their behaviour. They didn't like it and they made allegations of abuse. 
It was only at the point where the likely consequences were going to be very serious indeed that the girls admitted the allegations they were making were not true. It was still too late to repair all the damage done to the teacher's reputation. He will spend the rest of his life living with the consequences. 
The Archbishop will now face the same problems. If there is sufficient evidence to find him guilty then the prosecution will seek the heaviest possible penalty because of his position. If there is insufficient evidence then his reputation will be tarnished. Some will say "he was lucky to get away with it" and others will say, "there just wasn't enough evidence". His very position will condemn him because, given the publicity around sexual abuse, some will say, "He's a priest so he must be guilty."
I don't know him. I have never met him. I am never likely to meet him. I don't believe what he believes. It makes no difference. I dislike the way the media has already endeavoured to tarnish the reputation of someone who should be innocent until found guilty - and who might just have been trying to live a life of service to others. That is surely abhorrent too.

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