While in town for the Sydney Writers’ Festival, Christopher Hitchens took time out from his promotional activities for a private meeting with a small group of Catholic Church child sexual abuse victims.
Known for intellectually slicing and dicing organised religion in general, and the Catholic Church in particular, especially over its disgraceful enabling of institutionalised child rape, the victims said they were “thrilled to come face to face with a man who is not afraid to stand up to the might of the Catholic Church.”
“After years of being ignored, lied to, intimidated, re-abused, bullied, threatened and neglected by the Catholic Church, it was refreshing to deal with a generous, human and humane person,” said one of the victims. “Christopher didn’t even think twice before he made time in his packed schedule to offer us his sympathy, understanding and support.”
The victims were emphatic that, “this is not part of the Church fantasy that there is some nebulous atheist conspiracy against the Pope. That is just an excuse to portray themselves as victims instead of as the criminals, enablers and protectors of criminals that they really are.”
“We approached Christopher Hitchens, not the other way around.”
Victims told Hitchens their personal stories and discussed “ideas for how to take control of our own recovery instead of having no choice but to submit to a system that feels like it was deliberately designed to be as damaging as possible for victims.”
“In most cases we are still trying to recover and really don’t need to be subjected to additional abuse by the Catholic Church. There are very good reasons why the majority of child sexual abuse victims are unable to come forward for decades, if ever. Our experience suggests the Catholic Church is exploiting those reasons to ensure the true scale of its child sexual abuse problem is never known.”
“Currently the Catholic Church tries to control how or even whether victims receive the help they need to recover. And in every case, the Church still consistently puts the Church’s interests, reputation, and assets above the rights of defenceless and damaged victims to leave their abuse behind and finally live rewarding and useful lives.”
One victim explained, “We are let down by the justice system which is littered with legal technicalities that assist many paedophiles to avoid ever going to court, or to escape conviction no matter how much evidence there is against them.”
“Next we are prevented from successfully suing the Church by the Roman Catholic Church Trust Property Act of 1936 and the Ellis judgement of 2007 which, together with statute of limitations, almost completely absolve the Church from any legal responsibility. Victims cannot win a civil case because the Catholic Church historically used their political influence to ensure they cannot be held liable.”
“That leaves us at the mercy of the Church’s own internal system, Towards Healing, which is like a person who has been robbed at gunpoint having no choice but to ask the driver of the getaway car to decide the guilt and choose the punishment for his close friend who committed the robbery.”
“No wonder every one of us here today, and every other victim we have spoken to, considers they have been totally and absolutely denied justice.”
Victims in Australia have long been kept isolated, denied information and refused support by the Catholic Church, but are now looking to work together to support victims’ recovery, protect children from being exposed to paedophiles and lobby for law reform so future victims may at least have a chance of receiving justice.
Those who were lucky enough to speak to Christopher Hitchens are today feeling a little less alone and friendless in that task .