Voiceless Victim

A survivor of clergy child sexual abuse speaks out for those who can't speak for themselves

Category Archives: Catholic child sexual abuse

Getting it is not an accomplishment. Getting rid of it is. When’s that going to happen?

I am reposting here in full an excellent editorial written by Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) about the disgraceful performance of the Vatican’s paedophile protectors in front of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on January 16, 2014.

Bishop Charles Scicluna at the UN, the face of Vatican compassion for children they knowingly exposed to rapists

Bishop Charles Scicluna at the UN, the face of Vatican compassion for children they knowingly exposed to rapists

EDITORIAL

 “The Holy See gets it,” Msgr. Charles Scicluna, declared before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child at a meeting in Geneva, reports the Los Angeles Times.

“Getting it” is not an accomplishment.

Getting rid of it is.

Not only is “getting it” not an accomplishment, it’s not an “ah hah” moment, it’s not even Christianity.

Getting the rape and sodomy of children is basic humanity.

Raping and sodomizing children is criminal.

Luring children into situations where you can rape and sodomize them is criminal.

This is not a complex theological argument.

Getting it is when Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, MO packs a moving van after being removed from his office.

Getting it is extraditing a Polish archbishop to Poland to answer Polish authorities’ questions about being a sexually abusive priest/archbishop — one who is being investigated in the Dominican Republic and Poland. Getting it is not saying you will deal with the matter with your own courts.

Getting it is releasing the documents. They are the place where the truth lives.

Removing Finn, extraditing Weslowski, releasing the truth doesn’t take commissions, papal or otherwise.

They take a Pope.

The Vatican has had one for over 2,000 years. In some years, it’s had more than one.

You can “get” this intellectually or emotionally – your choice – but out of basic humanity the journey is not a long one, the road is not laden with obstacles, the distance from Point A to Point B is short.

Getting this is simple.

Adults under no circumstances should rape or sodomize children. Period.

People who are in authority over those who rape and sodomize children shouldn’t harbor the people who do it, provide the needs of life for them, shuttle them into safe places, or hide them.  If they do, they are complicit in the rape and sodomy of children.

This is doubly, if not triply true if you are a religious institution which claims 1.2 billion members and you have a sign out that says you know the way to the moral life and you are exporting it.

It is inherently true if this religious institution also has a sign out that proclaims the priests of its largest rite as well as the professed men and women religious in the outfit don’t have sex, period – not with anybody, least of all by raping and sodomizing children.

If Catholics and the world at large accept the “we get it” explanation along with the rest of the Vatican representatives’ testimony before the UN Committee as to what is good and right and proper and what needs to be done for justice to be had in this crisis — it’s outrageous.

What the Vatican ”gets” is that the world is catching on to it and it had no other viable defensive option than to appear before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva.

The world is catching on, make no mistake about this, because of the courage and the dedicated hard work of the survivors.

Here we applaud the heavy lifting that is done by SNAP.

And when you are causing the world to “grill” in unprecedented fashion one of its most powerful institutions, that’s some lifting.

The Vatican representatives ducked and dodged and deflected in the testimony before the UN.

We make available for you at the end of this editorial the text of Archbishop Silvano Tomasi,’s address as the Vatican Information Service presented it.

We call your attention to the Vatican’s characterization that Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, was at Geneva as part of a periodic reporting event, — not as a player in an historic, unfiltered sit-down-and-answer-questions about your record on the sexual abuse of children for all the world to see and hear.

Routine event as the Vatican Information Service tried to characterize it in its official record? Nothing could be further from the truth. Seems in cover-up, as in war, truth is also the first casualty.

The catalyst for this particular committee “grilling” as news reports told the world, was the failure of the Vatican to provide required annual reports as a signer on the UN Treaty of the Child. The failure existed for 11 years. Some periodic reporting.

We will give the Vatican this: along with Tomasi whom they could have sent alone, — they did send Monsignor Scicluna and to his credit Scicluna went. Scicluna knows where the bodies are buried and it was a high level risk to send him. He worked for Joseph Ratzinger in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He knows what’s in those records at the Congregation.

One has to wonder as Scicluna sat there being grilled by civil authorities if he thought that his former boss in the Congregation of Faith, should have been sitting there taking the heat or at least feeling it radiate at the other end of a video conferencing camera within his Vatican castle.

Catholics, we do hope, will not be hoodwinked by this performance and add insult to injury to survivors by being sucked into another re-run of “it’s history.”

Pope Benedict XVI had every opportunity on any day of the week, any moment of the day or night, during nearly the entire papacy of Pope John Paul II  and the entirety of his own papacy to clean house of sexual abusers, to move the backlog of laicization cases still gathering dust in the Congregation, to remove abusive and cover-up bishops, to release Vatican documents, to order bishops and cardinals and congregations to release documents, to order bishops, cardinals and congregations to release names, — to come clean.

He didn’t do it.

That’s a choice, a clear choice, not a failure or a deficiency in “getting it.”

The sitting pope had scandal on his mind, too, as his representatives were on the hot seat in Geneva.

Said Pope Francis, it is reported, in his homily:

“But are we ashamed? So many scandals that I do not want to mention individually, but all of us know…We know where they are! Scandals, some who charged a lot of money…. The shame of the Church! But are we all ashamed of those scandals, of those failings of priests, bishops, laity?(emphasis added). Where was the Word of God in those scandals; where was the Word of God in those men and in those women? They did not have a relationship with God! They had a position in the Church, a position of power, even of comfort. But the Word of God, no! ‘But, I wear a medal,’ ‘I carry the Cross ‘ … Yes, just as those who bore the Ark! Without the living relationship with God and the Word of God! I am reminded of the words of Jesus about those from whom scandals come … And here the scandal hit: bringing decay (it: decadenza) to the people of God, including (it: fino alla) the weakness and corruption of the priests.”

We added the emphasis to the  phrase “ priests, bishops and laity” because we believe there should be howls of protest from the laity – who never see the light of day in parallel references with priests and bishops when it comes to anything else in the Church but they are lumped into the shame of scandals in equal proportion.

This is insulting.

Yes, there are lay people who have been on parish or school staffs that have abused –they have been prosecuted in vastly higher numbers than priests and bishops who have abused and covered up abuse , no comparison — and after being accused they have not been given hiding places and financial underpinning by the Church — nor had their bail paid by the Church. There are lay chancery officials who have covered up but their known number does not rise to anywhere near equal portion to the known number of priests and bishops who have abused and covered up and who had and have the power to end this crisis but fail to end this crisis. Same holds true on the financial scandal front.

This largest crisis in the Church in the last 500 hundred years has not been caused by  lay people. Good grief.

Getting it is not an accomplishment.

Getting rid of it is.

When’s that going to happen?

Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) KristineWard@hotmail.com

TEXT of the Vatican Information Service report:  

Vatican City, 16 January 2014 (VIS) – Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, C.S., Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, spoke this morning before the Committee on the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). He presented the Holy See’s periodic report on this issue.

ARCHBISHOP TOMASI BEFORE COMMITTEE OF CHILD RIGHTS: HOLY SEE AND ITS INSTITUTIONS ARE COMMITTED TO DEFENCE OF INVIOLABLE DIGNITY OF EACH CHILD

Vatican City, 16 January 2014 (VIS) – Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, C.S., Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, spoke this morning before the Committee on the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). He presented the Holy See’s periodic report on this issue.

“The protection of children remains a major concern for contemporary society and for the Holy See,” the prelate said. “… Abusers are found among members of the world’s most respected professions, most regrettably, including members of the clergy and other church personnel. …”

“Confronted with this reality, the Holy See has carefully delineated policies and procedures designed to help eliminate such abuse and to collaborate with respective State authorities to fight against this crime. The Holy See is also committed to listen carefully to victims of abuse and to address the impact such situations have on survivors of abuse and on their families. The vast majority of church personnel and institutions on the local level have provided, and continue to provide, a wide variety of services to children by educating them, and by supporting their families, and by responding to their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Egregious crimes of abuse committed against children have rightly been adjudicated and punished by the competent civil authorities in the respective countries.”

“Therefore, the response of the Holy See to the sad phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors has been articulated in different ambits. On the level of the Holy See, as the Sovereign of Vatican City State, the response to sexual abuse has been in accord with its direct responsibility over the territory of Vatican City State. In this regard, special legislation has been enacted to implement international legal obligations, and covers the State, and its tiny population.”

“On the international level, the Holy See has taken concrete action by the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. In 2000, the Holy See acceded to the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography, as well as the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. The Holy See then promotes and encourages these international instruments.”

“At the same time, the Holy See as the central organ of the Catholic Church has formulated guidelines to facilitate the work of the local Churches to develop effective measures within their jurisdiction and in conformity with canonical legislation.”

“Local Churches, taking into account the domestic law in their respective countries, have developed guidelines and monitored their implementation with the aim of preventing any additional abuse and dealing promptly with it, in accordance with national law whenever it occurs. … The result of the combined action taken by local Churches and by the Holy See presents a framework that, when properly applied, will help eliminate the occurrence of child sexual abuse by clergy and other church personnel.”

The Permanent Observer explained that “the Holy See’s ‘Periodic Report on the CRC’ is divided into four Parts: Part I deals with general considerations, including the nature of the Holy See as a subject of international law. Part II responds to the concluding observations of the Committee to the Holy See’s Initial Report, and, in particular, questions concerning reservations; the Committee’s four principles and the duties and rights of parents, the education of girls, education about health, and education on the CRC. The Holy See also discusses the principles it promotes concerning the rights and duties of the child within the context of the family. Part III presents the international contributions of the Holy See in advancing and promoting basic principles recognized in the CRC on a full range of issues pertaining to children (e.g., the family, adoption, children with disabilities; health and welfare; leisure and culture; and special measures to protect children, including questions pertaining to sexual abuse, drug addiction, children living on the streets and minority groups). Finally, Part IV addresses the implementation of the Convention in Vatican City State.”

“In the end, there is no excuse,” the prelate repeated, “for any form of violence or exploitation of children. Such crimes can never be justified, whether committed in the home, in schools, in community and sports programs, or in religious organizations and structures. This is the long-standing policy of the Holy See. … For this reason, the Holy See, and local Church structures in all parts of the world, are committed to holding inviolable the dignity and entire person of every child—body, mind, and spirit.”

“Pope Benedict XVI,” the prelate concluded, “speaking to the Bishops of Ireland in 2006 had these important words to say: ‘In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric.’ … Likewise, Pope Francis clearly … undertook new action and has announced the creation of a Commission for the Protection of Minors, with the aim of proposing new initiatives for the development of safe environment programs for children and improving efforts for the pastoral care for victims of abuse around the world.”

Stay safe everyone.

VV

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Catholic church opens Commission hearing with a slap in the face for survivors

Last week survivors, many of whom had travelled long distances, crowded into the hearing room for the historic first Royal Commission hearing into how the Catholic Church handles child sexual abuse. Many lasted only until the well paid Church lawyer first opened his mouth. What emerged was so offensive, so deliberately designed to undermine and to harm survivors, that it prompted a mass walkout and a flood of tears in the foyer.

I absolutely agreed with their actions and was equally as offended, but decided to stay to hear what other tricks the trained monkey would pull.

Below is a transcript of that low point of the legal profession in Australia. I have added my translation of each section, for those who do not have the benefit of a lifetime of suffering at the hands of callous and deceitful church officials. The lawyer who uttered these carefully crafted passages was Peter Gray SC.

-o0o-

This is a searing and decisive moment in the history of the Catholic Church in Australia.

Well, we certainly never thought this day would happen, especially after all our efforts to prevent it.

The sacred place of children, their innocence and their trustfulness is central to the Christian tradition and to the Catholic faith.

The punters love this fantasy stuff about innocence and trust. It keeps the focus on what they like about religion, and not on our behaviour.

Many will remember from their own childhoods the ageless words from the Gospel of Mark:

First let me throw in the obligatory quote from the bible – takes the high moral ground immediately and undermines both victims themselves, and the tendency to support them.

Let the little children come to me; do not

stop them; for it is to such of these that

the kingdom of God belongs.

Isn’t that clever of us, taking the very quote seen so often on signs outside this and other hearings and using it against those pesky victims. Though of course we prefer a different translation, to avoid that unfortunate word, “suffer”.

And again from Mark, driving home the point:

Whoever causes one of these little ones who

believe in me to stumble, it would be

better for him if a great millstone were

hung around his neck, and he were cast into

the sea.

Now, if the first verse hasn’t slapped victims hard enough, here’s the second to really undermine them. Plus the millstone bit makes us look like we take this issue seriously.

The Catholic Church comes before this Royal Commission acutely aware of its failures in this fundamental part of its mission.

I guess denial is really no longer an option, is it?

For many Catholics, the realisation that some Catholic priests and religious, of all people, have betrayed the trust of children and their parents by abusing them in sexual ways has been almost unbearable.

Let’s get Catholics thinking about their own suffering and not that of victims.

 The further bleak realisation that such behaviour was sometimes covered up, with wrongdoers protected while victims were disbelieved or treated coldly, has made an already disgraceful situation even worse.

Oh yeah, these days we have to refer to this aspect as well, but we can get away with going pretty soft, because understanding of our cover-up is still limited.

For the vast majority of priests and religious, dedicated and selfless and innocent themselves and truly faithful to their vows and their vocations, the revelations of recent decades have been heartbreaking.

Pow. Two of our most effective excuses. “Good” priests, and non abuser priests as victims. We’re going hard on this because it is so effective at distracting from what happened to victims. And we get it in first to leave many minds less inclined to listen to rubbish about victims.

But for the victims and their families, the effects have obviously been, and continue to be, shattering and devastating. Terrible wrongs have been done to them.  Complex, ongoing damage has been caused, the real extent of which may not, even now, be fully appreciated.

We don’t usually go here because it creates sympathy for victims, not us. But if we want to pull off the “we have changed” con, it is unfortunately necessary to sound a bit better informed than previously on the effects of abuse.

 A great poet and priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins, found words which capture something of this nightmare:

No worst, there is none …

Comforter, where, where is your comforting?

Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?

We position Hopkins as an authority, then use his quote to soften the facts of our criminal coverup, while demonstrating that we get this i.e. no further action needed.

I will say something in a moment about the way in which the church intends to participate in and contribute to the work of the Royal Commission.  But first, let me repeat the unequivocal commitment made by the leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia.  It is on page 1 of our written submission to the Commission.  It is in the following terms:

The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia recognise and acknowledge the devastating harm caused to people by the crime of child sexual abuse.

Much as it hurts, we are going to have to state the bleeding obvious, which we have studiously managed to avoid doing until now.

We take this opportunity to state:

1.         Sexual abuse of a child by a priest or religious is a crime under Australian law and under canon law.

2.         Sexual abuse of a child by any church personnel, whenever it occurred, was then and is now indefensible.

3.          That such abuse has occurred at all, and the extent to which it has occurred, are facts of which the whole church in Australia is deeply ashamed.

4.         The church fully and unreservedly acknowledges the devastating, deep and ongoing impact of sexual abuse on the lives of the victims and their families.

5.         The church acknowledges that many victims were not believed when they should have been.

6.         The church is also ashamed to acknowledge that, in some cases, those in positions of authority concealed or covered up what they knew of the facts, moved perpetrators to another place, thereby enabling them to offend again, or failed to report matters to the police when they should have.  That behaviour, too, is indefensible.

7.         Too often in the past, it is clear, some church leaders gave too high a priority to protecting the reputation of the church, its priests, religious and other personnel, over the protection of children and their families, and over compassion and concern for those who suffered at the hands of church personnel. That, too, was and is inexcusable.

8.         In such ways, church leaders betrayed the trust of their own people and the expectations of the wider community.

The words stick in our throats, unused as we are to honesty on this topic, but that just shows how damaging and irresponsible those blasted victims really are, selfishly promoting their own interests, no matter the damage it causes the church.

 9.         For all these things the church is deeply sorry.  It apologises to all those who have been harmed and betrayed.  It humbly asks for forgiveness.

We’ve said sorry about this so many times. Once more through gritted teeth changes nothing. They can force us to say it but they can’t force us to mean it.

The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia commit ourselves to endeavour to repair the wrongs of the past, to listen to and hear victims, to put their needs first, and to do everything we can to ensure a safer future for children.

We commit ourselves to nothing specific, just a lot of PR friendly concepts, all heavily qualified. Naturally, there is no means for anyone to measure success or even track if we actually do anything. The imbeciles fall for this one every time.

When this Royal Commission was announced, the leaders of the church – that is, the bishops and religious leaders from all around Australia – appreciated that this Commission would be, as it is, a watershed in church history and, indeed, in Australian history.  They realised that the issue of abuse within the church is so fundamental and so serious that at least three things needed to happen.

We knew this damn commission would be bad. That’s why we undermined all efforts to hold one for so many years.

First, the church must, wherever possible, speak with one voice at the Commission.

We need to tightly control the message. Individuals could say anything, even, God forbid, the truth.

Second, any of the old ways that still remained, shrouded in secrecy, defensiveness or damage control, must be renounced.

Yeah, the Vatican’s really going to let us break with the long tradition of coverup. I should be a stand up commedian.

Third, the church should seize the opportunity provided by the momentous circuit-breaker of the Royal Commission to renew itself, to look closely at the ways in which it has responded to the issue both in the past and up to the present time, and to do so with humility and openness and generosity of spirit.

If we really have to do this, we are going to bury some smelly old skeletons, and bury them deeeep. They’ll never come back to haunt us.

As to the second and third of these, time will tell, and the community will ultimately be the judge.

As time passes, everyone will forget about any commitments we make now.

As to the first, let me say something about the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.  The council was established in February this year by the peak body of bishops, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, known as the ACBC, and the peak body of religious, Catholic Religious Australia, known as CRA.  It is the council which will represent and speak for the many dioceses and religious institutes which have authorised it to do so.

The Catholic Church in Australia is not a single discrete entity or thing.  It is made up of people in complex and disparate groupings, the millions of lay people, as well as the priests and bishops and religious. There are some 34 dioceses and over 180 different religious orders and congregations.

Each individual diocese and each individual religious institute is basically autonomous and independent of every other.  For example, no archbishop or bishop has any authority or control over any other bishop.

Not surprisingly, to achieve a consensus amongst so many different and independent people and bodies and groupings has, in the past, often been difficult, but on this issue, that of the tragedy of child sexual abuse, differences of view have been put aside.

Good luck with finding anyone ultimately responsible, or tracing the chain of command. We have centuries of practice in dodging responsibility, amateurs.

The first major demonstration of that approach was the development of a uniform national protocol for responding to complaints of this kind.  I will say something about that shortly.

The second is that the Truth, Justice and Healing Council has been brought into existence.  Every diocese and well over 100 orders and congregations have authorised the ACBC or CRA to represent and act for them in the engagement of the church with the Royal Commission.

The ACBC and CRA have, in turn, delegated that authority to the council.

For practical purposes, therefore, the council will ordinarily speak for the whole church, its dioceses, its religious institutes, its priests and religious in the Royal Commission.  All of them are united in their support for the principles stated in the commitment which I reiterated at the beginning of these remarks.

Talk to the hand.

Let there be no doubt about the attitude and approach of the church to the work of this Royal Commission.  The church, through the council, intends to cooperate with the Commission fully, without reservation.

Of course, co-operation only applies to in front of the cameras. Behind the scenes we’ll fight as hard as ever to prevent the truth getting out.

Tens of thousands of documents have so far been produced from all around the country.  Witnesses have been and will be made available.  Bishops and archbishops and religious leaders will participate as the Commission may require.

We are going to bury you in paperwork and delay this baby till we can convince you that all the current office holders are too old or too dead.

The council’s aim is to do everything in its power to ensure that the Royal Commission has available to it from the church all the material that it needs for the work it seeks to do, so as to ensure that a light is shone on dark places and times and events – in the words of St Augustine nearly 2,000 years ago, to flood the path with light to ensure that nothing is concealed or covered up in respect of what church personnel did or failed to do, and so to give the victims and also the church itself a better chance to heal.  In that way, in the end, something good may be able to emerge from the awfulness and suffering which have occurred.  If it does, it will be the victims and their families who will have brought that about.

Another biblical reference. Another fine sounding but impossible to measure or assess PR objective. Don’t we sound like we are open and honest about this? All without actually having to be open and honest. Brilliant stuff.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

Coming soon: Part 2 – specific comments on the cases to be studied and Chair, Justice Peter McClellan, reprimanding Mr Gray for repeatedly trying to dictate to the Commission what to conclude.

Truth, Justice and Healing comes not from a Council but from a Commission

Survivors in Australia are waking up this week to a different world.

A world where those in positions of authority do not look the other way, shrug their shoulders and callously ignore the fact of the criminal child rape of children, the criminal coverup of those crimes and the ongoing re-abuse of the damaged adult survivors.

For decades or even longer parents, teachers, police, social workers, school principals, priests, bishops, cardinals, prosecutors, lawyers, judges, the media and, most of all, politicians have learnt or known of our suffering and did not care enough to do anything.*

Whether they thought it was not their place, or they would get in trouble for creating a scandal, or they would lose their job or social standing, or it could not be possible, or this issue was not allowed to be spoken about, or someone else would deal with it – they all left children to suffer horribly to save themselves discomfort.

And they got away with this dereliction of their duty of care, just as those who deliberately and cunningly plan and commit their crimes, and those who deliberately enable those crimes to continue, get away with their evil.

For so long we were silenced, no one spoke up for us and no one was held accountable.

Recently more and more survivors are speaking up and are being given more opportunities to do so.

But still we lack decisive, comprehensive action on this issue. The vast majority of these offenders and their protectors still slip through any protective measures with ease and are never stopped and never held accountable.

The criminals know they are still safe. And they act accordingly.

But they are not safe any longer.

Sitting in the hearing room of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in recent months I have been brought to tears many times as the realisation dawns that they are asking the right questions, they are determined to get the answers, and the information gathered will be used to develop truly effective recommendations. The tears are partly joy that the questions are being asked at last, and partly great sorrow at how much unnecessary suffering has been caused by not asking them earlier.

But this week there can no longer be any doubt.

As the smug paedophile protectors of the Catholic Church face the Commission for the first time, their facade of sincerity and their carefully crafted evasions, qualifications, diversions, excuses and misdirection are given the credibility they deserve. Absolutely none.

The CEO of the Untruth, Injustice and Denial of Healing Council, Frances Sullivan, sits smugly in the front row every day, and his lawyer offends most survivors in the room as soon as he opens his mouth. Church representatives, whether in front of TV cameras, in witness box or at bar table, make sure to say a lot of the right things, but we who understand them far better than we ever wanted, know they mean not a word of it. They still regard survivors speaking about our experiences as the problem to be dealt with. They don’t believe they have done anything deserving criticism. They still believe their way of doing things is just fine as it is, if only the biased media would focus on someone else for a change.

This week is the first time logic and brutal honesty has been applied in such strength and forensic detail to these experts in the low arts of obfuscation and mental reservation. And stripped of their protections of undue reverence and undeserved respect, they are revealed as less like moral leaders and much more like the immoral and often criminal cowards they truly are.

Hearing Justice Peter McClellan’s questions this week has brought me to the point where I can finally, for the first time in my life, relax and trust those in authority to do the job they were appointed to do.

I can see a possible future where campaigning for child protection and justice for survivors is not left to the survivors because those in power have neglected this issue so completely.

We are safe in Peter McClellan’s and Gail Furness’s hands, as we never were in the church’s.

We have been given what we asked for with this Royal Commission.

Fearless, committed, intelligent people who are not swayed by anyone’s claim of a special relationship with a supernatural being.

Let’s do all we can to help the Commission do its job.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

* There are notable exceptions, individuals, who did put children first and did take action. But the numbers and power of those determined to silence us, preferably permanently, overwhelmed and stymied their efforts.

Victims Heard at Last

Statement issued by survivors of Catholic child sexual abuse, their families and supporters on the first day of Royal Commission hearings into the catholic Church’s response to child sexual abuse:

The children of Australia have long been denied our basic human right to safety.

In order to protect the reputation and assets of wealthy institutions and those who control them, we have been knowingly exposed to terrible danger.  We have suffered unbearable pain, and many of us have not survived.

When we begged for help or for justice our voices were ignored.

Those in a position to help us left those responsible for inflicting this harm to “deal with” the crimes committed aginst us.

In doing so they neglected their duty of care to us and to tens of thousands of children of this country over a long period of time.

But now, thanks to the bravery of survivors, insiders in various organisations and the media, speaking out about this issue when no-one wanted to listen, we are here, at last, to witness the truth being told by a few heroic individuals.

As you listen to their experiences, we hope you will gain a greater understanding of the real impact of these crimes, and we ask you to remember also all the others, heard and unheard, who have been through similar pain.

Our stories are hard to hear, but they are even harder to live, and immensely difficult to tell.

We tell them so that future children will not be callously exposed to danger, as we were.

We ask you to open your hearts and your minds to the suffering of so many Australian children, and in doing so secure the right to safety for future generations of children.

We ask that those responsible be held responsible. We ask that those accountable be held to account.

We ask for laws that protect children rather than predators, and we ask that they be enforced uniformly, that no person or institution be considered above the law.

We ask that all children be offered the same protection, no matter where they live, who their parents are, or what they believe.

We ask you not to be swayed by comforting but meaningless promises of change by institutions proven to continually lie about this issue.

We call on all State and Federal Governments to express support for and move towards implementing the recommendations of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry. We ask that this become the bedrock of child protection and justice for survivors in Australia, a solid foundation upon which the Royal Commission, with its more extensive investigations and recommendations, can build.

But most of all, we who know first hand what it is to be abused, abandoned and to live in constant fear, beg the Royal Commission, the media, our politicians, and the public to remember this is not about point scoring, or reputations, or power. It is most definitely not about religion. Or politics.

This is about living in a safe and just society.

This is about protecting children.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

RIP Father Kevin Lee – a disobedient priest and a good man, punished for his honesty

The sad news is filtering through about the death of Father Kevin Lee in last week’s massive typhoon in the Philippines.

This was no doubt a very great tragedy for his friends and especially his young family, with whom he had spent so little time.

Kevin saw his daughter Michelle born in late September, knew her for a few short weeks, and will never see her grow up. But he was satisfied and happy, writing prophetically in his blog,

“I am watching you Michelle and I never want to feel regret that I did not love you enough. I want to know that whatever happens, I am grateful to God and Josefina for giving me the best treasure in my life. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know how long I have with you. But.. every day…grateful … that you are my daughter…”

This terrible tragedy will also touch survivors around the country, as Father Lee was one of an extraordinarily rare breed. A catholic, and a priest, who eventually found the courage to put truth and justice before personal expediency and protecting the crimes and the criminals of his institution.

Father Kevin Lee was an Australian catholic priest who was in a loving and committed relationship with a woman.

It is not unusual for catholic priests to have sex with adult women. At least amongst those priests who are not gay or who don’t find it acceptable, convenient or exciting to rape children. What was unusual about this relationship was that it was consensual and loving, not abusive and exploitative.

If he had preyed upon a vulnerable young woman like so many of his colleagues, and forced her into both a sexual relationship and the secrecy made necessary by the catholic church’s celibacy requirement, he would have been in less trouble with the catholic hierarchy.

The point of the nonsensical celibacy rule is that, like in Orwell’s 1984, it is designed to be broken. Priests are human beings, very very far from divine and certainly not asexual. But once the celibacy rule is broken and the hierarchy or fellow priests have knowledge or evidence of it, they suddenly posses leverage, power and, most importantly, control over those who lapse in this way.

Consequences are threatened but rarely eventuate.

This blackmail, often mutual, is the oil which greases the many cogs of the Vatican machine.

You don’t tell my secrets and I won’t tell yours

It makes for some very strange bedfellows.

But Kevin went further. He committed what was, in the eyes of the hierarchy, a very great crime. A far more serious crime in their twisted thinking than raping thousands of children or vulnerable women and leaving behind a trail of immense suffering and death.

His heinous crime?

He married a woman.  While still a priest.

Strangely enough, the earth didn’t open up and swallow him.

He got on with his role as a priest and did some good for his community. For a whole year. And no one noticed the difference.

Now to remain a “good priest” and a “good catholic”, all he had to do was to keep up the lie. As long as the deceit and the fiction is maintained, no one has a problem.

But Kevin chose to be a moral and authentic human being instead, and told the truth.

Only he didn’t stop at the fact he had been married for a year and it hadn’t interfered with his ability to perform his duties as a priest.

He also told the truth about the widespread criminal coverup of systemic child rape within the catholic church.

Any up to date, reasonable, responsible, well managed organisation would welcome the information provided by Kevin, assess what it meant and revise their policies and procedures accordingly.

But no one except the seriously deluded has ever accused the catholic church of being up to date, reasonable, responsible or well managed.

Instead church officials refused to listen to Kevin and kicked him to the curb.

Now they had every right to do that.

What he did was not wrong, evil or unlawful in any way. Quite the opposite.

But he broke their stupid, senseless rules and they grabbed at the opportunity to terminate him.

What makes this so sinister is the comparison with the fact that thousands of other priests serially, systemically, routinely break the law by raping, in many cases, stupendous numbers of defenceless children, ruining hundreds or even thousands of innocent lives each, but they suffer little or no consequences, and in some cases are promoted.

And this is still the case.

Australia has now provided numerous examples of priests being swiftly (for anyone, not just the glacially slow church machinery) evicted from their ministry and the church altogether for what amounts to, if we stick with the Orwellian 1984 theme, thoughtcrime.

Hold the wrong opinion, or even worse express it publicly, and a priest can expect the most stringent penalty in the canon law arsenal enacted with lightning speed.

We are not talking cruel, discriminatory, vicious opinions here. Rather we are talking about not supporting the Vatican’s political and power seeking agenda, the fantasy of papal infallibility, and the cruel, discriminatory, vicious dictates insisting on blind, mindless obedience to the immoral, harmful, impoverishing and perversely intrusive sexual, marital and reproductive policies of these out of touch, obscenely wealthy, dysfunctional, childless old singletons.

By comparison, if a priest destroys the lives of thousands of innocent children, including the murder of those who suicide from their assaults and subsequent mistreatment by deceitful officials,  every excuse not to act will be rolled out, and every support and assistance provided to hide and protect the criminal and obstruct secular justice.

Look at this situation outside of the distorting effect of religious belief. Is this a world you want to live in, where this is what routinely happens, is widely acknowledged to happen and yet no-one in power does anything to change it, or even thinks they should? Do we really live in a democracy? Do we really have rule of law? Or are we already in a vicious theocracy by stealth?

Kevin Lee was not prepared to live in that world. He tried, using the power of the truth, to change it.

And it has changed. Thanks to Kevin, along with the efforts of so many others, we now have a National Royal Commission investigating the handling of child rape in the catholic church and other institutions.

I certainly hope before he died Kevin had a chance to give his evidence to the Royal Commission. Or perhaps they can question the officials, including Cardinal George Pell, to whom he reported his evidence.

Though what are the chances of Pell actually telling the Royal Commission what Kevin told him?

I can hear another few hundred “I can’t recall” moments coming on.

The battle is not won yet. Those same church officials who ignored Kevin’s evidence will try to hide the truth, undermine the Royal Commission’s efforts, and lobby to ensure no recommendations are implemented.

For those who are, like Kevin was, ministers of the catholic church and have knowledge about the coverup of these very serious crimes, now is the time to honour Kevin, and the victims and survivors, by continuing the fight to let the truth be known by the Royal Commission. To let an understanding of the full truth shape how we deal with this issue in the future.

The strategy, quoted by so many who consider themselves “good” priests or bishops, as a reason for staying put and keeping quiet, to try to “change the system from within” will never work.

Because unless you are part of the hierarchy, unless you are listened to and exert influence in the corridors of Rome, you are not really on the inside.

You are one of a cheap and largely powerless labour force, treated with utter contempt by those with real power, and used to milk as much money as possible from, and usurp the moral authority of, the mindless millions of lay catholics.

You are on the bottom of a pyramid of narcissists and sociopaths, who will never let people less cruelly self absorbed, less damaged or less obsessively ambitious than themselves climb the ladders of influence, nepotism and corruption.

But you are also likely to be a witness to many serious crimes.

You may have been told that to fight the church’s inquisitors and face down criticism for others’ actions is courageous and honest.

But the catholic church does not value courage or honesty. It punishes them.

It perverts them and mislabels them. Calling the cowardly brave and the liar an honest man.

Now is the time to utilise these very real, very human attributes.

Now is the time to rediscover your humanity.

Now is the time to stand up to the bullies and the liars and the criminals.

Now is the  time to tell the truth.

Just like Kevin Lee did.

RIP, and thank you, Kevin.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

A Tale of Three Inquiries – Part 3 The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry

The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry was the first of the current trio of investigations into the coverup and enabling of widespread child sexual assault by religious institutions.

All three inquiries are officially named in softer, and more complicated and inclusive language, but the core issue is that hundreds of priests and religious have been raping and sexually violating tens, if not hundreds of thousands of kids, and their bishops and cardinals have let them get away with it.

Not only have the self described religious “leaders” helped the rapists to escape law enforcement and continue offending, they have acted decisively to prevent victims being heard or receiving the help we so desperately need. They have made every effort to prevent any independent scrutiny of this issue. They have blocked any legal or political moves to enforce a more compassionate or law abiding response.

And children continue to be exposed to danger, since more than 99% of all child sex criminals, and likely an even higher percentage of this carefully protected subspecies, are still free to reoffend, most with their reputations and identities protected, and with privileged and unquestioned access to kids.

The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry was widely criticised by many, including myself, at the time of its announcement, for the many deficiencies of its terms of reference. Drafting the terms of reference was a political decision, made by a Premier no longer in power, and is no reflection on those conducting the inquiry.

But despite its inadequacies, this is nonetheless an extremely important inquiry, a crucial milestone and indeed stepping stone towards nationwide attempts at justice, and a strategic testing ground for this issue.

Without the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations we would probably not have the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Or rather, we would probably not have it yet.

This first announcement, on 17 April, 2012, softened up the church hierarchy to the fact that it was no longer politically acceptable for them to continue to be allowed to get away with their criminal conspiracy. This first blow to the bishops’ previously inviolable secrecy paved the way for the more powerful and comprehensive national inquiry announced on 12 November, 2012.

Victorian Attorney General Robert Clark admitted on the 7.30 Report on 20 April 2012 that the Victorian Government had negotiated extensively with Catholic officials and their lawyers in the twelve months prior to the announcement of the Inquiry.

Hullo? Does no one in this country understand the meaning of the word “corruption”? Or is the problem rather that those in power, in all spheres, understand it all too well? The government does not ask permission of drug bosses or bikie gangs before investigating their crimes, or negotiate the conditions of any investigation. This situation is no different, except perhaps that religious criminals commit crimes that disgust even the most hardened ordinary criminals.

The fact that such negotiations took twelve months, despite a clear direction in the Cummins Report from the year before that an inquiry was needed, and public disgust at the growing numbers of suicide deaths coming to light which resulted directly from the appalling response of the catholic church, shows how very hard it was to get the church’s permission to investigate its crimes.

Once again, are we living in the Dark Ages? The church is supposed to be subject to our local laws and answerable to the Government, not the other way around.

For those unsure how this secret influence over Australian governments has been achieved, a brief reading of the Seven Mountains strategy should be illuminating. The actual Seven Mountains strategy is practiced by a different cult, fundamentalist loonies, but it does spell out what the catholic church has been doing for millenia in their attempts at world domination.

Basically the Seven Mountains strategy aims to equip what they call “change agents” to become educated and burrow their way into positions of power and authority in the seven cultural mountains of influence. These change agents are instructed to go into the world and make disciples and teach them to obey the commands of Jesus (as interpreted by them, of course). They believe culture is shaped by only a few operating at the top of a cultural mountain of influence. (world domination, anyone?). They speak in the language of inclusiveness but are actually deeply conservative.  Once having achieved the desired domination (they are often known as dominationists) we can be sure they would soon introduce an authoritarian theocracy.

An example of the catholic version can be seen in attempts to control and profit (even more) from mental health services in Australia by ensuring the appointment of a senior church official to the inaugural position as Mental Health Commissioner. This was a man personally responsible for many mental health problems experienced by thousands of survivors, through his role in developing and implementing Towards Healing. The prospect of the countless thousands suffering from the effects of brutal sexual, physical and psychological abuse by religious institutions receiving the help they need would shrink dramatically under such stewardship. Thankfully he was forced to resign from the role before he could do much damage, but the system is such that there are sure to be many others pursuing the church’s agenda in or near such strategic positions, throughout Australian government, courts, academia, arts and entertainment, the media and business.

And no doubt, the Royal Commission.

The process of infiltrating and perverting our culture and government can be reversed by people standing up for what is right over what is expedient for a bunch of rich, well connected old crims playing dress ups.

Note that the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, only found it necessary to phone Cardinal (I’m not the head of the church in Australia) Pell and warn him he was going to have to get a lot more familiar with a concept called the truth. As far as we know there was no extensive consultation, indeed there was no time for it to occur, unlike in Victoria just months earlier.

But I believe the church hierarchy’s insistence that the terms of reference of the Victorian inquiry be widened to other religions and indeed other institutions will backfire and end up shooting them in the foot. First of all, despite their constant whining about being unfairly targeted (try being a defenceless long term child victim of a rapist priest, and then you will know about unfair targeting), no-one has ever suggested the catholic church is the only place of refuge for dangerous serial sex offenders.

It is clearly one of the best and most accommodating host institutions for such vermin, but no one disputes that child rapists exist everywhere, except perhaps where they cannot access their prey.

Did catholic officials really believe they could hide from view in the crowd of other abusive institutions who sacrifice children to protect themselves? Do they not understand the immense and horrific scale of the problem they have allowed to flourish, compared to others. Or do they really only look as far forward as being able to say “Nah, nah, told you it wasn’t just us!”

This strategy of being one of the crowd comes apart when it comes to recommendations, however.

The catholic church always ensures it operates under a series of special conditions, receives special treatment, official or unofficial, which gives it undeserved and unfair advantages over other organisations.

And over victims seeking justice or even protection from ongoing sexual assaults.

But if these crimes are being investigated across the board, as church officials themselves insisted, any recommendations must surely apply uniformly across the board.

The evidence will no doubt support going further than that and imposing especially stringent scrutiny for catholic institutions. Unfortunately that will never happen as the squawking about unfairness would be unending. Rest assured though, the public simply will not accept the catholic church being given any more free passes to continue to commit crimes unchecked.

That alone will be pretty hard to endure for those who believe themselves above the law, and entitled to be above the law.

One item sure to test this issue is the heavily promoted “sanctity of the confessional”. This attempts to place a religious practice, changeable and subject to the whims of a criminal cabal ruling what is claimed to be a sovereign foreign country, above Australian law relating to some of the most serious of crimes against some of the most vulnerable in society. It endangers children, obstructs justice and thwarts law enforcement.

Continuing to give credulity to this nonsense makes a mockery of our legal system.

Other ways in which this inquiry has paved the way is the shocking evidence revealed via public hearings throughout 2012, and the widespread media coverage of that evidence.

This factor is vitally important, as many in the wider public do not have the advantage we survivors enjoy, of knowing just how bad the situation truly is, just how evil and cruel these self serving officials are, and just how desperately significant change is needed. Every incident of media coverage increases public understanding and reduces the chances of the church hierarchy being successful in any future attempts to sweep this under the carpet yet again and carry on with their crimes as usual.

Most significantly, this inquiry provided an opportunity for senior Victorian police to officially stop protecting church officials from the truth, and start telling it like it really is. The results were explosive.

Unfortunately from the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry evidence, it would seem some senior NSW police are still being pulled in two different directions between telling the truth and religious affiliation. Or should I say intimidation?

The evidence revealed in the Victorian public hearings is enormously beneficial to survivors. It is also traumatic and triggering, but hearing the truth told and listened to and believed in public, in a formal, official setting, for the very first time, can help to heal the immense additional damage inflicted by mistreatment at the hands of officials concerned only with covering up.

It can inspire victims to become survivors. To ask for help.  To tell their own stories. And to seek justice and healing.

Hearing church officials being asked hard questions about their actions by an official inquiry for the very first time is also something this inquiry has offered to survivors throughout Australia. This inquiry did not ask enough questions, did not cover enough details, and did not go deep enough, very far from it, but it did put the entitled princes of the church under the spotlight and hold them accountable for a few hours.

For that we are very grateful.

We look to the Royal Commission to finish the job. No matter how large.

Many survivors did not manage to write a submission or front a public hearing in the totally inadequate time allowed, so their evidence was not heard or taken into account. Hopefully in the meantime they have found the strength and the support to contact the Royal Commission and have their say that way.

The flaws identified in the Victorian Inquiry’s Terms of Reference resulted in pretty much what was expected. An inquiry that was too short, too shallow and didn’t get the full job done. Thankfully we now have the Royal Commission to fill those gaps. And in the meantime, with the help of this inquiry, the Australian public, Australian media and Australian politicians have moved some distance from the appalling neglect, cowardice and complacency which allowed these atrocities to flourish unchecked for so long.

One delightful aspect of this inquiry has been to see a group of somewhat inexperienced, and certainly inexpert politicians on the Family and Community Development Committee grow into the role suddenly foisted upon them. They rose to the task without exception and now are finished the immeasurably difficult job of drafting recommendations.

In many ways, knowing what is needed is brutally simple.

Protect children, not criminals

Support victims, not criminals

Hold the criminals accountable, don’t cover up their crimes

Prevent the criminals from continuing to commit these crimes, don’t give them the perfect conditions in which to reoffend

Such simple, obvious concepts. That tragically, appallingly, have never, ever been implemented in this country. Certainly not in the catholic church, and not elsewhere.

Our children deserve this at the very least.

But ensuring workable recommendations that will actually be implemented is horribly complicated.

Hopefully this will be seen as an opportunity to trial some innovative recovery and support strategies, such as the excellent and very practical proposal developed by survivors in Ballarat.

My advice to the Committee, were they to seek it.

Aim high.

Don’t limit yourselves.

Make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Honour the suffering of all the victims, particularly those precious and far too short lives lost to suicide.

And do everything possible to prevent any more innocents from being added to our number.

The report of the Parliamentary Inquiry is expected to be released on Wednesday morning.

However, the Committee can only make recommendations to the Victorian parliament, for implementation in Victoria. And the implementation of those recommendations will be dependent on support from political parties who until now have shown themselves to be more interested in religious voting blocs and the influence of church leaders than what is best for our children.

Some religious apologists will criticise any recommended actions to protect children. They will argue unfair treatment, violation of religious freedom (do they really want to admit their religious practice requires the rape of little children?) and a range of conspiracy theories.

Officials, if they have any sense, will not argue, at least not in public. Ferocious behind the scenes lobbying and threats will however attempt to remove, water down, delay or otherwise render ineffective any recommendations.

The response to these recommendations will be a test of the integrity of church officials and politicians alike.

Will they serve the best interests of society, and demonstrate they deserve their positions of authority?

Or will their response merely be self serving?

Stay safe everyone.

VV

Why Aren’t We More Outraged by This Corruption?

Last month it was revealed Catholic church officials were less than honest with police in NSW about the crimes of their carefully protected child sex offender colleagues and friends.

Many would say, so what’s new?

What was new was the release under Freedom of Information of documents requested by David Shoebridge, MLC. These damning documents demonstrate how the Catholic Mafia in the NSW police, a group many of the witnesses before the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry swear do not exist, were helping this coverup in an official capacity.

The non existent mafiosi went so far as to promote the drafting of a document, a Memorandum of Understanding between NSW Police and church officials, which contained a clause stating that the church would, could and should hide crucial evidence from police unless ordered to hand it over by a court.

“Church authorities shall make available the report of an assessment and any other matter relevant to the accused’s account of events only if required to do so by court order.”

Other troublesome clauses effectively give veto over the release of evidence to the police to – can you believe it – the offenders themselves! Or to other parties who commonly experience threats or pressure from church officials not to be honest with police.

Why any police force would draft such clauses undermining our laws and the rights of abused children to access justice simply beggars belief.

But in the hands of the catholic church, with a well documented history of officials taking any such concession and then exploiting it to a ludicrous degree in their efforts to cover up crimes and bury scandal, such a clause is akin to carte blanche for any and all breaches of laws against the cover up of serious crimes.

Surely the NSW public believes and expects that institutions such as the catholic church should obey the laws of NSW, the same as anyone else.  Any document of this nature is clearly an attempt to avoid doing just that. Or to give official support to a long standing corrupt practice.

Thankfully someone in the police force stopped this farce before it became a tragedy.  The document was never signed. And never came into force.

Not that it could, because it is illegal.

In addition to criminally stupid and horrifyingly immoral.

Such an agreement contravenes Section 316 of the Crimes Act.

Of course, survivors and those who work in this area know that consistent Catholic church practice (though church officials will never admit it is policy) is to breach Section 316 of the Crimes Act in every possible way in cases of child sexual assault and other serious crimes.

That is certainly what happened in my case.

But the NSW police refuse to investigate this additional crime, for which there is clear evidence.  And in their 18 months of investigation of the many, many sexual offences against me, they never managed to obtain copies of incriminating documents, whose existence I only learned about afterwards.

So this announcement has added poignancy to me, as it brings me back to the heart-wrenchingly hard task of trying to survive my brutal denial of justice.

It makes me rethink the whole episode.

It was not just a lack of support from senior police for the efforts of my excellent detective. It was not just the absolute obstruction of the police investigation by church officials. It was not just bureaucratic incompetence at pursuing relevant documents. It was not just witnesses and potential whistleblowers intimidated about the personal consequences of revealing the truth. It was not just a lack of cohones from the Director of Public Prosecutions and the truly appalling DPP solicitor ‘managing’ my case. It was not just an ineffective, antiquated, heavily biased and totally inappropriate legal structure for dealing with these cases.

It was all those things.

But it was also corruption.

The mere existence of such an official document is evidence of corruption.

The fact it was never signed is largely irrelevant.

Someone, and the question needs to be asked, who, in the NSW Police force worked on this document with the intention it become policy.

Having read the entire document, there is an approach, a use of language and expressions that lead me to conclude the document was drafted, and I assume initiated, by church officials, not police officials.

That a self serving and corrupt criminal institution should attempt to dictate police policy should raise red flags all over town.

Many of the clauses actually talk about church officials co-operating with legal requirements to report these matters to police and also co-operating with police investigations. Unfortunately church officials do not actually comply with these clauses.  I believe them to be window dressing or a distraction from the illegal clause hiding amongst them and now revealed by David Shoebridge.

What is the reaction of church officials to the public exposure of this secret policy document?

Did they abhor the illegality of its purpose and proposed actions?

Did they deny knowledge of such an evil plot?

Did they claim to be “doing so much better these days” ?

No, they admitted they used (and still use?) this clause as a reason and excuse for their own illegal behaviour. As if somehow, by its very existence, it was able to override the law and make their illegal behaviour magically not illegal.

Could they really be stupid enough to see this MoU as a “Get Out of Jail Free Card”?

“But Your Honour the corrupt police officer working under the Cardinal’s/Bishop’s instructions said it was okay to do it that way, so you really can’t blame me, can you?”

There was certainly no mention of why this detail had so far been kept secret from all official inquiries. You know, the official inquiries they fought so hard to prevent, but now claim to support. Is this ongoing secrecy about corrupt practices their idea of how to be open and transparent and co-operate fully?

This matter must be investigated thoroughly by the Royal Commission. This matter by itself should be enough to trigger a Royal Commission, if we did not already have one.

I wonder if NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell is as keen to investigate this evidence as he was to undermine the claims of Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox about NSW police not fully investigating catholic child sexual assault cases?

Somehow I doubt he will announce another NSW Special Commission of Inquiry.

We should also be asking about the existence of similar illegal arrangements in other Australian states, especially those states whose police forces have been most tightly controlled by the catholic mafia.

But the question I really want to ask is why are the media, politicians and the public not more outraged by this blatant corruption of our police force by a wealthy religious institution engaged in widespread criminality?

This is not the sort of thing that should ever happen in the Australia I want to live in or raise my kids in.

This is the sort of real issue we should be basing our electoral decisions on, rather than the manufactured question of who is prepared to act most inhumanely to stop the boats, re-abuse refugees and impress the xenophobes.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

Read the MoU

Sincere thanks must go to NSW MLC David Shoebridge for obtaining and revealing this crucial document, as he has done with so many others.

While the issue of child protection and justice for victims must always remain outside of party politics, David deserves all credit for being one of only a handful of Australian politicians who have truly fought for the rights of abused children. Unlike so many politicians and others who, when the Royal Commission was announced last year, suddenly took undeserved credit for supporting our efforts while forgetting their own many years of obstructing our pleas for justice, David has long put in tremendous effort, and taken much flak, on behalf of victims.

Sexually Abused Kids Don’t Have to Suffer All Their Lives and They Certainly Don’t Have to Die

Evidence about the Jonathan Lord YMCA case continues at Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. A number of brave, strong, articulate mothers spoke about discovering their small boys had been abused by Jonathan Lord. Each one is the kind of mother, the kind of Australian, that makes this country great.

If most mothers were more like them, we would never have needed this Royal Commission, because the coverup, the secrecy, the willingness to sacrifice children to protect reputations, and the lax attitudes towards child safety, including jokes but no action about “kiddie fiddlers”, would never have taken hold in our culture.

I spoke privately to one of these inspirational mothers yesterday at the hearings. She talked of a generational change in parenting attitudes. I agree. My mother’s generation were all too willing not to question authority, especially religious authority, not to believe their children’s disclosures, or even the evidence of their own eyes.

Revered, powerful males were unquestionable. Religious of both sexes were untouchable. Children had no rights whatsoever.

Today, not so much.

As a mother of two boys of a similar age to Jonathan Lord’s victims, if I had the slightest suspicion, the tiniest inkling of anything or anyone harming my child, nothing, and I do mean nothing, would stop me from doing whatever it took to protect them. Or to help them recover.

But it’s not enough to rely on that change in attitudes. We need effective and comprehensive systems to ensure our children’s safety.

The courageous witness noted that just because the YMCA does a much better job with child safety than the Catholic Church, does not mean that what the YMCA does is good enough.

Which is why the Royal Commission’s investigation into these issues is desperately needed.

More issues continue to emerge about systemic problems that let our children down and leave them vulnerable to sexual exploitation by determined criminals.

As the numbers of boys disclosing grew, police, DoCS and the YMCA started to treat the later revelations of additional victims and additional offences as less relevant or even annoying.

What these organisations seem to forget is, even if the organisations are not as interested in subsequent information, once several victims had already come forward, to those directly involved as victims or parents of victims, this is the most devastating, critical, traumatic and vitally important element of their lives.

And that these victims and families all deserve the very best of support to help them through such a difficult time and to improve the long term prospects for all involved, particularly the innocent kids.

For example, once the police had enough evidence to proceed to arrest on the basis of a number of victims and a number of crimes, officers weren’t particularly interested to have to stop their other work to interview new victims. But every single victim deserves to have their story heard and to have the offender held responsible specifically for the crimes against them.

This is a common problem, with most of Australia’s prolific repeat offenders only ever brought to trial for a fraction of their victims and a minute fraction of their actual offending. This is one of many reasons for completely inappropriate sentencing decisions for these crimes in Australia. And is even more worrying in light of the fact that less than 1% of child sexual abuse cases even make it as far as  conviction.

Families were also kept in the dark by many organisations, especially the YMCA, about what was going on, severely impacting their ability to properly support the child victims, which should have been the top priority.

Initially, parents were told Jonathan Lord was simply on annual leave, or not told who was the subject of the police investigation, removing parents’ ability to ascertain whether their child was affected by these crimes and thus offer support as soon as possible.

This is appalling.

Even worse, Jonathan Lord, after being arrested then released on bail, kept offending.

The secrecy must have been a factor in allowing this to happen. If the community was informed, parents would have been able to protect their children from serious further harm. This is also not a unique occurrence. Child sex offenders, often well respected and prominent members of the community, are frequently released on bail, despite being a significant flight risk and a significant danger to the community. In so many ways, the reputations and privacy of child sex criminals throughout Australia are vigorously protected at the cost of undermining child safety and inflicting additional suffering on victims.

Hopefully the revelations resulting from this Royal Commission will remind the Commissioners, our politicians, individuals and institutions that every extra offence carves additional severe trauma into a child’s broken heart, even if the child has lost count because of the already large number of sexual assaults they have suffered.

We all need reminding that the constant terror of facing an unending future of additional assaults for years on end irreparably damages a child’s psychological development. And the knowledge that no-one will act to stop the offending, especially if adults are known to be aware of what is going on, exponentially increases this harm.

We all need reminding that every additional victim is a precious life possibly destroyed, another family ripped apart by tragedy, perhaps irrevocably.

The good news is many of Jonathan Lord’s victims have wonderfully supportive parents doing everything possible to help them recover, and for some, their prognosis is hopeful. They have a good chance of reaching their potential, and enjoying a normal life free from the dark shadow of ongoing trauma.

The reason they will likely do so much better than many other victims of child sexual abuse is because they were able to see firm action taken by powerful adults to rescue them from their attacker and hold him accountable for his crimes. And because they are receiving early and, hopefully, ongoing counseling assistance as needed. They will certainly all need watching for the next few decades (not just till the age of 18) to identify if long term impacts of their abuse emerge and to ensure they receive appropriate and timely support.

This encouraging outcome illustrates that sexually abused kids do not have to suffer terribly throughout their lives and die early, unable to stand the pain of living.

This is not an outcome that has ever been an option, and is still not an option, for victims of Catholic clergy sexual predators.

Personally I look forward to the day the Royal Commission understands that not only does the Catholic Church enable and coverup the widespread and systemic sexual abuse of children, not only does it severely re-abuse sexually abused children through a cruelly self serving response to these crimes, but that this dysfunctional institution and the sociopaths who run it are also directly responsible for the tragic deaths of far too many of our doubly abused kids.

And I look forward to the day the Royal Commission recommends the Australian Government takes appropriate action for the first time in history.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

A Tale of Three Australian Inquiries – Part 1: The NSW “Special” Commission of Inquiry

Hartigan can't recallmalone can't recalllucas can't recalllonergan hasn't asked a question

Everyone supporting survivors in Australia seems to have been suffering from constant exhaustion for the last few months, trying to keep up with three different inquiries and numerous media issues.

They do say to be careful what you wish for. Every time we are tempted not to bother dragging ourselves out to attend hearings, provide input, support survivors or front the media, all we have to do is remember how hard it was to bring this issue to public and media attention, and how important it is we not waste these once in a lifetime opportunities to reveal the truth and achieve lasting law reform.

There will be time to rest, time to cry, time to spend time on recovery, and time to blog regularly once the hard work is done.

For those not able to attend the many inquiries currently under way, let me give you a brief taste of their work. These are personal opinions based on what I have seen personally, which may or may not represent the full picture.

Inquiry No 1 – The NSW “Special” Commission of Inquiry

Following the stunning accusations made late last year by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, no one actually wanted or asked for a narrow political inquiry designed to protect the reputation of the NSW Government and senior police.

Yet such a beast was imposed on us by Premier Barry O’Farrell within days of Peter Fox’s open letter to the Premier and his subsequent television interviews.

When it was followed just days later by Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s historic announcement of a national Royal Commission, Barry O’Farrell was presented with an ideal opportunity to fold his “Special” Commission into the real thing, the Royal Commission.

Unusually, a state Premier didn’t avail himself of an opportunity to let the Federal Government pick up the tab, and proceeded with this expensive exercise in punishing a courageous whistleblower.

It is hard to tell whether Commissioner Margaret Cuneen SC has been ordered to deliver something other than the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, or whether she has simply been given a poisoned chalice by the Catholic Premier and Attorney General.

Certainly the misogyny of the male dominated legal profession towards female lawyers in general, and this crown prosecutor in particular is no secret. Smug male lawyers and politicians are most likely snickering over Margaret’s predicament right now.

In public hearings Ms Cuneen’s role has been more of a referee than a driving force, though behind the scenes this may be different.

But there was a hand directing what evidence was examined and what questions were asked, and that hand steered the heavy machinery of the “Special” Commission, at least in the first term of reference, firmly in the direction of mowing down Peter Fox and avoiding everyone else.

The question is, whose hand?

Who instructed Ms Lonergan to examine in microscopic detail any evidence which could be used to discredit Peter Fox? Who told her to spend days making accusation after accusation of vague wrongdoing, whether or not supported by the facts or Peter’s answers to her questions? Who told her to do such a good job of taking over the role of the defence barristers and undermining Peter and his evidence in every possible way.

I was in court when she finally finished questioning Peter for the first time and said to myself, “surely the defence barristers will have nothing to do now that she has already done their job for them?”.

I was wrong.

The wolves actually scuffled to see who could take first nip at Peter’s flesh. The vicious animals were unleashed to maul the man standing bound hand and foot before them.

Ms Lonergan had at least couched her endless litany of repeated insinuations and accusations in a professional and respectful manner.

The legal thugs paid by NSW police and church officials to land as many body blows as possible had no such compunction. Their manner was so aggressive, so offensive and so abusive that Ms Cuneen intervened, more than once.

The worst offender? Counsel for the victim hating General Secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference. This barrister was eventually dismissed when it was realised his attacks had zero relevance to his client and were nothing but courtroom antics and particularly ugly intimidation.

No doubt the defence counsel were eager to show their clients some result for their exhorbitant daily fees. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, when such disgraceful behaviour is allowed in a court supposed to be delivering justice.

Just because it is accepted practice doesn’t make it right. And it is so far from appropriate behaviour towards victims, that I sat in the public gallery in horror at the prospect that victims may be subjected to this blood sport.

Thankfully the “Special” Commission protected other witnesses, including victims, from this legal bullying.

But not Peter. For despite his heroic strength, his smiles and quips, his refusal to be beaten down, and his stoic endurance under terrible pressure, there was an horrific price to pay for the crime of speaking out for abused children, and against the criminal coverup of the crimes against us.

Peter and his family have paid that price every day since his letter to the Premier. But the price was particularly heavy in the Newcastle Supreme Court under Premier Barry O’Farrell’s “Special” Commission of Inquiry.

The “Special” Inquiry’s second term of reference focussed on the role of church officials, and hearings into this issue were held separately, after a short break. I’m so glad that, when drafting the terms of reference, someone remembered that an inquiry into the cover up of crimes within the catholic church should, at least for the sake of appearances, ask a few questions of church officials.

Those few questions were asked gently, and with obsequious respect for the greedily claimed but undeserved dignity of their religious roles.

Survivors in the public gallery were even more distressed by this Special treatment from the Special Inquiry, than they were by the brutality unleashed on Peter Fox. Or perhaps it was the comparison, the double standard, the hypocrisy, and the continuation of years of giving criminals in drag a free pass from legal responsibility for their actions, that hurt so much.

It is possible Counsel Assisting Julia Lonergan SC was attempting to catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  These entitled princes of the Church of Child Rape do not even deign to pretend to co-operate with anyone rude enough to ask them a direct question. But they will chat familiarly with someone who goes along with their little charade and acts as if they are, by virtue of their self appointed titles, incapable of wrongdoing.

And this is when they unconsciously reveal the twisted thinking behind their inhumanity.

Lowlights of the weeks of evidence from church officials include the mysterious virus that conveniently robbed so many of them of memory of anything even vaguely incriminating.

Not all memory, just any memory that got a little too close to the uncomfortable truth. This virus has similarly affected church officials in other countries whenever anyone has tried to hold them accountable for their actions.

Even Julia Lonergan SC found the frequency of the answer “I don’t recall” to “beggar belief”.

Bishop Michael Malone’s distaste for looking at sex abuse files failed to generate the desired sympathy from those forced against their will to endure the far more distasteful sexual assaults from his carefully protected predator colleagues.

But Father Harrigan got plenty of sympathy, and a week to recover, from Commissioner Cuneen after the horror of having survivors and supporters sedately express a fraction of their disgust for the crimes of the clergy. In return, said sedate protestors were threatened with contempt of the Commission. Even that rebuke was more than the child rapists ever faced.

The excuse of blaming dead people, so favoured by Archbishop Dennis Hart and Cardinal Big George Pell, and many others, didn’t wash here since documentary evidence to the contrary was right in front of them.

Instead the vile Father Brian Lucas resorted to the ridiculous claim to be acting in victims’ best interests in covering up our abuse. In my personal experience, echoed by so many others, the only way this vicious church enforcer would like to help us, is into an early grave.

Much of the church evidence was held in camera, away from public view and the media. Purportedly because of the possibility of criminal charges.

Frankly, in my layman’s view, even much of the evidence in public hearings justified the laying of charges for misprision of felony or covering up serious crimes.

Will this Special Inquiry break with the long held tradition to ignore, dismiss, or fail to follow up on crimes by Catholic clergy, particularly the cover up of child sex crimes, and particularly those committed by senior church officials?

Experience would suggest it will not, but I would welcome being proved wrong on this.

And I am prepared to protest loud and long in front of NSW Parliament House if the evidence of a long term systemic criminal conspiracy to cover up ongoing child sex crimes is not passed to NSW police to investigate.

The Commission is now finished its public hearings and we can do nothing but wait for the report due on September 30.

Nothing except perhaps to demand of the staunchly Catholic NSW Attorney General an explanation why the brief of evidence delivered to him by Strike Force Lantle stills sits on his desk and has not been approved for the recommended charges to be laid against church officials.

The police finished their investigations by July 2012, and the DPP has been in possession of the brief of evidence at least since October 2012.

Is he looking for a good distraction, such as a Federal election, to bury the news that he refuses to proceed on this matter? Or if he intends to allow the law to operate without political interference, why has he not done so before now?

Stay safe everyone.

VV

US Court considers dead bodies more important than child rape victims, insisting cannon law untouchable under US law

The law is frequently an ass.

But few laws or lawyers are more asinine than the recent decision by US District Court Judge Hon Rudolph T Randa.

Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese appealed against a previous decision allowing the funds stashed away in a Cemetery Trust in 2008 to be included in the diocese’s bankruptcy estate, and thus available to assist survivors of child sexual abuse.

Randa’s decision concluded that the funds, and we are talking about $50 million here, which were moved to avoid being forced to pay court ordered compensation to survivors of child sexual abuse, would stay in the Trust and not be brought into the bankruptcy estate, because to do so “would substantially burden the Trustee’s free exercise of religion.”

Amid the gasps of disbelief at the sheer self-interested preposterousness of a multi-million dollar fund to look after a bunch of graves being accepted as a vital religious need, what this nonsense actually means deserves a closer look.

This decision means Judge Randa publicly supports the conspiracy by Vatican officials and US bishops and Cardinals to deny victims of their carefully protected sexual predator priests access to justice or healing.

It means Randa doesn’t find their excuse of a desire to look after the interests of the decayed physical remnants of former Catholics, on a scale of excessive luxury denied to their living colleagues, embarrassingly absurd.

It means the imagined needs of a pile of bones and dust are far more important than saving or rebuilding the lives of innocent children knowingly exposed to unimaginable horrors. More important, not just in the eyes of abusive Catholic officials, but also, according to Judge Randa, to the US justice system as well.

It means that the US constitution has been used to threaten and intimidate victims of child sexual abuse throughout the country, and to demonstrate to them, and to whistleblowers, supporters and all those who believe children have an undeniable human right not to be raped by powerful adults, that the obscenely wealthy and influential Catholic Church hierarchy, and the rapists they honour and protect, are indeed above the law.

As is any religious nutjob who chooses to exploit the gullible and the vulnerable. As long as they use their god as the justification for their atrocities.

The most frightening aspect about Randa’s judgement is that it puts the internal dictates of power obsessed, out of touch, developmentally twisted charlatans above the law of the land. Randa explicitly states that judges, juries and courts have no choice but to submit to religious authority.

Authority which is more often than not a self-serving fabrication. Just like in the case of the supposed religious need of Catholics of Milwaukee to know their long dead ancestors’ graves are being maintained at a massively inflated cost.

Will Judge Randa supervise the trust to ensure those funds are not diverted away from their purported purpose at a later date? Has Judge Randa established whether the maintenance costs for these graves are conveniently exaggerated, and thus significantly higher than for graves anywhere else in the world? Did he investigate whether the hugely expensive maintenance of graves to justify denying lifesaving assistance to survivors of child sexual abuse is a core Catholic belief anywhere other than Milwaukee?

I am in the US right now, and was with a group of survivors when they heard this news. It was a slap in the face, a kick in the guts, an additional betrayal, and had the desired effect of making them feel they would never be heard, never see justice, never be able to heal their pain.

But survivors are nothing if not resilient. We get up again after each beating from brutal church officials, we keep going and we keep fighting for justice.

And if one of us is struggling, we reach out to them until they can stand on their own feet.

We will fight this obscene judgement.

We will fight this misuse of the first amendment, which was intended to prevent religious oppression, not enable it.

These perverted sociopaths and narcissists rule over a pretend religion, drawing in genuine but gullible believers to give it the appearance of legitimacy, and to fund their own luxurious lifestyles, then use it as a cover for depraved and criminal behaviour towards the vulnerable.

We will not give in to the temptation to follow the example of the church of child rape and assert, for example, that shooting those who rape children and those who protect and enable these rapists is a core religious belief, and demand the protection of a compliant judiciary to subvert relevant civil and criminal laws and get away with such crimes in the name of religion.

Unlike Catholic church officials and Justice Randa, we know that a fog of religious verbiage can never, ever make crimes against humanity acceptable, far less deserving of official judicial support.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

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