For the past 24 hours or more, my friend Denis off The Nature of Robertson has been thinking about, preparing, writing a blog post.relating to child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and the increasing crescendo of calls for a Royal Commission. Denis has not sullied the beautiful blog that is The Nature... but posted on his blog of political matters, The Body Politic.
I support what Denis has to say as I am sure many Networkers will. I, like Denis, cannot deny my Catholic upbringing and would fit into the definition in vogue these days of "a cultural Catholic". I am still - and have been all my life - a committed Christian. I am, these days, an Anglican and a Quaker. Anglicans have had their moments in the ugly spotlight ... but, it seems to me, they don't hold a candle or a scandal to Catholicism around the world. Quakers themselves have had an occasional cause for concern but the Quaker demographic is a very small blip on the Christian whole.
I am particularly concerned about how lay non-institutional Catholics in the pews are re-acting to what pours out in the Australian media. Are the pews emptying? Are parishes rallying behind the abused and their families? Are they still supporting their clergy? Are they happy for all this to be hushed up and kept out of the media?
Pope Benedict is reported as saying that the Irish sex abuse is a mystery to him. One reason with two subheadings, Your Popefulness! Power - powerfulness and powerlessness. I have not heard mention (although I don't delve too deep in the literature) of the role that the power of the Catholic Church, as an institution, has played in the abuse. The powerlessness of the victims is there for all to see and hear. My view is that the abusers could do what they did because they knew that, if caught, the Catholic Church would do everything to protect itself and hush matters up. Which is exactly what happened with priests shifted from parish to parish to exploit fresh cohorts of powerless children.
The Vatican was fearful (and I suspect still is) of the fall-out of sexual abuse in the USA and Ireland. Mass attendance dropped and so did giving. In particular, the fall in giving in the wealthy USA was of grave concern. If money and attendance drops, it impacts Vatican power. Do Australians boycott the institution in terms of money and attendance?
I ask again what are Australian Catholics doing? The evidence is there for all to see. The response in America and Ireland was visible and much discussed. How visible is the adverse reaction of Australian Catholics? Are there fewer people at mass on Sundays because of the sex abuse scandals? Have Australians withdrawn their financial support from their parishes? I would like to hear this discussed.
And if investigation shows no marked decline in mass attendance and giving, then Australian Catholics should be asked why they continue support in their parishes for the institutional Catholic Church? If the Irish and Americans have made their views known through visible impact on the pillars of Vatican power, why have Australian not done so as well?