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Knowing the unknowns of clerical sexual misconduct

26 November 2013 | Stephen de Weger

In 'The Agony in the Garden' by William Blake a majestic angel breaks through the surrounding darkness and descends from a cloud to aid and physically support Jesus in his hour of agony.Is there an agony in the garden of Catholicism which has yet to be faced — the dark figure of clerical sexual misconduct involving adults? From my research into this issue, two aspects have become quickly apparent: that it is a 'known unknown' within Catholic life, and that it is a very complex issue. That it occurs is not in doubt. More often than not, the victim is blamed.

No copping out of abuse blame

25 November 2013 | Frank Brennan

Police Victoria badgeThe Catholic Church hierarchy now seems more prepared to admit institutional and personal failures prior to 1996. They are yet to admit the pervasive, closed clericalist culture which infected the Church until at least 1996, but that will come. Let's hope that the Victorian police can also now move forward admitting past mistakes without manufacturing excuses which do not withstand the contemporary spotlight.

Heed the voice of the wounded child

14 November 2013 | Moira Rayner

Young girl, sad face, head bowedIf it happened then, it could happen now. Unless we take children seriously as people, it will. Unless individuals within the culture of their institution see it as a duty to stick their necks out and challenge its culture, it will. Unless bishops and archbishops and cardinals and religious supporting them take personal responsibility for protecting vulnerable people ahead of protecting the reputation of their institution, it will happen again.

Church's family reality check

13 November 2013 | Andrew Hamilton

Lesbian mothers sit with a young child (illustration)In a welcome first step, the Vatican has invited lay Catholics to offer their views on the family. The document that accompanies the survey represents a fairly traditional Catholic theology of the family, setting it within a high theology and expressed in elevated language. This theology has been developed principally by celibate men, no doubt familiar with family life through their childhood and pastoral ministry, but at a distance from it.

This time in the Church

11 November 2013 | Frank Brennan

'Having thrown off the shackles of compulsion endured by pre-Vatican II Catholics, we relish that we come to the table not because we are forced, not because of social expectations, not because of the mindset of the mob, but because we are graciously called and freely responding.' Frank Brennan's Camino Address, Parish of Our Lady of the Way North Sydney, 12 November 2013

Christian social thinking for Australia

1 Comment
07 November 2013 | Frank Brennan

'Many Catholics wonder how we can maintain our Christian faith at this time in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis and the many judgmental utterances about sexuality and reproduction. The Church that has spoken longest and loudest about sex in all its modalities seems to be one of the social institutions most needing to get its own house in order.' Frank Brennan's address to the Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy, 8 November 2013. 

Human justice barometer

05 November 2013 | Peter Kirkwood

Human justice barometer

05 November 2013 | Peter Kirkwood

Blake PrizeIn the years after it began in 1951, the Blake religious art prize was dominated by conventional Christian themes and symbols. More recently its inclusion of images associated with human justice has reflected the increasing multifaith character of religion in Australia together with religious believers' concern for human peace and justice.

The insubstantial Bishop of Bling

30 October 2013 | Andrew Hamilton

Golden bishop chess pieceSpringtime draws attention to the sweet harmonies and scratchy discord between style and substance. Ducks escort their young across green lawns, and peck at anything that dares approach them. Young things in suits or summer dresses sit sozzled in Cup Day mud. Meanwhile in the Catholic Church, Limburg Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst was suspended from office for his profligate spending during a time of austerity.

Church-state issues and the Royal Commission

24 October 2013 | Frank Brennan

'The Church should not give any appearance of hiding behind the corporate veil. Justice demands that present church leaders agree to satisfy any judgment debt against their predecessors or their deceased predecessors' estates when there is an allegation of past failure to supervise or adequately investigate a sexual predator in the ranks. Any damages should be paid from church assets.' Frank Brennan addresses the Australian Lawyers Alliance Conference, Rydges Lakeside, Canberra, 26 October 2013.

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