MEANWHILE: FAR NORTH OF THE RIVER | HELL HATH NO FURY
By Roger Plastow | Photo via
Incensed, furious, irate, livid, cranky, incensed (included twice for emphasis). Yes, I’m bloody angry as hell.
Recently I read the story of a church organisation in Victoria paying out more than $30 million over 18 years of “responding to abuse claims”. That didn’t surprise me. Nothing under the heading of church child and adolescent abuse or sexual abuse surprises me anymore, but I’ll comment on the payout later.
What made me blue-in-the-face, foot-stomping, punching-holes-in-the-wall mad was that, a couple of weeks earlier, I heard a combined church association railing against the Federal Government and its ‘abuse’ of certain children, the abuse being the fact that they were kept in detention.
The ‘abused’ children were illegally sent to this country in death traps dressed up as boats, by their parents who paid people smugglers to be their chaperones and transporters. Yes, people smugglers – despicable people with fewer positive character traits than a pack of jackals and even fewer morals.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving unqualified backing to any government or any government policy. But for any church group to use the term ‘child abuse’ as an accusation against any other organisation or individual is, in itself, an obscenity.
I would like to punctuate the following message with obscene language just to highlight my rage, but I can’t do that here. I’ll just say this:
To all churches of all denominations – when you get your house in order on the subject of child abuse; when you meaningfully and genuinely apologise to the thousands of your victims past and present; when you admit you were complicit in aiding, abetting, denying and hiding decades (or centuries) of relentless and unbelievably abhorrent child abuse; and when you admit it was your fault and your fault alone, only then can you preach to the rest of us. Until then, shut up – please just shut up – and practise what you preach.
You might find this hard to believe, but I regard myself as a Christian. I believe in religion and the church in all of its many forms, and believe it has a very important role to play in our Australian society.
But when it comes to child and adolescent abuse, including and especially repugnant sexual abuse within the church, I have totally lost faith. I find it difficult to even look at the pictures of some church leaders, one in particular who is prominent to say the least.
And as for listening to them speak on any subject, but particularly child abuse, I have to switch off before I do something I will forever regret.
It’s not just the church leaders I find revolting. Yes, they have to shoulder the bulk of the blame but they seem to have been given unqualified backing by far too many gutless followers within the church framework. Many others within the church community knew what was going on, ignored it, or even worse, ‘blamed’ the victims and backed the perpetrators and the church hierarchy.
They make me sick. Again, don’t get me wrong. Maybe not all religious denominations are guilty. And certainly not all church members are guilty, but as a collective, ‘the church’ is guilty and the church has a lot to answer for.
The perpetrators (paedophiles) are criminals of the worst kind but when their grubby deeds became known, did anyone in authority dob them in to police? Were they reported so the allegations could be investigated and the criminals punished? Were they kicked out of the church?
No. In some cases, even when they had admitted guilt, their superiors remained tight-lipped and transferred them. Sometimes they were transferred into other non-suspecting parishes where they continued their abuse. Some suffered absolutely no punishment at the hands of the church. In fact, they were defended and protected.
Innocent children were violated and their lives were ruined. The perpetrators remained in the bosom of the church. Their sins were denied. Their crimes were covered up. And in most instances the only ones who suffered were the victims and their families. I want to throw up.
What was that I remember reading so many years ago? “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” Did I misinterpret that badly or have some within the church ignored their own teachings and turned their backs on their God?
Can I give some advice to all the guilty clergy (that’s not just the criminals), and to those who backed them with so much devotion? Well, I’m giving it anyway: Get out from behind the pulpit, divest yourself of your holy robes, and actually do what the church professes to do.
By the way, I thought victims of church-related child abuse had shared the $30 million I mentioned at the start. Wrong again. They shared about a third of it. The vast majority went to “responding” to the claims of sexual abuse. That’s code for “paying legal eagles” to minimise the damage and protect the church.
I certainly hope that bit in the bible about not being able to buy your way into heaven is true in this case.
Roger Plastow is a freelance journalist – a poor but passionate, bald but beautiful ‘young’ man who sometimes handles the truth somewhat carelessly and has plans to become a centenarian so he can get a letter from the Queen. He is a true-blue Queenslander with strong Melbourne connections. (He knows a few people who live there).