COMMENT: Faith in an Institution of Lies

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Megan Birch, ECU Reporter

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The Catholic Church has lost the bearings on its moral compass.

Growing up, the Catholic faith was something I never really understood, despite “technically” being Catholic myself. I was baptised as a young child, attended a Catholic High School, I said my ‘Hail Mary’s’ and ‘Our Father’s’ and even (on occasion) attended church with my Grandmother.

The concept of God was something I could never really understand. I couldn’t quite believe that there was this all powerful man (the creator of the universe and protector of the innocent) looking down on us, watching us and guiding us. How could God exist when so many bad things had happened in the world?

The older I got the less I believed; God soon became a mythical figure like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment in my life when I stopped believing in God, but in recent years my skepticism turned from disbelief in a higher power, to anger towards the institution itself.

An institution that claims to be so holy and pure turned into something so dark and hateful before my eyes. And if you have watched the film Spotlight, or been exposed to the media following the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, you may have some insight into where my disdain comes from.

The 2015 film is a true story about a team of investigative journalists from The Boston Globe who exposed sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The Spotlight team not only uncovered a pattern of child sexual abuse by priests across Massachusetts but also proved the most senior Catholic, Cardinal Bernard Law knew of the abuse and did nothing about it.

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because we have a very similar version right here in Australia. In 2015 one journalist played a major role in bringing this issue to light.

Over seven years Joanne McCarthy wrote 350 stories for  The Newcastle Herald about child sexual abuse that eventually sparked a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that began in 2013. And just like Boston, Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric is involved. Cardinal George Pell is alleged to have known about the abuse that took place in Ballarat in the 1970s and to have done nothing about it.

A Study released last Wednesday by the Centre of Global Research at RMIT University in Melbourne has outlined “the systemic reasons why the abuse of children has plagued the Catholic Church worldwide.” The Report estimated one in 15 clergy (about 7%) had abused children between the years of 1950 to 2000.

The study found that mandatory celibacy, a culture of secrecy, and easy access to children are major factors in why such high rates of child sexual abuse have occurred in the Catholic Church throughout the world.

“Popes and Bishops created a culture of secrecy, leading to a series of gross failures in transparency, accountability, openness and trust as they endeavoured to protect the Church’s reputation as an all-holy institution above all else, even at the expense of children’s safety” the report said.

Last month The Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse called for a law reform for Clergy to face criminal charges if they did not report information they received regarding child sexual abuse during a religious confession.

According to the Guardian the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart said “he would risk going to jail rather than report allegations of child sexual abuse raised during confession, and that the sacredness of communication with God during confession should be above the law”

The thing that I find most disheartening is that despite all of this, the government still let religious beliefs affect Australian Law.

The 2016 Census showed “nearly a third of Australians (30 per cent) reported that they had no religion.” Yet same sex marriage cannot be legalised because, according to the no campaign, the bible says marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

Why are we putting so much faith into an institution that is shrouded by secrecy?

The Catholic Church is incapable of judging the value of the happiness of an individual over the power of an institution. They have been shown to value their own power so much more than the rights of a child or the rights of a person to marry someone they love.

Now, you may ask why this privileged white girl is getting her knickers in a knot about the Catholic Church, I’m not gay and I’ve never been abused, so why should this effect me?

A line from Spotlight sums it up quite perfectly: “They knew and they let it happen. It could have been you, it could have been me, it could have been any of us.”

The abuse that occurred is not something we can just sweep under the rug and forget. It occurred for so long because senior clergy of the church chose to protect the church’s name over the safety of children. Children who no doubt trusted them.

And although it did not happen to me, I believe it is important that we continue to discuss this issue so that it does not happen again. We should put our faith and trust in what is right, and not in an institution that bases their beliefs on a book that was written by man over 15 centuries ago.

Times are changing along with people’s beliefs. It’s time our government caught up with the rest of the country and the world.



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COMMENT: Faith in an Institution of Lies