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Time's up for the Catholic Church

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George Pell being interviewed in relation to child abuse crimes (screenshot via YouTube).

There is no room for debate. Now we must listen to and sympathise with the victims of the Church.

GEORGE PELL has been convicted on serious child sexual assault charges. In a court of law. 

Ever since that verdict came in – well, when the Australian public was informed of it – I felt relief, like many, and hoped that for other victims of child sexual abuse particularly by those in the Catholic Church they would feel some sort of justice was done. They might feel believed, they might even feel emboldened to speak up.

Unless you have grown up in the Catholic Church, it is difficult to explain the power that priests, brothers and nuns have, particularly priests. For such a powerful clerical figure like Pell to be held to account is earth-shattering.

I honestly thought this conviction would make both media and lawmakers (including Government) wake up to themselves and stop the ridiculous "respect" the Catholic Church has always been accorded in this nation. This respect and esteem is what has allowed the Church to be a law unto their own; allowed them to hide allegations against clergy, worse; allowed them to shuffle abusers around to other parishes just to abuse again in fresh pastures.

I am horrified that even after the Pell verdict, so many segments of media are still affording the Church respect they just don’t deserve. I was angry about this after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its findings into the Catholic Church back in February 2017.

Only one paper in the whole nation actually splashed the findings on their front page. After revealing 4,444 victims (that we know of) of child sexual abuse, the Church was still apparently being protected by the media?

4,444 victims were not enough to convince our media to splash ‘shame’ over the front pages of their papers. How many victims would be enough?

Admittedly, after the Pell conviction, we did have more front pages. Then, not even within 24 hours, we had Pell apologists. We had people who should know better upset about reactions from those outside the courthouse. There were nasty scenes. Pell supporters were outraged and angry at the jury. The so-called anti-Pell crowd – I prefer to call them victims of the Church and loved ones of those victims – were also angry and emotional. Yet for some reason "both" were at fault? Really? Both-siding victims and supporters of a child abuser?

Since when in this nation do we see "two sides" in paedophilia and child sex abuse?

Since when was it acceptable for famous Australians, Commentators, Politicians – even a former Prime Minister – to support someone convicted of serious child sexual assault charges in this nation?

Just yesterday morning on ABC News there was the usual "both sides" political chat with Simon Banks and Terry Barnes. When asked by presenters about Pell conviction, both agreed that people needed to think of the victims. But when Terry Barnes was asked about support from prominent Liberals for Pell, he then went on to discuss how the media firestorm has not been helped by “anti-Pell pieces from likes of Peter FitzSimons

Anti-Pell? Shouldn’t the nation as-a-whole be anti-Pell? You know, being a convicted child sex abuser and all?

The two presenters on the desk just carried on the conversation, not challenging of his statement at all. Yet, straight after this chat, the presenter then challenged Bill Shorten on every statement he made. So obviously had the ability to challenge statements, but let a comment like Barnes, pretty much both-siding commentary on Pell go through to the keeper?

It is these sorts of attitudes in the media that make victims feel abandoned. That makes them feel Pell and the Church are still so powerful.

Would we have the same attitude if these same commentators and politicians were defending the Bourke Street Killer James Gargasoulas or Man Haron Monis, the lone gunman responsible for the Lindt Café siege?

There were no two sides? There was no discussion of wait for appeal? There was just universal shock and condemnation as a nation.

Yet so many, particularly in media feel this "Pell issue" can be discussed like it is some sort of academic question about juries, religion or whatever. This is so wrong.

Just this morning I saw this utterly ridiculous Q&A tweet: “Has Catholicism done more harm to Australia than Islam?” This is a ridiculous proposition. 

In the current climate, the only religion with serious problems being highlighted by Pell conviction is Catholicism. Trying to pit two religions against each other is not only irresponsible, it deflects from Catholicism and the damage it has done to thousands of Australians alone – before we even look at worldwide victims – and to put questions like this to the public is just minimising the enormity of the damage the Catholic Church has done.

There are still thousands of victims out there who have never spoken, many have taken their pain to their death, many still feeling they will not be believed if they speak out and sadly, all too often, many whose families are still staunch Catholics and don’t feel they can speak out as don’t want to "hurt their families".

All these victims and loved ones of victims are seeing these media messages.

It is understandable that many are trying to defend priests or "good" Catholics they know. Most of us know one, but now is not the time to be ticking off anyone about their anger.

Tweets like this from Ellen Fanning should maybe reconsider the use of “anti-Papist”.

That term, anti-papist, is very strong. It has the connotation of extreme prejudice experienced by Catholics in years past, long long past and it is not appropriate at this moment in time. People who have been victims of the Church and waited decades and decades for any form of justice – remember thousands have still not received any justice – deserve the right to be angry, they deserve the right to be emotional.

It will calm down to a certain degree, but when so many in media are either defending Pell, or defending the right of Pell defenders to "have an opinion", these people will still feel angry, and anger at the Catholic Church will continue to rise. Address this first.

Why is the Catholic religion treated more kindly in media than unions?

I see media all too often repeat what the Government says about unions, tossing around pejoratives like "militant" or "lawless" in relation to unions, yet we don’t see this in relation to the Catholic Church nearly as often.

Why is this? Yes, there have been a few grubby union leaders over time. But they had not sexually abused over 4000 children, only cost a few businesses a bit of money when they walked off a building site (often for very good reason).

I can’t imagine the media just reporting in a blasé manner as if it was OK for a union to "internally investigate" a complaint about how a child abuse allegation was handled. Both the media and politicians would be squealing for Police to investigate.

Oh, and how dare the union "try to cover up"? Yet “Brisbane's Catholic Archbishop Mark Coleridge is being investigated by his former Archdiocese over his alleged handling of information on child sex abuse and this is just reported as an aside?

Even after Pell findings, no calls for Police? 

After these Pell findings and taking into account he was the boss of ‘The Melbourne Response', why aren’t media and politicians screaming for a task force to investigate every single allegation made to the Church? Surely their response is in question now?

There are not two sides to the Pell conviction. He is a convicted child sex abuser! He is not the only one: just the most powerful, highly placed abuser to be convicted in the Catholic Church. Any equivocation or defence of this man and the Church is reprehensible.

Any leeway given to the Church is reprehensible. They have known of this abuse being rampant for decades. Calls from the Sydney Archbishop to not be “too quick to judge” Pell are just bloody offensive.

The Church has had decades to address child sexual abuse and their response to it. They have not done so. Considering the amount of apologists currently getting media air time and that the promises to address this over the years that has only been lip service –or in the case of Pell – an opportunity to make life even harder for victims with the Ellis defence and scaring off other victims from coming forward, the Church does not deserve "time" to address its issues.

To borrow from the famous Woman’s movement against sexual harassment: Time's up for the Catholic Church.

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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