Suffer the little children: Sexual abuse and neglect by Church and state

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(image via childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au)

Where is the outrage from our government at 4,444 reported cases of child sexual abuse over 30 years? The silence is deafening, says John Passant.

IMAGINE if the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had found and reported on widespread systemic abuse of children by Islamic religious leaders?

The condemnation would be never ending from the Islamophobes, media and politicians.

Weeks later, there would still be analysis and calls for action, including banning Islam, banning Muslims, closing Islamic schools, policing Islam, banning Muslim refugees and asylum seekers — oh, we already do that. And on to all the usual tropes of reaction about, for example, Sharia law, halal food, the oppression of women, homophobia and – the biggie – terrorism.

I will get to sexual terrorism in a moment. The hysteria about Muslim terrorism is long on rhetoric and short on facts. Of course, some Islamic state sympathisers and similar people will try to kill innocent people in the West. The rulers of the West, after all, have been terrorising the people of the Middle East for over a century.

John Pilger and others extrapolate from figures by medical scientists in The Lancet to show that "our war criminals", George W Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard and their successors, have killed over one million people in Iraq as a consequence of the 2003 invasion. You remember that invasion, don’t you, based on "fake" news about weapons of mass destruction?

Why aren’t George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard and their successors on trial at The Hague for their crimes against humanity in Iraq, resulting in the death of a million innocent Iraqis? That invasion was terrorism on a mass scale. Ah but, of course, international "laws" only apply to the enemies of our ruling class politicians, not to "our" own war criminals.

There are other forms of terrorism. Sexual terrorism is one.

Recently, the Royal Commission reported that between 1980 and 2015, 4,444 children said they had been abused at more than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia. The average age of abused girls was 10.5. For abused boys it was 11.6. It was alleged that 7% cent of Catholic priests were abusers. In some orders, the figures were double that and, in one case, it was 40%.

The silence has been overwhelming. There were, of course, media reports about the findings but they have been short-lived. They contained little questioning about why an institution like the Catholic Church could have so many abusers in its ranks and why nothing was done by the Church or the state to protect the children in its care. Politicians too, were largely silent, or made anodyne statements of regret and support for the victims.

Why the silence in the face of so much evidence of systemic abuse by Catholic religious orders yet the rage against Islam?

According to the 2011 Census, Catholics make up about 25% of the Australian population. This has been the case for some time, given early capitalist development in the 1800s depended on transported labour and then immigration. Ireland, as a rebellious, occupied and impoverished colony, was a major supplier of both.

While 61% of Australians identify as Christian, just 2.2% of Australians identify as Muslim.

For the predominantly Protestant ruling class, Irish Catholics for over 150 years were one of the major "enemies within" in Australian society. The ruling class could not treat Irish Catholics in exactly the same way they treated the Chinese then or Muslims today. Irish Catholics were a key part of the working class that provided their profits. They could, however, divide workers along sectarian and anti-Irish (that is, racist) lines — and sometimes succeeded. There were major riots and sometimes pogroms against Catholics. The discrimination against the Irish – and against Catholics more generally – was palpable.

They found their own outlets — the Labor Party, for example, politically and economically; Catholic bosses employed Catholic workers.

The Catholic Church was then and is today a key institution of capitalism. What has changed is the breakdown of the sectarian divide between Catholics and Protestants as both became more clearly identified as bosses and workers, rather than Catholic or Protestant. There were a number of reasons for this, including post war immigration, the rise of a fighting left in the 1960s and the ongoing integration of Australian capitalism into the global economy.

This full integration of Catholicism into capitalism has been ongoing. Catholic schools, by and large, produce acquiescent workers, not rebels. The Catholic education system provides great numbers of workers well trained to produce profits for employers. The vast majority of those workers accept and have been trained to accept the system without question. That is true of other schools as well but, for Catholic kids giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, is an important lesson in obedience to the status quo. So too is their immediate acquiescence to the Church’s hierarchy, from the local priest to the Pope.

In addition, the Church’s ideology is a key component of conservatism — especially its view on women as the producers and unpaid carers of the next generation of workers. Hence, its opposition for example to abortion and contraceptives. Its own structures and hierarchy, on matters divine and worldly, is made up only of men and specifically excludes women.

This too, in part, explains why the Church is at the forefront of opposition to gays and lesbians, couched in terms of traditional marriage and seeing sex between consenting adults of the same gender as a sin. Recognition of equal love in the eyes of the Church challenges the traditional family, the family that reproduces workers for the system and imposes the burden of child raising and home maintenance mainly on women.

The concentration on moral issues is, in part, explained by the rise of capitalism and the capitalist state. That saw the Church lose state power and its focus became its own version of the moral sphere of human activity.

Yet its own structures, its own hierarchy, its own position in society, have produced 4,444 reported cases of abuse of children in 35 years. This is over 100 a year, or two a week. That is sexual terrorism.

How have our politicians responded?

In answering these questions, keep firmly in mind how the racist right and mainstream politicians today would have reacted if these abuse cases had been perpetrated by Muslims. I have put in brackets words to draw the distinction out more clearly below.

In light of the widespread abuse of children, have our politicians been campaigning for the closure of Catholic (Muslim) schools? What about campaigning for banning the Catholic (Islam) religion, which terrorises kids and appears to be a structure of sin? What about calling for gaoling some of the many Catholic (Muslim) abusers of children who have so far escaped prosecution? What about an investigation into the covering up by the Church hierarchy, priests (imams) and the police?

Nothing like that. As I pointed out recently on IA, the more mainstream conservative politicians, like the Prime Minister, have been talking up coal during a massive climate change-induced heatwave and beating up a story about the "wanna be millionaire", Labor leader Bill Shorten. The more extreme conservatives, ex-Liberal but still Senator Cory Bernardi and Nationals MP George Christensen, have been fundraising for an anti-halal campaigner at the anti-Muslim Q Society.

Their priorities are not protecting children from systemic abuse by an institution fully embedded into capitalism and stuck in the Middle Ages, in terms of its structures and ideology. Their priority is profit for employers, and part of that is stirring up divisions among workers with anti-Muslim words and actions, and attempting to unite us with the ruling class using this sectarian divide.

Suffer the little children.

John Passant was educated at Catholic school for the age of 5 to 18. His brother is a Catholic priest.

John is a former Assistant Commissioner of Taxation. Read more by John on his website En Passant or follow him on Twitter @JohnPassant.

Signed copies of John Passant’s first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016) are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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