The Catholic Church′s production of sexually abusive men

A few weeks before my father died, he phoned me one night, something he never did. I think he believed that it was humiliating for a father to have to phone his own children. He called to tell me that his cancer, which until that point appeared to be growing infinitely slowly, had suddenly begun to generate many diverse and unpleasant symptoms and was advancing with great rapidity. He talked of his shortness of breath and other difficulties, saying, his Lancashire accent cracking with rage and distress: ‘It’s all because of the Thing! It’s the Thing!’

The Thing was not just the cancer, I think, but the entire moral circumstance of his life, the cloud of iniquity that had always dogged him right from childhood: the son of an Irish trawler-man  the fifth of seven children, flogged at school with willow branches by the Catholic Marist Brothers (often for not having the correct uniform) berated and threatened in the name of God.

And this strange fog of grief and guilt he attempted to bequeath to me, his eldest son, in some uncanny way when he sent me at the age of four, to a bleak Catholic school run by nuns who stood before us like black predatory birds to inform us with great relish that if we spent so much as a ha’penny of the money we were given by our parents for the collection plate at weekly Mass, the Devil would seize our hands when we put them in our pockets and burn holes through the centre of our palms.

This image gave me frequent nightmares, not least because my teacher followed up her advice by beating me with her fist in class whenever my attention was distracted, usually by the fearful images the nuns had conjured up, something that thereby reinforced the link between impure thoughts and evil circumstances.

It always seemed to me that my teacher disliked me so much that even thinking about me drove her into a shrieking vindictive fury, a fury that she was more than happy to vent on my parents by informing them that I was retarded. It was a depressing and nearly unbearable experience at the age of four to wake each morning, and have to go to school to be shouted at, beaten, and told that I was born inherently evil and could only be redeemed if I did what God told me. As the nuns seemed to be God’s personal mouthpieces, this gave me a dark and dismal and hopeless view of the world and my place in it.

One can only conclude that nuns and teachers behaved like this because it doing so gave them pleasure. We were completely in their power and, in the bottom of our hearts we knew it, and they knew it too. This was the first lesson of school, the first lesson of Catholicism, the lesson that everyone learned almost immediately: your inner life was not your own and your outer life even less.

In Alex Gibney’s 2011 documentary Mea Maxima Culpa; Silence in the House of God, a brilliant, bitter and heart-rending report on the endemic sexual abuse of children by the clergy of the Catholic Church, it is made abundantly clear that not only was  sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy a common practice over several continents, it was also structurally institutionalised.

Among the extraordinary, courageous and moving reports from adult survivors of sexual abuse by priests, Mea Maxima Culpa features some damning commentary from Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk and now a sociologist and mental health counsellor. Sipe spoke about his extensive research into the abusive sexual activities of Catholic priests. He concluded that not only were only about 50 percent of priests maintaining their vow of celibacy but that the Catholic clerical hierarchy knew that this was so.

‘The higher you go,’ said Sipe, ‘The more they know.’ He then went on to make a hair-raising claim about the Catholic Church’s complicity in the sexual abuse of children:

The system of Catholic clergy – for which I have great respect and to which I have given many years of my life – selects, cultivates, protects, defends and produces sexual abusers.

This is an amazing assertion. Sipe is in effect saying that the Catholic Church is a factory for the production of men who sexually assault children. Given the numbers of children who have been sexually assaulted by priests, it’s difficult to gainsay him.

So, if Sipe is correct, exactly how does the Catholic Church do this?

There are a number of things we can say fairly definitely about adults who abuse children. It’s worth looking at these closely, given that the institutional history of child sexual abuse is likely to a be topic of considerable public conversation In Australia over the next couple of years.

The person who sexually abuses a child is:

  • a man
  • using children as a substitute sexual partner
  • unable to establish a sexually intimate relationship with  another adult.
  • someone who has great difficulties in relating closely with others, because he has great difficulties understanding the minds of others.
  • unable to establish a coherent sexual identity for himself
  • living on the edge of a psychological disintegration.

In other words, according to Sipe’s definitions, the Catholic Church has done a stellar job in selecting men who have great sexual anxiety, struggle to have close relationships with others, are profoundly impaired in their ability to understand the mental states of others, and have enormous difficulty in maintaining psychological cohesion. As far as the Church is concerned, these are the men who make ideal priests.

Clerical identity might well superficially address such profound difficulties in these men, and thus appear very attractive to them. If I have severe sexual anxiety, that can be alleviated by an authority sanctioning me as sexually pure. If I am unable to understand the minds of others, then the Church dogma can explain others to me. If I struggle to maintain mental coherence then a construction of an identity as holy, special, removed from ordinary toil, and subjected to certain rules of divinely ordained conduct can contain me.

The Catholic Church is no ordinary authority. Signing up for a Church-sanctioned identity is not like over-identifying with your job in the public service. The Church considers itself to exist outside of time, the embodiment of eternal moral verities, accountable only to the Creator of the Universe Himself. One should not underestimate this. The damaged man who signs up for the priesthood is not just given a new identity. He is exalted. Or as Richard Sipe describes it, the new priest is ‘ontologically changed’.

In Mea Maxima Culpa, one survivor of abuse at the hands of the serial abuser Father Lawrence Murphy, a teacher at St John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee,  said that when he first attended the school he was entranced by a statue of Christ with his hands on the heads of two children. He said that when he saw the Christ statue he felt safe. He felt that he would be cared for. It’s one thing to be sexually abused by a stranger. It’s another to be abused by someone who says they care for you and is believed by others to care for you.

The institutional response to the sexual abuse of children is very often ‘We didn’t know.’ But children who are sexually abused nearly always try to tell someone. The adult world, however, usually fails to hear what abused children are saying.

Within the Catholic Church, the knowledge that priests were abusing children was so widespread among the Catholic hierarchy that the Church purchased special  retreats in different countries, where priests who had raped and abused children could go. After short periods of penance and prayer, they were returned to active duty and abused again.

In Australia, the Catholic Church established Encompass Australasia, a secret centre for treatment of priests who had sexually abused. Encompass Australasia was located in Sydney and only closed  in 2008. During its existence not one referral was ever made to the police despite hundreds of men  passing through the centre’s doors. In an incredibly weird post at Eureka St in November last year, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson described the treatment centre and explained why no  reports were made to the police:

It was a treatment centre, so the clinicians asked only questions directly related to treatment. This did not include seeking admissions of specific offences and, in particular, it did not involve asking the name and address of any victim. To ask such questions would send the client running away from the treatment. The clinicians therefore did not have knowledge of specific crimes.

More importantly, if one single person had been reported to the police, the entire treatment program would have closed down permanently the same day, for no offender would ever again come near it. In gaining information on one single client that may or may not have been useful in securing a conviction, the price to be paid would have been that no offenders into the future would receive any treatment.

This is an astounding and mindboggling statement that demonstrates such cavalier ignorance about working with abusive men that it is very hard to know where to start responding to it. It admits a sinister and toxic amount of collusion with men who have sexually assaulted children. One of the central difficulties of working with abusive men is clearly and directly addressing their attempts at collusion. ‘Collusion’ refers to the abusive man’s attempts to escape responsibility and engage others in  subtly or overtly putting the blame elsewhere. These attempts are often relentless, complex and begin the moment the abusive man walks through the door. Collusion protects the perpetrator and sanctions his excuses.

Robinson goes on to say;

This is a question that society must face. Do we wish to adopt only a single solution of punishment for all cases of sexual abuse? Or do we wish to include treatment as another option? If we can have both, so much the better, but on many occasions that is not possible. Sometimes we have to choose between punishment and prevention.

 Actually, Geoffrey, we never have to. We can do both. We can hold abusive men fully accountable for their actions and work with them to change their behaviour. That’s the whole point. The fundamental premise of working with abusive men is working with them to accept responsibility. This often involves collaborating with police, judiciary and other agencies. There is no therapeutic magic trick that works outside of that framework of responsibility.

It beggars belief that none of the hundreds of men who went through Encompass Australasia’s program ever disclosed details of their abusive criminal behaviour to anyone. Robinson’s description of Encompass Australasia’s program is a recipe for protecting sexual predators. And, unsurprisingly, it appears that there was no corresponding program that addressed the needs of  the victims of sexual abuse by priests, despite the known catastrophic effects that childhood abuse entails. A leaked 2012 Victorian police report documented at least forty suicides of people who had been sexually abused by Catholic clergy.

It’s usually the default strategies of abusive men to deny everything whenever their behavour is clearly identified and named. If that doesn′t work, denial moves into  variations on blame or even, as some victims of Catholic priests report, claims that the abuser was in fact ‘helping’ the abused.  Whenever I hear yet another statement from a member of  the Catholic clergy ‘reaching out’ to the victims of its toxic culture, or seeking to rationalise abusive actions, I think, ‘In what way is this a strategy of denial, or an abrogation of responsibility?’ Geoffrey Robinson’s statement about the treatment of sexual offenders falls squarely into both camps, I think.

For the Catholic Church to take full responsibility for the acts of abuse perpetrated on thousands of children across the world, it would need to undergo a structural remake on a scale not seen since Peter got the nod. There have been many calls for Catholic priests to be forced to abide by laws that everyone else abides by when it comes to the sanctity of the Confessional Seal. In other words, priests should abide by the mandatory reporting laws on child sexual abuse that many other professions have to follow. Numerous Catholics, clergy and lay people, have objected to this. The Jesuit and lawyer Frank Brennan, well known in Australia for his human rights work, said last year that he would rather go to jail than break the confessional seal.

This is an extraordinary statement for someone like Brennan to make. Many priests who have agreed with him have pointed out that those who abuse children don’t tell anyone, so that advocating for priests to abide by mandatory reporting legislation is a red herring. Of course, abusers don’t voluntarily disclose. But children do. There have been numerous reports from adult survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy that they tried to tell other priests what had been done to them. Brennan appears to be saying that if he hears a disclosure in the confessional box from a child who says they have been sexually abused he will do nothing.

As Mea Maxima Culpa demonstrated, the knowledge about sexually abusive clergy went right to the very top of the Vatican. And it is clear that many of the reports of the sexual abuse of children landed squarely on the desk of Joseph Ratzinger, decades ago.

It’s hard to see how the Catholic Church can recover from the revelation that it  is a structurally abusive institution that has sanctioned the rape of children and protected the rapists. Or perhaps I should rephrase that: what are the ways in which the Church will try to recover? My guess is through denial, blaming others, and most toxically, by the protection of, and collusion with, the perpetrators of the abuse.

The election of a new Pope, whoever he is, will most likely make little difference to the Catholic Church’s response to child sexual assault by its clergy. In fact, since the outgoing Pope appointed the majority of the current Cardinals, change is probably the last thing on their minds. One thinks of deck chairs being shuffled around on sinking liners. The Catholic Church’s demonstrated institutional intransigence and toxicity on child sexual abuse is so enormous and so pervasive that one begins to think, if the rape and sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy has been so endemic in the Church, and if the Church is a culturally rigid institution a couple of thousand of years old, how long has this been going on? Centuries?

I stopped being interested in Catholicism about the time my Infants teacher was beating the crap out of me. When I was a Catholic child I used to think about Christ’s statement, ‘Suffer the little children to come to me.’ I didn’t really get it. It was the use of the word ‘suffer’, I think, that threw me.

When I did understand it, it puzzled me further.  I wondered if the Catholic teachers and nuns I had encountered had actually got Christ′s injunction backwards. It made sense that they had. Obviously, I concluded,  they thought it meant,  ‘Make the children suffer.’

That must be it. That explained everything.

Stephen Wright

Stephen Wright’s essays have won the Eureka St Prize, the Nature Conservancy Prize, the Overland NUW Fair Australia Prize and the Scarlett Award, and been shortlisted for several others. In 2017, he won the Viva La Novella Prize. His winning novel, A Second Life, was published by Seizure, and also won the Woollahra Digital Literary Prize for Fiction.

More by Stephen Wright ›

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  1. There’s a heap of shit that could be gone into here, having undergone and renounced the system myself at an early age, a class system where the Church rich and powerful never have and never will confesses their own sins, where its brides of christ demean themselves by doing demeaning house work, where its poor sinners are forced simultaneously to fill the Church’s money bowl and acknowledge non-existent sins both under the breath and out loud while hammering at their own heartbeat (“through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”), but I’d like to hear the Church make its case first. Maybe George Pell will write a comment in reply?

  2. Stephen, thanks for this insightful post.

    The points you make are important, especially in light of the Catholic Church’s furious resistance to a royal commission specifically focused on abuse within their walls. Every abused child deserves justice and recognition, but I wonder if the Royal Commission’s broad focus will cause it to miss the opportunity to ask why abuse thrives in the Catholic Church specifically.

    I haven’t seen Mea Maxima Culpa yet (has it screened in Australia?) but there is an interview with its director at Harpers which is worth reading.

    1. I think the RC can go anywhere and ask anyone anything, and of course will be making recommendations. However, I don’t think those investigations will be specifically looking at what we might call the institutional psychologies that produce men who abuse children, or where those psychologies are located.
      I don’t know if Gibney’s doco achieved a cinematic release in Australia. It popped up on HBO a few weeks back.

  3. I am speechless.

    Thank you for bringing a clear light to this dark of darkest ravages of human behaviour and will.

    This post is so very disturbing in so many ways.

  4. I am reminded of the sanctioned sex trade of Aboriginal children by Australian long-haul truck drivers, of child sex-workers in all parts of the world, of organisations and institutions,as you say, promoting and profiting from the theft of life, safety, and dignity of children, using and abusing their bodies and minds to satisfy a desire that is in every way wrong.

    The most disturbing part of your post for me is the ‘caring’, ‘pure’ church enclosing the rape and violence of children- that is so ‘evil’, it’s really fucked up.

    1. That’s the really horrible thing about the abuse of children by adults – that it is disguised as caring. And if the person who abuses you is believed to have the ability to care for your eternal soul, perhaps that is even more pernicious.

  5. Here’s a point, having read the post again.

    Is it possible to state definitively that “the Catholic Church has done a stellar job in selecting men who have great sexual anxiety, struggle to have close relationships with others, are profoundly impaired in their ability to understand the mental states of others, and have enormous difficulty in maintaining psychological cohesion (?) As far as the Church is concerned, these are the men who make ideal priests”.

    I guess there have been priests and brothers etc who have upheld the official church curriculum and conducted themselves exemplarily throughout their lives (where is the justice for them if what you say is true?), so it’s the deliberate act of ‘selecting’ men beset with fatalistic and inbuilt traits for committing sex crimes that I’m querying. I find it hard to credit that the church historically was smart and cynical enough to build such a recruitment profile for a hidden curriculum, and then act on it. It could be the case, as with prisons, that men take on the deviant customs of an institution once inside in order to fit in? It could be also that certain types of men are themselves attracted to the closeted life on offer within the institution of the church (who may well fit the above portrait), and once inside Rome, do and did as the Romans do?

    Also, does such a profile cut across all cultures and ethnicities? Once, priests and brothers recruited in Australia came from Anglo Celtic backgrounds, and after WW2, European backgrounds. The church in Australia seems no longer able to attract men from those traditional backgrounds, and recruits from South-East Asian, Pacific and African countries. Have those men been recruited deliberately with the hidden curriculum profile in mind? If not, where is the justice for them in such a claim?

    This may read as a defence of the Church’s record on child abuse. Rather, child and other forms of sexual abuse need to be called for what they are (sex crimes), not a lesser euphemism, and its perpetrators be charged and prosecuted for those sex crimes if proven guilty in a court of law. Also, those innocent of such sex crimes deserve justice too. However, if what you state is true then the Catholic Church has on these matters been far more sinister and deviant than I ever imagined.

  6. Justice for men who haven’t abused isn’t the issue. We can speak the truth about the Church’s practices and institutional structures without labelling all priests as abusive, just as we can label the structure of masculinity as complicit in domestic violence, but not blame all men.
    This is really important to remember otherwise we find ourselves caught up in very pernicious reasoning. Organisations such as the police tend to use it whenever institutional police corruption is exposed; it was a few bad apples, but most cops are good. Perhaps most cops are good, but the use of that argument to defend them suggests that the problem is actually very much a structural one.
    Priests who don’t abuse need to be saying very clearly that the Church needs to change, just as men who don’t use violence against women need to speak openly about the changes that need to happen to masculinity.
    As far as the Church’s abusive practices as a cross-cultural problem, the jury is still out. Mea Maxima Culpa suggests that prohibitions against accusing priests are still strong in places like Latin America.
    Because the Church has always chosen to deal with sexual abuse allegations by either denying them, or responding in secret and avoiding criminal proceedings it is difficult to know whether their records show much more prevalent abuse than that we know of.
    Either way, what we do know points to an institutional problem on an unprecedented scale. We may well never actually know how big. There are always numbers of people who won’t come forward and speak of their abuse, just because it is too traumatic to do so and the outcomes are rarely good.

  7. Okay, some further points.
    I’m not and wasn’t claiming that justice for those men who may not have committed sex crimes against children is the main issue – I agree, sex crimes against children committed by Catholic clergy (male, as far as we know) is and should be the main concern – but the lack of justice for those men who may not have or didn’t abuse children under their care is a concern too if and when, following Sipe (“The system of Catholic clergy – for which I have great respect and to which I have given many years of my life – selects, cultivates, protects, defends and produces sexual abusers.”) you go on to make the leap of faithlessness and state:
    “This is an amazing assertion. Sipe is in effect saying that the Catholic Church is a factory for the production of men who sexually assault children. Given the numbers of children who have been sexually assaulted by priests, it’s difficult to gainsay him.
    So, if Sipe is correct…”
    Otherwise, what sort of a justice system do we have?
    I don’t have access to what Sipe said, has said, or did not say on the matter, so my understanding of the claim comes from you quoting Sipe after viewing the Mea Maxima Culpa documentary. That we can quote the words of others, duplicate the speech sounds of others through our own speech patterns, and write them down too, has always amazed me (other animals can’t quote each other as far as I know), so that makes quotation a distinctively human trait that concerns processes of verification. Can we say definitively and historically that “The system of Catholic clergy selects, cultivates, protects, defends and produces sexual abusers”? It’s the question of that definitiveness that clouds the main issue here (sex crimes against children by members of the Catholic clergy), and necessitates the questioning of justice for those who may not be abusing and did not abuse children in their care. It is where the signified (the definitiveness of the claim) slides under the signifiers that make the case so that I was querying, considering too, that the doxic modality associated with you quoting Sipe was done believingly and became a truism thereafter.
    I make these points because if allegations against the Catholic Church on matters of sex crimes by its clergy are to be made officially and legally, there needs to be absolute certainty about the actual charges.

    1. Dennis, I’m not really clear what you’re saying here.
      I’ve been thinking about the ideas in this post for a while, particularly the question as to why the Catholic Clergy have abused so many children, for so long, while the Church hierarchy clearly had knowledge that abuses were taking place.
      It is obvious that the Church has protected and defended abusers and has done so for decades. That’s incontrovertible. That by itself is astounding. many of the claims of abuse go back 50 or 60 years. It’s very possible that the only reason they don’t go back further is because the abuse survivors are dead. Given the Church’s long-term level of collusion with the abusers, and the denial of the victims allegations, the next step is to at least speculate as to what is happening in the structure of the Church that has allowed this to go on for so long. Questions about why so many men with severely damaged minds were recruited as priests, ordained as bishops etc need to be asked.
      I’ve quoted Sipe’s statement in full. He was very deliberate in his choice of words. It wasn’t a throwaway line. I can only ask the question and offer some theories based on my professional understandings. But Sipe is in a much better position than me to make very definitive statements.

  8. I’m not and never have doubted longstanding claims of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy of which I have some personal knowledge, simply doubting a mostly unsubstantiated claim that the Catholic Church constructed a sex criminal profile and recruited clergy on that basis for processing in their sex criminal factory. It may well be so, however more evidence than what is provided here is needed to prove that claim.

  9. Surely this is the result of the shame that is so inherent in the cosmology of Christianity, a cosmology that seperates the flesh from the spirit, and damns the flesh. That is its basic principle; that anything to do with desire is something to be ashamed of. This seems to be particularly true in the Catholic Tradition. It is a terribly sad thing that so many people seem to have suffered because of these ancient and fearful beliefs.

    1. I have no idea if your interpretation of Catholic philosophy is accurate. To me it’s the ways in which power and masculinity have been acted out that are most interesting.

      1. HI Stephen :),
        It seems ironic to me that we are talking about these men as though they are ‘evil’, which after all is a religious concept, courtesy of the Catholic Church, and quite possibly of St Augustine of Hippo in particular. That man has a lot to answer for. He wrote the ‘Doctrine of Free Will’ into the Catholic tenets and into our culture, in an attempt to justify his omnipotent God.

        We don’t even question it now. If we were hindus, we would be thinking ‘Karma’. Free Will would not come into it. But in the West, the concept of Free Will is assumed to be true, and our legal system is based upon it, just as St Gus would have wanted it. We have ‘good'(God) on one side, ‘evil’ (the Devil) on the other, and ‘free will’ in the middle. It seems very simplistic to me.

        I have known on a very personal level what it feels like to have one’s will completely subjugated, and to feel helpless against a compulsion. But there was nothing evil about it. I was just unwell.

        We should be careful in labelling these men (and women, because they were pretty brutal in their own way) as inherently faulty, and instead look to the culture that has been handed down, and address that. These people did not just land in these institutions. They were brought up with these belief systems, as were their parents. And any system that asks its followers to suppress a natural impulse and also feel ashamed about it, is bound to throw up shame-filled behaviours. Bound to.

        1. I guess any concept or experience of ‘evil’ is always going to be tied up with the subjugation of one person by another. My guess would be that the damaged men who later go on to abuse were not damaged primarily by experiences of religiously tinged sexual shame. I think it’s more complicated than that, more fundamental , more indicative of something that went wrong – developmentally speaking – very very early.

          1. I did not mean to imply that there is anything simple about developmental damage, just that the religious beliefs these families live with can contribute negatively to the environment a child grows up in. I cannot think of anything more fundamental to a child’s development than the mental health of their parents, and the suppression of sexuality, because of orders from on-high seems very likely to cause mental-health issues such as anxiety and depression in the parent, disorders the child is likely to take responsibility for, and to feel shame about.

            You mentioned that children may speak of abuse in a confession box, and not be helped. However I think it is extremely unlikely that a child would speak of abuse in those circumstances, simply because they would feel so much shame, and they would assume it is their fault. Children think differently to adults, and that is why they are so vulnerable. They would live with the shame and eventually, if there is no intervention, those feelings are likely to result in self-harm or harm to others. I don’t think it is possible to seperate the Catholic ideology from the actions of these men.

    1. I’m not sure it’s a kind of ‘sexual suppression’ we might be speculating on, in childhood. Probably something creepier. Shame might not have anything to do with it at all. I have no idea whether or not children disclose abuse in the confessional box. Certainly in Mea Maxima Culpa, adult survivors related how as children had tried to tell priests about the abusive behaviour of other priests. My point was more that the logical outcome of Frank Brennan’s statement of the confessional seal was that if a child disclosed to him – presumably because they trusted him etc – he would be obliged to let the abuse continue.
      As far as Church ideology goes, I think a more interesting question – for me at least – is, ‘In what way was Catholic doctrine used to rationalise abusive behaviour.’ Richard Sipe was quite clear that priestly holiness was one; I am not an abuser because I am holy.

  10. A good read. Where I read Catholic Church I always substitute all institutionalised child abuse. It manifests in many other non-Catholic Church systems such as Anglican, Mormon, Salvation Army, State foster care, Army, Navy etc. It is not the Catholic system so much, it is all of these groups. The question to ask is what do these have in common? Answer that and you’ll progress the debate. The Royal Commission will shed some more light. I like the factors you listed:

    •using children as a substitute sexual partner
    •unable to establish a sexually intimate relationship with another adult.
    •someone who has great difficulties in relating closely with others, because he has great difficulties understanding the minds of others.
    •unable to establish a coherent sexual identity for himself
    •living on the edge of a psychological disintegration.

    These people are spread through-out many structures in the community, even the non-institutionalised original sin of family incest situations. Nothing new about that. So the challenge is to understand the cause of this socio-pathic behaviour and manage it. Until there are clearer ideas about what drives the behaviour then the affected institutions can just say we did not know how to handle it. In the case of the Church the rule has been that we offended but being in the service of god we did more right than wrong. Other institutions like the military justify it in other ways. So the aim should be to understand why so many emotionally stunted people “congregate” or “assemble” in what have become safe havens like the military and the church, and why have these institutions been allowed to become safe havens, like where is the governance and the accountability, and moreso why do these emotionally stunted people think that finding and abusing other vulnerable people, usually kids, is going to make their own lives better or give them happiness and why they do it when they must realise that it completely destroys those that are abused. Once that question is answered then this state and cycle of human failure may be arrested. I am continually surprised why this point is ignored and that additional focus is not applied to getting to the root cause. Do the abusers think that they are trying to create another sub-culture. What part of the human brain is at work?

    1. The difference between the Catholic institutions where abuse occurred and others is that the Catholic abuse was more widespread (global) and across diverse institutions. The Catholic Church was much more successful at recruiting and producing men who abuse children. The question is not ‘what do the various organisations under examination have in common’ but ‘what made the Church so unique’?
      Men who abuse children don’t understand the damage they are doing. That’s the problem. You’re presupposing a state of mind that says ‘I think I might do do some evil today.’ Abuse and evil acts generally aren’t carried out for pleasure in being bad. Nazis didn’t kill Jews because they wanted to be evil but because ridding the world of Jews was considered to be a public good.
      What the Royal Commission will be successful at s anyone’s guess. If its investigations don’t result in prosecution and massive on-going compensation for adult survivors of abuse then it will be have largely been a waste of time.

  11. Two and half years since this article was published, the RC has heard astounding testimonies, movies have exposed what could easily be proved the c.c is still terrorising victims, Governments know crimes have been committed, police have records of paedophilia from organisations across the board and NO big fish have been called to account. They are falling fowl to illness, have no memory, or the crimes are outside the statute of limitations. There is no need to any more evidence and it is time for action. Now if anybody want’s to do something constructive, convince the community (very difficult) that there is a WAR to be waged like no other. Bombs, guns and military might will not win this WAR. Studying what made the c.c attract paedophiles is not the answer. These organisations have been set up under the guise of an ideology which has become a “money making CULT”.We have been duped and hoodwinked, and the hard (not been done before) challenge will be convincing people they are on a dangerous path and take responsibility for the future. The c.c is one of about six players (world entities, governments etc.,) on a chessboard pushing the ‘dice around the board and going NOWHERE only satisfying each others ‘white noise’. The world is in a MESS and no amount of theorirising is going to fix it. IT’S TIME FOR ACTION.

  12. Have to wonder …

    with George Pell’s conviction on child sexual assault charges, is the career of Andrew Bolt now over.

    Not sure even Murdoch can hold back the tide against a paedo-apologist.

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