The Papal Trucking Company Pty Unlimited

I highly recommend this opinion piece by Tony Webber in the Dubbo PhotoNews, 30/8/14. In a devastating critique of the church’s scandalous handling of child sex abuse, Tony drives Cardinal Pell’s truck to its illogical conclusions.

A trucking company “would not try to gets itself categorised as an unstructured, non-commercial entity to avoid paying due compensation to its victims.”

“…trucking companies pay tax on earnings. The [Royal] commission heard the Melbourne Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne holds property and investments worth $309million, which generated $53million in tax-free income last year.

“… imagine a trucking company that refused to provide log books and other documentation to police investigating its drivers.”

To read the article click here.

War – is commemoration the same as glorification?

Australians commemorate Anzac Day  (25 April) or Remembrance Day (11 November) with mixed emotions. Some still see it as a time to venerate brave soldiers and remember ‘the fallen’.  Others take the opportunity to point again to the futility of war.

Remembering wars brings out all sorts of emotions: mawkish sentimentality, strident nationalism, grief for young lives lost in faraway battles, the yearning for universal disarmament.

And the marketeers emerge with battlefield tourism – Gallipoli is a sellout (some would say in more ways than one).  The pop history of ‘Anzackery’ continues to dominate despite the growing feeling of resentment that war has overshadowed other strands in the history of Australian democracy.

An article on the recently developed Honest History website resonated.  David Stephens wrote:

Ultimately, what is important is not what our fathers and grandfathers did in war but what war did to them and to us. And here there is an important difference: the generations who fight wars suffer directly; the soldiers go where they are sent and their families wait. But later generations – us – have some control over the impact of war. We choose our own history, which bits of the past we wish to burnish and which we prefer to leave alone. Read more here.

Whatever our thoughts are about how we should commemorate war – or indeed whether we should commemorate war – it seems there are two groups of Australian soldiers whose service is generally overlooked: Indigenous Australians and those who grew up in orphanages and children’s Homes.

Indigenous Australians

Many are beginning to ask why our national institution, the Australian War Memorial, pointedly refuses to acknowledge the undeclared (and some would say unfinished) war between the First Australians and the powerful boat people who dispossessed them. Read more here.

It can’t be that the frontier war was too inconsequential. In body counts alone, it is estimated that at least 20 000 Indigenous people were killed and at least another 2 000  on the other side. Is an honest history too discomforting even all these decades over the legal battle over terra nullius has been fought and won – or lost, if you’re on the other side?

The topic of Indigenous Australians in the two World Wars is another matter that has until very recently been whispered about rather than openly debated.  Indigenous Australians were basically disqualified from enlisting in the Australian Infantry Force (AIF) in the 1st War, yet scholars are now able to list the names of more than 800 soldiers of Indigenous heritage who served at Gallipoli, the Middle East and the Western Front. While many reports say they were treated well in the trenches, their treatment back in Australia after the War was disgraceful. Read more here

Recommended Reading: Philippa Scarlett, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Volunteers for the AIF: the Indigenous Response to World War One, (2nd Edition, reprinted 2013,2014). Published by Indigenous Histories. $30 plus $10 postage within Australia.

  • available from Indigenous Histories at   or
  • PO 686 Jamison Centre Macquarie,  ACT, Australia 2614

Australian soldiers who grew up in orphanages and children’s Homes

While soldiers who grew up in orphanages and children’s Homes were not confronted by the racism referred to above (unless they too were Indigenous!) many have been forgotten or overlooked in commemorative avenues, plaques and rolls of honour.

They came from  families so fragmented or disrupted that no one was in a position to know about their enlistment. A few Homes erected Rolls of Honour and a couple even created their own Avenues of Honour, but in most cases these have fallen into disrepair or have long been forgotten.

Read more about a project to redress this situation 

Spin doctors and children in detention

The wheel turns on media spin.   

In June this year, Fairfax media reported that the number of ‘spin doctors’ and communications staff employed by the Australian Immigration Department had risen to 95 – up from 13 under the previous government in 2011.  This in a time when the Government is telling us there’s a budget crisis and we must all tighten our belts.  What do these ‘spin doctors’ do all day? Apparently, their job is to conceal information about children in detention. Read more here.

My mind harks back to 1934 when the public were positively encouraged to visit and inspect children in detention. Many of these babies were in the so-called hospital because they had been forcibly removed from their mothers who, you will notice, are not mentioned in this advertisement.

Save the Babies 1934

Church’s line is broken

“Is the line broken?” asked the Royal Commissioner, Peter McClellan, as the television hook-up to Rome failed.

“The cardinal is unmoving on the screen which suggests it has,” replied counsel assisting Gail Furness SC, with Judge McClelland observing mournfully: “The line has failed in Rome.”

It sure had, in more ways than one when Cardinal George Pell used the analogy of a truck driver raping a hitch-hiker.  The trucking company had no liability for the driver’s crime just as the church had no liability for a priest raping a child.

What could have possessed a cardinal of the church to use such a crass analogy? To compare a one-off rape to the litany of recurrent sexual abuses of children by clergy? To strip a heinous crime  of all moral culpability beyond that which attaches to the perpetrator of the moment? To conflate the betrayal of a vulnerable child placed in the care  and protection of a church with an  adult hitch-hiker.

Just crass.

With men like Pell rising to the top of the hierarchy, incapable of compassion, devoid of any sense of owning responsibility, swerving all over the road to avoid trouble, the church has lost all moral authority.

The disbelief in the Royal Commission hearing was palpable – and the wider community was also incredulous. Here is  the reaction from letters to the editor in today’s Melbourne Age:

Such a company would be taken off the road

All right George Pell, let’s compare the Catholic church to a trucking company (The Age, 22/8). Let’s imagine that hundreds of truck drivers all over the world begin raping children on their shifts – and, horrifyingly, they all belong to the same company. Head office knows what’s going on, because streams of distressed parents have been making complaints. But it doesn’t report its drivers to the police, or even sack them – it just moves drivers on to other routes. What’s more, the families are told that because their children were raped by truck drivers, it is the company itself that is best placed to investigate the crimes committed against them. They’ll get a nominal amount of money if their claims are established, as long as they don’t tell anyone else about it. That sounds like a company that needs to be taken off the road.

Nina Puren, Oakleigh

Church management the biggest problem

At least George Pell is honest in suggesting that the Church is not there to provide pastoral care. Rather, it is like a trucking company that is there to ship things around by night (such as paedophile priests) and make as much profit as it can. An exception is that the Church, unlike trucking companies, has been allowed to “structure” itself to prevent legal action being taken against it. The worst problem in the Church is not the paedophiles. It is the “management” – up to the very top – that protected these offensive people, hid the offences, scared off its victims and excused its own disgusting behaviour. Your own words, George Pell, condemn you as a major part of the problem.

Graeme Scarlett, East Malvern

Further abuse of victims

How much lower can the Church go in its secondary abuse of victims? I did not stand on a highway to be picked up by a “truckie”, Cardinal Pell. I was a small child in a loving Catholic home where a trusted “employee” of the church, i.e. a priest, was invited to my home for dinner by my parents and then assaulted me. The analogy further shows how out of touch the old men of the Church are.

Shelley Thomson, Flaxton, Queensland

 Recall ambassador to Holy See

Recall ambassador to Holy See

The Vatican’s refusal to hand over all documents relating to every case in the royal commission, claiming they are “internal working documents of another sovereign state”, beggars belief. These atrocities were committed under Australian law yet not one priest was ever handed over to the police by the Church. Time to pick your team, George – Team Australia or Team Rome. Our embassy to the Holy See should be closed and our ambassador recalled.

Brent Baigent, Richmond

An accessory after the fact?

If a truck driver committed molestation and his chief executive transferred him interstate to avoid detection the CEO could be charged with being an accessory after the fact. Cardinal Pell (and others in the Church) should be investigated with the view of having Pell extradited here to face charges of being an accessory after the fact.

Lawry Twining, Northcote

End tax-free status

The royal commission must continue even if it does cost a further $105 million. However, given that the churches were willing to pay for QCs to defend their predatory employees, should not taxpayers be reimbursed for the costs incurred in giving victims a voice? If they have no redress at law perhaps now is the time to remove the tax-free status of those parts of these institutions that are not bone fide charities.

Colin Simmons, Woodend

Two faces of the church

The two faces of the Catholic Church were on stark display this week. The head of Vinnies, John Falzon, led off with a spirited defence of the marginalised on Monday’s Q and A, reminding us that the Church at its best is gospel-focused, hope-filled and passionate about upholding the rights of society’s most vulnerable. Alas, by Thursday we had lurched back into the bleak world of Cardinal Pell, a senior Church ”leader” still in abject denial, who compounded the grievous damage already done to clergy sexual abuse survivors and their families with his ludicrous ”truck” simile. Falzon’s words and demeanour were prophetic, pastoral and empathetic. Pell’s were the opposite.

Grant McDavy, Noble Park

Read more here

Royal Commission on Child Sexual Abuse

Key points from my submission to the Royal Commission on Child Sexual Abuse:

  •  A national redress scheme to which all governments, major churches and relevant non-government organisations contribute equitably is among the most important outcomes that this Royal Commission could give rise to.
  • Written evidence should not be expected in every case; many cases were not reported at the time, and records have been “lost” or destroyed.
  • You do not have to have been raped or sexually assaulted to have been profoundly affected by sexual activity in children’s institutions.
  • There is a strong connection between sexual abuse and violence which is often underestimated. While the phenomenon of grooming is increasingly well understood, its counterpart of violence and naked abuse of power is not.
  • The same fear, humiliation and intimidation that enabled abuse to take place also served as a mechanism by which information about abuse was suppressed.
  • The sexualised environment of children’s Homes contributed to the high incidence of abuse.
  • It would be a profound disappointment to many who were abused in institutions if a “sexual abuse” only redress scheme were introduced given that existing redress schemes in Australia and overseas have already paid compensation – as they should – for other serious forms of abuse and neglect.