Thursday, August 22, 2002

Where to begin with the latest George Pell story?

· Farce (aka “Don’t trouble the Pope, when a cheap imitation will suffice”):

“On July 20 [2002], Bishop Robinson wrote to [Pell’s accuser] stating that the Towards Healing process allowed for claims of abuse to be investigated only against individuals who have bishops or religious leaders as a superior. "The person against whom you have brought a complaint does not have any of these bishops or religious leaders as a superior, but only the Pope. It is therefore, not possible to begin a case under the Towards Healing process," the bishop wrote.

Instead, Bishop Robinson offered a process that would imitate Towards Healing and assured the alleged victim he would do everything to ensure his case was heard

- The Age, 22 August 2002

· Pell’s apologists, such as The Australian’s Luke Slattery (22 August 2002), being unable to even count to five:

Although laypeople tend to trace the sex crimes of church officials back to the repression demanded of them by a celibate lifestyle, Pell sees the source of the sickness in today’s ‘sexually hypercharged’ society.

Now, even leaving aside the not-so-small matter of whether being ‘sexually hypercharged’ – I, for one, am quite happy to wear that label, if it fits – extends to adults having sex with children, I don’t understand how today’s society can be used to retrospectively explain crimes from four decades ago. Yes, Luke, you snivelling little right-wing suck, it’s time to take your fingers out and learn to count -

1. One is for 1960’s – a bad decade to be a young Catholic in, but a very good one for clerical paedophiles to operate in. Back then, there was plenty of, in the quaint and euphemistic words of one priest, “good natured horseplay” (Australian, 22 August 2002). Typical scene of crime: school camp.

2. Two is for 1970’s – with the sexual revolution in full swing, Catholic vocations suddenly plummet. Teenage boys with unusual sexual appetites discover that there are now far more lifetime career/sex options, other than the priesthood – eg clerk at Telecom by day, “swinger” by night. With the seminary intakes drying up to almost nothing, existing adult clergy are caught between preserved as museum exhibits, and joining the decade’s swingers party - in plainclothes, of course. Then there are those who can’t decide . . . Typical scene of crime: headmaster’s office (primary school).

3. Three is for 1980’s – the decade that taste forgot. As an issue, child sexual abuse gets its first mainstream coverage. Because of this, and also because of lay teachers, lay altar-assistants, etc, rapidly taking over the reins – and so nosing around everywhere – the actual practise of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy starts to diminish. But, come Sunday morning, is the chance to “seize the day” with a quick grope . . . Typical scene of crime: altar-boys’ dressing room.

4. Four is for 1990’s – the best decade in ages to be a young Catholic in. Clerical paedophiles have, for the most part, been quietly locked, defrocked or demoted away. In any case, baby boomer parents take few chances with their offspring: paedophilia awareness has never been greater. Typical scene of crime: none.

5. Five is for 2000’s – “the family” rules, alongside John Howard and George Pell. Strangely-suited, ascetic men have a real aura of authority, for the first time since the 1960’s. Only this time, the men (and with them, some women), are not, for the most part, Catholic clergy. With those in power resembling anonymous cardboard cut-outs, a new generation of sexual predators takes their cue. Typical scene of crime: the Internet. A bit of online “horseplay”, anyone?

Saturday, August 17, 2002

An “unprecedented” 55-year jail sentence (with a 40 year minimum) imposed on a three-time, 20 y.o. gang-rapist is the big news in Australia this week. As is becoming a distressingly familiar media scenario, this barrage of news contained barely a drop of additional information or research. Apart from the crimes themselves, the only hook that the media really ran with was that the convict was a “Lebanese Muslim”.

Left unsaid, and so presumably un-researched, was:

· is the convict “Lebanese”, in the sense that he is not an Australian citizen? If “no”, does his ancestry (or place of birth) have any significance to his crimes? If the answer to any of these is “yes”, then why not deport him “home” for trial, instead of “ethnicizing”, and so problematizing, Australian law? (not to mention the presumably unnecessary cost of a long incarceration in Australia)

· did the convict have any prior convictions? While committing three gang-rapes within a short period of time probably suggests that the chances of rehabilitation are close to zero, if he did have no “priors”, there could be at least something to be said in mitigation.

· does the convict have the minimum (i) intellectual capacity, and (ii) command of English required to have allowed him to be meaningfully tried and convicted? When he yelled at the judge “I’m innocent, and I’ll remain [sic] my innocence till the day I die, you cunt”, something is clearly very amiss on one or both of these fronts.

· Why make statements such as: “All 14 of the gang rapists have been disowned by the Lebanese community … If the rapes had occurred in Lebanon, they pointed out, the offenders almost certainly would have been put to death” (The Age, August 17 2002). This seems to be alluding to intra-community enforcement of the criminal law (such as the spearings practised by some Indigenous groups in Central Australia), but it lacks any specifics or course of action, other than a general, “community” ostracism of those convicted – which would happen in any event, and in any community.

Give me rationality, and action, before pious words – or racism – any day. If the Australian legal system is not big enough to handle a criminal prosecution in an ethnicity-neutral manner, it has only one option – pass it back to the locals.

I don’t know which is the “right” approach here, BTW. One thing I am sure of, however, is that empty, pious words emanating from within an ethnic community are fuel for racism, and (of course) vice versa. Let’s stop this bullshit now.

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