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Leading article Australia

Crucifying Catholicism

24 November 2012

9:00 AM

24 November 2012

9:00 AM

‘These are insidious evil acts, to which no child should be subject,’ said Julia Gillard, announcing her Royal Commission into Institutionalised Child Abuse. She is right. The horror of somebody in a position of authority molesting a child, when the perpetrator pretends to be a man of God, leads even the most secular mind to question whether the Devil may in fact exist.

Purging our society of such evil is overdue. The Prime Minister is also right to point out that such acts appear to be found among many institutions, and that no one single party or church can be held exclusively to blame. If the royal commission can expose and learn from these tragedies in order to prevent them occurring in the future, this is undeniably worth any price.

Or is it? Medieval witch-hunts and horror-movie exorcisms often end with the innocent patient being killed in order to destroy the sickness within. A similar injustice may well be the fate of some organisations if the royal commission, in its zeal to uncover wrongdoing, feeds a witch-hunt mentality that ends up destroying the very bodies it is supposed to be curing.

Already, parts of the media have leapt upon Cardinal Pell and the Catholic church with an enthusiasm that seems more intent on crucifying the church than addressing paedophilia. Gerard Henderson, in his indispensable Media Watch Dog blog, details how the ABC’s 7.30 has seemingly begun a crusade against Cardinal Pell and his church, playing both the role of interrogator and judge — and getting it wrong. As he reminds us, all religions as well as secular institutions will be covered by the royal commission. In the public broadcaster’s telling, however, you’d think the royal commission will deal exclusively with the affairs of the Catholic church in general and the role of Cardinal Pell in particular.

Columnist Andrew Bolt similarly fears an exclusively anti-Catholic crusade. ‘Many in the largely anti-clerical media want to use this excuse to smash a church which lectures on modesty, duty, faithfulness and other fun-killers. Destroy this church, the one that has best survived the decay of faith, and I doubt the Greens will pick up the slack and tend to the sick or minister to the poor.’

A decade ago, in similar circumstances, the Wall Street Journal editorialised: ‘Like most Americans, Catholic and non-Catholic, we do not believe the actions of a few ought to invalidate the work of the majority of priests, who teach our children, care for our sick and otherwise make the fabric of American society richer by their ministries. When we look across the breadth of modern American life, in short, we see the institution of the Catholic church as one of our great assets. The current scandal will have served some purpose if it forces America’s bishops to take more seriously accusations against their misbehaving priests. But we aren’t about to join those whose real agenda is to leave the church crushed and humiliated.’

Amen to that.

Calling the climate change minister

At least the Gillard government is consistent. The MRRT, the first tax in history to not raise a penny of revenue, sits handsomely in Labor’s trophy cabinet alongside that other spectacular achievement called the carbon tax (a standout accomplishment that increases, rather than decreases, the long-term profitability of our dirtiest coal stations).

Astonishingly, the government has decided to forego a unique opportunity to explain to the rest of the world just how effective this latter policy has proven. Or is it out of sheer embarrassment that Greg Combet won’t be attending the latest round of climate meetings in Doha? After all, it is unlikely that scientists who look closely at Labor’s carbon tax will be fooled by the sleights of hand surrounding nothing more than an old-fashioned wealth redistribution program dressed up as climate activism. Intriguingly, Christine Milne of the Greens has chosen not to attend either.

Perhaps the heat, as it were, has gone out of the global warming scare campaign for our earnest, focus group-driven politicians. Have the chattering classes, their consciences assuaged by the soothing balm of the carbon tax, moved on to other more pressing issues than ‘the greatest moral challenge of our lifetime’? The truth is that three years after ‘Nopenhagen’, the world is not one iota closer to a legally binding, enforceable or verifiable global agreement to cut greenhouse pollutants. But Labor partisans have got their cash in the bank and their empty symbolic gestures up on display in time for the next election, so the last thing they want is for people to start asking if the thing actually works.

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