Stories, Questions, and Mysteries

Stories, Questions, and Mysteries

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Submission to Royal commission on Sexual Abuse in Australia

The system that conceals.

Hiding sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

This paper aims to outline major elements of the covering up of sexual abuse in Catholic institutions of Australia. As revelations of abuse multiplied the Catholic clergy and hierarchy have been the main targets of accusations of irresponsible behavior in not denouncing offenders. However culpable or negligent the managerial group has been they were not the only people who hid facts, episodes, evidence and perpetrators. Nor was the entire Catholic populace guilty or complicit, as it was often portrayed in former more sectarian days.

The identification of responsible others requires some understanding of a social system and a systemic malady. The group not the individual is the smallest social unit. The collection of behaviours, attitudes and values forms a group culture. Though all this develops gradually there comes a point where the culture is conserved and serves as the norm for the group.

I believe that my experience as a member of the Jesuit religious order for twenty years, my studies and experience as an educational psychologist and organizational psychologist and a client of Towards Healing (on account of sexually inappropriate behavior of a priest and former teacher) and my support for victims as a counsellor give me an integrated view of the system operating in the Catholic Church. See Appendix. 1.

Hopefully, too, the reputations of the majority of priests and religious who have faithfully served the community will be better protected from the current guilt by association.

So I offer this paper as an assistance to the Commission from my understanding and with hope for the Commission achieving significant results for the people of Australia.

Michael D. Breen B.A., S.T.L., M.Ed.
Robertson July 2013

“Every social evil has its vested interests”
 John Fahey S. J.  1958.
Corruptio optima set pessima.
(The very worst is the corruption of the best)

Social Reliance. Who do you trust and why?

               In civilized society, the lives of citizens rely hugely on trust.
People expect to be able to trust others and organizations. If you post a letter you trust it to be delivered. If you get on a bus you trust the bus will go to its stated destination. If you go to a doctor you expect, you trust you will get professional medical help.                                                                 
People who trust too much are considered gullible. Those who don’t trust tend towards paranoia. Mostly trust is so important that people will go to all kinds of lengths to preserve it especially when they have invested in what seemed worthy of their trust.

There is a sliding scale of trust from little for shifty snake oil merchants to serious trust for “essential” bodies like the Church, police or professionals. These bodies are given or used be given a lot of street credibility. So evidence that those most heavily relied on may not be all they are cracked up to be, can be seriously shocking; earth shattering for some. If the foundations of safety in this life and the next are crumbling whom can they trust? As we will see it is often easier to deny the evidence of corruption or wrong doing than to live without icons of trust. As Don Quixote says in “The Man of La Mancha” “I have never had the courage to believe in nothing.”

Vested Interests.

The Catholic Church (“Church” from now on) has a vested interest in the good opinion and adherence of its members, and the respect of others. Church members have a vested interest in a believable church, providing moral guidance and acting ethically. When trying to understand sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy and its cover-ups the media and public opinion focus most responsibility and blame on the church, priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals and the Pope. But that is only part of the whole sorry story. The more serious inquiry, it seems to me, is why the responsible hierarchy cover-up as they have and how other stakeholders colluded. What were their motivations, actions and neglect of action, all of which form the fabric of a systemic problem?

If the Commission is to have a significant preventive effect it needs to understand the whole system, which it seeks to improve.

“Some are guilty, but all are responsible”
Rabbi Abraham Heschel.

Victims of abuse.

Starting from the victims of abuse we will look at the various Church and non-church groups, which work together forming a systemic culture of abuse and cover-up.
For a victim to report abuse by another person requires courage. More courage is required the higher the perpetrator’s status. Parents presented with a report by a child can face a trying dilemma as to whether to believe a timorous child, knowing that the processes of naming and proving can be traumatic, or risk confronting a trusted pillar of their Church. But let’s stay with the victim for a moment. Victims traumatized by assault can be further assaulted by blaming themselves and guilt at what has happened to them. Wondering how such a shocking thing can have happened to them, victims often erroneously believe they may have been somehow culpable. So the victim can become isolated, cloaked by the fear of telling anyone and by guilt about his or her own responsibility for the acts.

At this point of damage the victim may act out with dejected or withdrawn behaviours or with angry outbursts, delinquency or aggressive sullenness.  There have been, too, numbers of unnecessary victim deaths by suicide. Though each case is personally different, the result is the same. Unfortunately the motives, despair and rage are unknown to us in most cases of suicide. Nevertheless, those left suffer the loss, the unanswered questions and bargaining legacies. The desperation ramifies.

         Sometimes children reported matters without any adult taking a responsible stance on behalf of their child. One child I know when a visiting priest played with his genitals in the back seat of the family car, years later told his mother of the event. Her response was, “I suppose they had their problems”, providing herself with a vindication of the esteemed priest. Her terror realizing that a priest could behave in this way towards her child caused her to dissociate from motherly protection to safeguarding her belief in her faith and its ministers. Children were not always rewarded for their courage in disclosure because of the confusion it caused adults and some were left wondering why they bothered reporting such matters or simply decided to trust adults less.

Even if there were several victims at the same school or parish they would be unlikely to talk to one another about “those matters”; so they had no solidarity to begin a group complaint. Perpetrators often found ways to prevent reporting so that victims’ terror imposed silence.

Defence of perpetrators at the expense of their victims.


Responsible others.

“Protection is a racket. You only ever defend yourself”.

Communications theory dictum.

Sometimes a responsible older person would be thwarted when they tried to represent children’s’ accounts of abuse. A man who was a school prefect at the school I attended told me several younger boys had complained to him about the sexually inappropriate behaviour of a priest teacher at the school. The prefect, a lad in his late teens approached the headmaster, who was a priest, and told the headmaster of the boys’ complaints. The headmaster told him that this was nonsense and to take no notice of the younger boys.

Strangely, years later, when the schoolboy prefect was a grown man he was asked to be a witness in a Towards Healing case against the same priest he first agreed but later declined to testify saying, “They were only young boys and may not have known what was happening”. He had originally told the complainant of the original reports and the headmaster’s admonition to forget the matter. Why the change in his stance? Could this not have been a belated opportunity to represent those powerless children as well as the current complainant in a responsible forum? But from the ex prefect’s point of view he would have to break ranks with his alumni friends, be a dobber and perhaps reassess his investments in his church and his old school to which he had sent his sons. Who knows his motives?

         The salient point is that the victims had their lines of redress cut by responsible adults, whose vested interests in their belief systems, the structures of their faith and the uncertainty of the consequences of speaking out, outweighed a sense of justice and the protection of the vulnerable.

Social Icons, Totems for the Tribe.

Mutual cover-ups, laity and clergy.

Parents had their vested interests in not denouncing priests or members of religious orders whom they knew or who taught their children. To understand this it is necessary to consider the socio-religious culture of Australia until fairly recently.

The Australian class structure gave ascendency to Anglican/Protestants over what were seen as bog ignorant, poor Irish Catholics. But the Catholics had their own structures, the aristocracy of which was the clergy. Catholics saw themselves as had their forebears in Ireland poor and powerless, discriminated against in the job market but connected with the greatest power of all in heaven and the officers of his army on earth.
The hierarchy of Bishops and Archbishops and then Cardinals after the 1950s, the priests, brothers and nuns were Catholic nobility. The Irish family was said to have entertained an aspiration of having “A bull in the field, a well in the yard and a son in the Church”. This was achievable in the new colony. So to have a priest, brother or nun in the family or as a family friend was very special. These figures were looked on as the totems for the tribe. They were to stand tall at the edge of the village, not so close as to show imperfections or feelings. They were given status respect and resources by the faithful who in turn considered they had friends in high places even mediators with the Deity.

In the eyes of many Catholics, priests, bishops etc. were above everyone and the law and it was praiseworthy to keep individual priests from feeling the effects of much of everyday life including the law. They were special, they were different, and they were apart.


The notion of “cleric” or ‘clergy” as we know it today has evolved over time so much so that we need to see how it has changed and how this contributes to social changes surrounding sexual abuse.
The word derives from Kleros the Greek word for a field to denote ownership of land or property, an inheritance. Property owners were assumed to be able to read and write and so were “cleres”, clerks. The “clerical order” took on a restricted meaning “the body of men set apart by ordination for religious service in the Christian Church as opposed to the laity”. “Old law benefit of his clergy…allowed to a clergyman of exemption from trial by a secular court; modified and extended later to everyone who could read (thus ‘benefit of the clerical office’ became = ‘benefit of scholarship’) Abolished 1827” Shorter Oxford Dictionary 1935 p. 323. The Christian church group was tried in clerical courts separate from the common court of the illiterate laity. Later the secular term narrowed to describe Christian ministers.

So clergy applies to a much wider group than ordained priests, it is a social function whose niche in society is maintained by its members and the laity or the rest of society.

Society evolves to have groups to attend to health, doctors; to justice, the legal people; to defence from attack, soldiers; to truth and inquiry, scholars; to public safety, police; to spiritual and transcendental soul matters, ministers, rabbis, bishops, imams and shamans. These functioning groups are clergy.

As defined in George Wilson’s “Clericalism” 2008 “Clergy” guilds within society, groupings recognised collectively as different from the rest of the populace”. 1.George B. Wilson in “Clericalism” 2008 Liturgical Press Minnesota. P.13.
[1]What concerns us here is the ways in which the clerical class functioned, its privileges, separateness, initiations, etc., also its relationships to the non-clerical laity.[2]

Professional perks conferred by the populace.

Titles like Doctor, Professor, Justice, and Father bring special status to the clergies. These groups have special standing in society. They are presumed to have powers commensurate with their titles. They are supposed to have gained entry to the special group by mastering a discipline; a body of knowledge, by performing in accordance with a set of self-regulated ethics and be remunerated differently from other groups. Patients give power to physicians in exchange for a cure presuming “ the doctor” is skilled and acts according to the Hippocratic oath. Symbolic objects like wigs, barristers’ bags, stethoscopes and vestments reinforce the specialness of clerical groups. [3] In turn the cleric reflects on their status, “People call me this, I must be special” and the lay person says, “He or she is called by that title I had better behave accordingly.”

Among other perks, include: parking spaces, discounts, free entry to events or free transport, leniency for traffic offences and people used to raise their hats to clerics. Laity are often marginalised by the arcane language used by clerical in-groups. Clerical groups frequently enjoy economic benefits denied to others such as generous mortgages, hidden revenues such as free meals and a bottle of Scotch, upgrades on aeroplanes. The tragedy of all these perks is that the practitioner loses touch with the lives of people they are there to serve. Distinction turns into superiority. Those clerics seen as closer to God are separated from those less close ordinary folk.

An associate of Richard Nixon spelled out the inevitable effects of being special, “When they play ‘Hail to the Chief’; give you a twenty-one gun salute and everybody stands when you come into a room, and nobody tells you to go to hell, you lose touch with reality.”

Let them eat cake.

So clerics become beyond judgment of their peers or feedback from those best placed to critique them. If an individual is found wanting it is as if the group ego is attacked and the ranks clang closed. Messengers delivering bad news will be attacked, discredited or shut down. To be a whistle blower is an enormous risk requiring enormous civil courage and often ends in career destruction.

It is not surprising that clerical groups breed secrecy and unaccountability. Society in general does not see clerics bound by the law in the usual ways. The laity does not chose who will be their clerics; the self-chosen enjoy a non-democratic source of power.

Obviously the above notes on clergies do not apply to all clerics. Especially in the last few years several clerical groups have reflected on their status and behaviours and have modified their training and their practice. Some have not; conventions change slowly.  But the world, the culture, the ethos which is being examined by the current Commission is a slice of history. Nonetheless, if the Commission is to form a true picture of clerical abuse it needs to understand the institutions, which formed perpetrators and the culture in which victims lived. Nor will the future be different without a thorough scan of the current pathology.

“Like any other culture, the clerical culture is the product of everyone affected by-or implicated in-its continuance. That includes equally those who are seen as lay people vis-a-vis a particular body of clergy. Cultures are generated by the behavioural interactions between a particular clergy and its corresponding laity. The generation and continuance of a culture is a matter of relationships, a single reality mutually created by both sets of participants.” [4]

The creep of faith.

Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free:
How sweet would be their children's fate,
If they, like them, could die for thee!
Faith of our fathers! Holy Faith!
We will be true to thee till death.
Catholic Hymn.

          An act of faith requires a leap to go beyond palpable or reasoned evidence. Experience, research, the scientific method will usually provide a basis to believe or trust what is stated. But faith based belief requires the suspension of belief in the world order as we know it and commit to credence in a world beyond ours. Over time the matters of belief form a way of life, a set of teachings and a believing community, with its own culture. In effect the believing community sees and inhabits a different world. The community supports, teaches and celebrates the beliefs so that for children born into that community it is life, it is not strange and many grow up with the persuasions of that faith group. What impacts on a young unformed personality has a marked long-term effect.

Faith based groups often see themselves a superior to others. They have fought to the death to defend beliefs against the beliefs of another group. They have potent rituals of inclusion, initiation and expulsion. They tend to push individual authority and responsibility up to leaders or in the case of the Catholic Church to one leader who is God’s representative, the Pope.
This verges on superstition, which Aquinas in Secunda Secundae 92-1 defines as “excessive adoration given to God or adoration due to God given to someone or something else. Suspicion feeds on fear and sustaining rituals and often breeds secrecy.


“Nothing succeeds like excess.”

 Oscar Wilde.

Extreme groups become cults with excesses of dogma, behavioural norms and rituals. In cases such as the Jonestown cult in Guyana in 1978 individuals give their leader, Jim Jones, power to compel self and group annihilation when 918 died.

         Faith consciousness of believers can easily extend their abnormal credibility beyond dogmas to the structures, cultural norms or individual devotions. The group assumes power to canonize the saintly and define the diabolical. “That’s the way it is” replaces normal everyday common sense or critical skepticism. Rational argument may be suspended or replaced with circular argument, “I believe this because the Bible says it is true and God gave us the Bible so it must be true”.

Faith based groups forcefully defend the boundaries where they encounter everyday secular society. Many of the matters cannot be defended rationally because the nature of faith and its foundation outside reason. However their allegiance is firmer than to a football team or to observable evidence for many believers.

Cessation of faith would lead to exiting a special group, its culture, celebrations and one’s friends in the group. It could mean a sense of self-betrayal for having gone along with that for so long and paid for the investment in a number of ways. But much more than that; it could mean forfeiting a belief in a blessed after life. Itcould be a loss of meaning, a loss of a childhood home country and dialect.

The attitude is well expressed by a respondent on a Catholic website, Eureka Street. Writing in response to an article by Michael Kelly SJ about how the Royal Commission could clean out the Augean Stables of the Church,
“Esther” writes, “I agree that the Church can and will be purified by this 'secular inquisition' — there will be 'gift' to us in the pain, but we would be naive if we believed that all our inquisitors were simply interested in challenging the Church about its failings. Already we have seen folks using the Church's day of reckoning as an opportunity to 'settle old scores'. We must remain humble and trusting, but we are also entitled to defend ourselves against broadside attacks that simply aim to destroy the fundamentals of our faith.”
Esther  18 Jan 2013 Eureka Street on line.
There you have it. Esther expressed the fear that if all this gets out fundamentals of her faith will be attacked and destroyed. So never let your guard down entirely. Never ask why anyone would want to destroy the fundamentals of another’s faith nor on what the fundamentals were founded. Asking questions is dangerous, it is like a bushfire, you never know where it will end. That is the way it ever was and “loyal” Catholics understand it thus.

So in faith-based groups, the once made leap of faith can leapfrog to further credence in the specialness of the group, its individuals and its officers. Hence anything, which discredits the organization, can be imagined to imperil the mythic foundations.
Even in the ordinary everyday world people shocked by a calamity, an ‘act of God’, will ask, “How can God let this happen?” Or will be so shocked that they will cease to believe and lose faith.

A scandal, if it were proven, could cause people to leave their Church as a scandal does in other groups. Unsurprisingly a common response to scandal is to deny it outright or at least until it is well proven. To prevent it being proven evidence could be hidden, moved or destroyed. This raises the question for me as to the status of notes and files of Church solicitors who are alleged to have advised clerics to lie about evidence of abuse. The very distance between the status of clerics and the baseness of an act can itself be a reason for denial. Stated as, “No person in such a sacred position could do such a terrible thing”.

So for a simple Catholic to have to contemplate a clerical scandal could be the undoing of their belief system. Better not go there. So also for other members of the clerical class, doctors, lawyers and police.  Better not ask any questions. Protection of the religious clergy would be a priority for some, especially bigoted Catholics. After all if the ranks of lawyers, doctors and police can close to shield their own class why not members of the religious clergy? The second order motive would be to protect the faith of the faithful and their belief system and not to betray their faith-based group. For many people who are scarcely religious at all and who use churches for baptisms, marriages and funerals a church presence is a conserved requirement for a comfortable traditional world.

Destroy the Messenger.

            Whistleblowers in the commercial world and other arenas require enormous courage in Australia. “I don’t think people generally understand that whistle blowing is a harrowing  business. It changes your life forever.”[5]

We have witnessed the danger and the price extracted for Detective Inspector Peter Fox whose appearances on national television have been a catalyst for the current Newcastle Commission. He recounts he was warned, “Beware of the Catholic Mafia”, in the NSW police.  The mother of a victim appearing at the Newcastle Commission recounted how she was shunned and abused by members of her Church congregation for denouncing a vicious pedophile priest who preyed on her son.


Celibacy and training for it?

Patently most of the Catholic clergy are law abiding, unselfish and hard working priests, brothers and nuns. But what kind of training did they receive for this most burdensome of vows?

An ex-priest with whom I worked in Ireland in 1973 said about our shared training, “It was training for nothing; not even the priesthood”. Celibacy is often cited as a cause for acts of sexual abuse. Married men have also been abusers, as well as clerics. Nonetheless the Church, which requires the vow, ought not only review the requirement for celibacy but also bear responsibility for the lack of training for this burden. For my part and in discussion with other priests and ex-priests training for celibacy was non-existent except for defensive remarks about “externs”, those outside monasteries and especially defensive remarks about women, which were patently projections by underdeveloped celibate imaginations.


In Conclusion.

I have attempted to outline the various groups involved in the management of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and the ways these groups interacted to maintain secrecy and cover-up offenders and offences.

The pervading theme is that though the fingers of accusation point largely at the hierarchy, religious and priests the cover-up extends beyond those groups. Catholic laity, victims, police. lawyers, and at least one judge have formed parts of a firewall around abusive behavior. Feelings of shame, fear, pride, revenge and guilt  along with the dynamics of each group at conscious and unconscious  levels and the interactions between groups inside and outside the Church constitute a highly complex interwoven system.

To convey this is challenging but hopefully this paper paints an overall though incomplete picture of the various vested interests which have contributed to systemic cover-ups.

One last story. Some time ago at a family gathering, a cousin told of a priest teacher at her son’s school who allegedly said to students, “Come here and I will tuck your shirt into your trousers for you.” And proceeded to do so when the pupil approached. The boys thought this “creepy”.

Checking the current staff-list the named priest is slated as a “student advisor.” This usually means a one to one interview in private.

Concerned that so many of these cases have never been reported I later phoned the cousin to ask if anyone had reported the accused priest to the appropriate authorities. I was told, “No’ and that the boys had managed the matter. The headmaster was concerned and professional when I checked the matter with him. He asked could I get someone to provide some more facts for him to act one way or the other.

When I inquired my cousin was defensive and refused to involve her son or his peers and terminated the phone conversation. This I relayed to the headmaster.  He was concerned and frustrated. He was presented with allegations but not sufficient evidence to proceed. He presented no desire to cover-up or silence inquiry.

I could have been seen to be meddlesome by him or my cousin. But I was concerned having heard the allegations and lack of follow up at a time when the seriousness of the matter was publicly patent. So many cases have been passed over for lack of reporting, it seemed important to pass on to the headmaster the allegations as stated about an active staff member.

But in the minds and consciences of the lay people involved it was acceptable to dump second-hand accusations about a priest on the table at lunch, endanger the priest’s reputation, set up an intrigue and take no further responsible action to protect current students.

This was not a clerical cover-up, it was a failure of the laity. The clergy tried to do the right thing but needed evidence from the accuser. On the other hand this kind of story is a juicy piece of gossip to dump on a luncheon table irresponsible as that is.

What this illustrates is part of the complexity and fracturing of responsibility around matters of abuse, embedded in and enacted by members of the Church.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Gregan John McMahon, Peter Byrne, Dennis Wilson and Bernard Eddy for their help and Jayne Breen for her support and checking.

Appendix. 1

My experiences as a complainant of inappropriate sexual behaviour.

The school I attended was St Ignatius College Riverview, Sydney. On two occasions I was the subject of inappropriate behaviour on the part of Father Gerald Jones S.J. deceased.
When in 2001 I saw that a bursary was named after Jones I was amazed and outraged. Contacting the College development officer I was met with resistance and referred to the Headmaster who handed the matter to the Jesuit Provincial, the man in charge of all Australian Jesuits. I myself had been a Jesuit for twenty years. In making a complaint I sought to have the name on the bursary removed while resolving a matter I had hitherto buried in my consciousness.
The Provincial’s secretary was also resistant to my complaint and later said in a letter, “I cannot see why you regard the events as you describe as sinister”. He said the Jesuits had inquired of some of “the most eminent and distinguished former students” without hearing any support of my claims. I was also told I could drop the matter at any time.
The Jesuits then joined Towards Healing a Church funded body for the resolution of abuse claims against Catholic clergy. I submitted my record of complaint and later an independent lawyer interviewed me and she also interviewed referees some of whom I nominated. The independent lawyer reported to Towards Healing that the behaviour involved was beyond the bounds of prudent and appropriate behaviour towards a student. Subsequently Towards healing appointed a liaison person to meet me and convey my request to the Jesuits. I wanted, an apology for the original behaviour, and for the temporising which had occurred since 2001 till 2007, I wanted to meet face to face with the defensive Provincial secretary and a financial settlement. 
         A new Jesuit Provincial took office and was told in a briefing that my matter was concluded. Later my Towards Healing liaison person told me the Jesuits were offering $7000.00 to settle the matter without any mention of anything else viz. an apology, meeting the Jesuits or having the accused’s name removed from the bursary. I replied that I found the offer insulting and demeaning and gave my reasons for my judgment.
So far there had been an inquiry by the Provincial’s secretary and by Towards Healing. The Jesuit Provincial had said on ABC TV that the Jesuit strategy up to that time had been legalistic and defensive. He announced a more humane process via Towards Healing. Still however, at this time I had had no response from Towards Healing’s independent inquiry.
         Only when I submitted a draft press release to Towards Healing outlining my case, my grievances and the supposed new approach by the Jesuits as opposed to their practice, was a meeting arranged for May 24th 2008 with the Jesuit Provincial and another Jesuit. My wife accompanied me at the meeting.
Afterwards, the Provincial wrote. “Even after so many years of correspondence and despite your own long relationship with the Society (the Jesuits), this was the first time that you have met face to face with the Provincial about matters that are deeply important to you. I do apologize for this long and unnecessary delay. When I returned this week to my committee they agreed that we should not be obdurate, but should respond directly to what you propose and ask. … Even so I do hope with this letter to communicate my own and the Society’s appreciation and esteem for you”.
What is notable is the amount of time the whole matter took to settle; 2001 to 2008. Also that though several people knew about the perpetrator there was such reluctance to acknowledge the behaviour of the offending priest, even though this was widely discussed among students at the time and by alumni after leaving school. I still wonder if I as a former Jesuit had such resistance to a complaint what could be the fate of others.

Appendix. 2.
The Canon Law right to conceal matter from the sacrament of Penance.  (Confession.)

A note on “Mental Restrictions”.

To safeguard the inviolable secrecy of the Sacrament of Confession a confessor has the right to not only deny but to either understate or overstate their experience and anything to do with the penitent. This includes admission that the penitent even confessed to the priest.
Throughout the history of the sacrament this has been a serious matter and priests have died rather than reveal such matter. That is the juridical framework within the Church in which the penitent approaches the confessional. 
Were a priest to be asked about a penitent, in practise what would happen is that the priest to protect the penitent or themselves may construct a story to lead the inquirer away from the matter. A simple denial would be considered insufficient.
So a priest could say, “I have never heard this person’s confession.” Or “I was overseas at the time.” The practice is known as a Mental Restriction.
The justification for this practice is that any person should know that a priest will never reveal what is told him in confession and that someone asking about such matter must expect an answer which neither directly or indirectly conveys information about the penitent. Basically they have no right to confessional information. So the priest is entitled to make up a story and the inquirer ought know that this is a response to an illicit inquiry which binds direct or indirect information.  Direct information would be, “James came to me and confessed murder”.
Indirect information would be. “Someone confessed murder to me last Saturday”, when it was known where the priest was hearing confessions and who might have gone to confession, say in a small town.
However if a penitent confessed to murder, or other serious crime, the priest could refuse to give the sacrament of Absolution unless the penitent either told him of his having murdered, outside the confessional or promised to contact the police and state he had committed murdered.  What he could not do, would be to denounce the person to the authorities. Though the confessor is required to insure the penitent is repentant and performs restoration.
This obligation is based on natural law of justice surrounding privacy and Canon Law, Canon 889 § 1. The Confessional Seal is called a most grave matter. It obliges even after the death of the penitent. However the confessor could with express and freely given permission of the penitent reveal matters confessed.  The law also forbids a penitent confessing a matter so as to bind the confessor to secrecy, in other words confessing for reasons other than to seek absolution and express contrition.[6]
Priests know these technical matters, from their study of Theology and Canon Law though they are somewhat complex. They are less well understood by the laity and non- Catholics. Matters concerning the veracity of priests in court or alleged misuse of Mental Restrictions have occurred from time to time as in the celebrated case of Conningham suing for divorce and citing Monsignor O’Haran2.   as co-respondent in the case.

[1][1]  George B. Wilson in “Clericalism” 2008 Liturgical Press Minnesota. P.13.

[3] Prior to decimal currency they were paid in Guineas, twenty one shillings, not Pounds of 20 shillings.
[4] Wilson op.cit. P.7
[5] Synthia Kardell Sydney Morning Herald June 15-16. 2013.p.6
1.Summarium Theologiae Moralis, Antonio M. Arregui SJ. Bilbao, Spain 1942.

2. C. Pearl, Wild Men of Sydney (Lond, 1958)

Monday, 7 April 2014

Fashion Weak.

     So it is Fashion Week again in Sydney "Mercedes Benz Fashion Week" if you please. ("Ferguson Tractor Fashion Week" coming up). Many will visit Sydney many will Ooh and Aah, jobs will be provided, there will be food and drink and the sly coke snort and some will be happy and some will be sad. But this will be an event for the players of the game. Those outside will not count except for the reporters who consider it newsworthy. Nor will those who don't count be aware of the extravagances of the week and its industry. An industry which adds value to a select few and devalues multitudes, especially if they are silly enough to get hooked.
     Fashion is the bastard consort of capitalism. It exploits the vulnerable who are too slavishly dependent to decide for themselves. It provides a cosmetic covering for those who devalue themselves, or want approval or want to launder their shabby reputations. Superficiality dominates over substance and the false self wins the day over the genuine, authentic and the real.
     In a world needing to act sustainably fashion really doesn't get it. Fashion provides new and disposable carapaces at an enthusiastic launch and a covert dumping after little wear. Institutionalized waste. The only warn out unrecyclable bit of the discard is the jejune momentary thrill of the new or the shame when someone else wears the same gear. The fashion industry feeds narcissism and makes a virtue of the compulsive 'must have' feast.
     Can you think of any significant world thinker, humanitarian, author or philanthropist who followed fashion? Mostly innovative people abandoned the line of sheep and strike out for themselves. Apologies to sheep who are quite bright and well clothed. Fashion needs followers, but the pied piper of fashion is like the king who was naked. Without a mindless group of attendants fashion would be considered bad taste, extravagant or just plain silly. By comparison folk and peasant clothing is mostly well designed and functional. Fashion derides function, and slavishly searches for a different arrangement of feathers on the egoistic peacocks who can afford the plumage. Oh yes afford. It is sponsored by Mercedes Benz not your service delivering corner store in Sydney's western suburbs or an ethnic or disability group. Fashion is exploitative and plays on the needs and purses of self doubting vulnerable personalities and offers a costly snake oil nostrum while leaving the basic malady untouched but ready for another shake down the following year.
     But am I too harsh? Fashion does provide jobs. So do the Taliban and CIA rendition centers, or online betting or poker machines. Providing jobs is only a valid argument if the jobs add value rather than detract it from mankind.
I would argue that the pursuit of fashion is a blind for consideration of the inequities of the world one of which is the price of clothes. Machinists in underdeveloped countries work as slaves and retailing clothing companies suck off their sweat. And of course the partners of the fashionistas need to travel to Sydney and require people to feed and accommodate them too. Are they going to knock the festivities?
     You could say, "Can't you see it as just a bit of fun?" Perhaps so if there were not so many undeserving elitist winners and so many losers worldwide. Maybe it is just a bit of what Erich Fromm might call "orgiastic associating instead of love".  "Oh dorling, I adore that on you".(Transl:It looks so hideous that my shares will go up by comparison when you are around draped in that crap.)
      But fashion has been around for along time and who are you to change it? Sure in art, architecture, morality, theology, politics and feminism which all have fashion cycles. Heraclitus and Hegel rightly demonstrate universal impermanence. However over time there is generally some refinement of thought or design or theory or science or manufacture. Except in effete declining cultures.
     Would that designers had the courage and sense to celebrate tribal and authentic modes. Instead it is "penny decorated and twopence plain". But don't tell the flocks at Fashion Week, they are deaf beyond reason, all in a little fluffy fatuous flurry all their own.
 Hill Tribe Weaving  and Fashion Billboard.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Obita Dicta

Sayings and bits.

Tony Abbott might like to read some of the current evaluations of Arthur, forgotten his name, and then decide to lay down his friend for his life.

An idea is not responsible for the person who holds it.  John Cleese