FOR nearly 2000 years Christianity has been one of the world’s most powerful movements, starting as a single voice preaching peace to the might of the Roman empire.
And so it is fitting, in 2017, to acknowledge the many single voices that have spoken against the might of Rome –this time the seat of Christianity in the Catholic Church –as one of the church’s most senior members is charged with child sex offences.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has revealed, in devastating detail, how much the Catholic Church has veered from its founding principles –crimes against children that have led to people’s deaths;cover-ups that have shown how the church responded when those crimes would lead to scandal. And secrecy. Always secrecy.
The charging of Cardinal George Pell with historic child sex offences is only possible because individuals felt they could raise allegations against him –yet to be tested in a court and strongly denied by the cardinal –and be heard.
The royal commission has demonstrated to the wider community that child sex crimes can cause permanent and sometimes unbearable damage to people, and child sexual abuse by clergy can cause the greatest damage of all.
Child sexual abuse is, ultimately, a most despicable abuse of power that takes a sexual form. When the abuse is by one of God’s representatives on earth, and when that abuse is excused and virtually sanctioned by the church to prevent scandal and maintain the church’s power, there are tragic results.
In the Hunter child sexual abuse survivors spoke out early. There were charges and convictions against offenders. People fought against power and those fights were often isolated and lonely. But they kept fighting.
The royal commission has been a commission about the rights of children. The idea that children should be seen but not heard must now be swept away, because it is the foundation on which the abuse of children occurs.
The Hunter region can take credit for standing withsurvivors of child sexual abuse and demanding a royal commission on behalf of everyone who believes we are all equal before the law. We are all accountable.
It has been years of history in the making, with more to come. One man has been charged, but it sends a very powerful message.