Young at Heart: Church leaders must answer

JOSEPH Conrad wrote, “A belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.”

Last week I read an obituary notice in The Age (August 30) concerning a much loved young man; Sam committed suicide as a  result of suffering years of depression, periodic anxiety and panic attacks. His friends knew him as a bright, gregarious and funny guy.

His counsellor knew differently. He knew a young man who had been sexually abused by a locum priest at his Catholic primary school, a priest who then ordered Sam not to tell his parents or the school under threat of rejection and expulsion.

For years Sam carried memories of that abuse, the uncontrollable thoughts, helplessness and enduring pain. This triggered his depression.

Only this year Sam, with the support of his counsellor, told his loving family. Heartache does not end with the victim.

His family and friends are left grieving the loss of this young man. Eight hundred mourners farewelled Sam. It was a non-religious funeral.

In Wendy Squires’ words recently in speaking of another victim, “He was raped of dignity, innocence, trust and hope”.  Sam took his life to rid himself of that pain and not be a burden on his family, as he believed.  

Child sexual abuse. Cardinal George Pell simply does not get it. This is a story which has taken years to emerge from darkness and more years to be acknowledged.

 While other organisations have been involved in similar allegations and accusations they have at least acknowledged their crimes.

The Catholic Church has been dragged kicking and screaming into the fray, not giving an inch to support or assist the victims, admitting to as little as possible and paying out as little as possible.

The manner in which the church tried to cover up the stories of the victims and minimise their pain, all directed by the then Archbishop Pell, has done irretrievable damage to the church.

As Archbishop he had the opportunity to right the terrible wrongs in a compassionate manner. He chose not to do so. The present Archbishop Hart is also culpable. 

There has been much written about the role Cardinal Pell and the Catholic priesthood have played in this tragic narrative. Young people are choosing to leave the Catholic Church in their droves. Regular attendances are down from 63 per cent in 1947 to 12.2 per cent in 2011. Most of that 12.2 per cent are elderly. Such a loss of faith. 

They, like me, question any organisation which expects priests to remain celibate and from this position dictates strict adherence to ridiculous rules in relationships.

Rules such as no contraception, no abortion, and no same-sex marriage are just a few of the contentious areas that young people today challenge. That makes the church appear even more out of step than ever and priests increasingly irrelevant.  

I can never respect a faith that refuses to recognise the opportunity for women to become priests or demands that priests commit to celibacy. Stripping a person of their sexuality seems perverse, unnatural and cruel to me. 

The Catholic Church now seeks to widen its influence elsewhere as First World countries lose faith in this religion.These terrible sexual abuses of young people will now be shifted to the Third World countries of Africa and Asia with the same results, if celibacy continues to be insisted upon. 

There are many fine and decent nuns, priests and parishioners in Australia who must now feel such despair with Pell’s arrogance and desertion.

They too are victims of these crimes of omission and the leadership must answer for the shame and odium it has brought on them as well.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 100 659 467.

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