Sexual abuse in institutions is much bigger than George Pell and the Catholic Church

Photo from AAP: George Pell leaves the County Court in Melbourne after the guilty verdict

Contributed by Adam Carlton

Andrew Bolt may well jump to the defence of Cardinal George Pell after being convicted of sexual assault on two teenage boys. Bolt has long been a fan of the cleric, dismissing allegations out of hand.

Less know, is that the Cardinal is associated with the Rupert Murdock influenced ultra-right think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), and joined Bolt, Murdoch, mining magnate Gena Rinehart and Tony Abbott at the Institute’s seventieth year Gala dinner back in 2013.

This gang has consistently been the disgraced cleric’s defenders, helping him to evade answering allegations for a long time.

At the very least, Pell has a track record of obstructing investigation into his own turf. In this respect, he has been aider and abettor of these predators. It now seems, he is one of them as well.

The guilty verdict was brought down by a jury in December last year and made public only now. He was found guilty of five charges relating to abusing two boys in 1996 and 1997.

But, while the focus is on the Cardinal for now, the bigger picture must not be forgotten. If this particular individual has done wrong, he deserves to answer for it. Nevertheless, this form of sexual abuse of minors is not confined to the Catholic Church.

It is unfortunate for this Church that high profile cases have tarnished its reputation. The failure of its hierarchy to act and tendency to cover up haven’t helped it either.

Video from FRANCE 24 English

Some fall to the temptation of taking up as an opportunity to get stuck into the Catholics. The reality is that sexual abuse is taking place in religious institutions of all faiths and other organisations that provide opportunities for predators.

This is s society wide problem. It needs society wide solutions.

Pell’s old school, St Patrick’s College in Ballarat, announced it would strip his name from a building at the school, strike it off the honour board, and revoke his status as an “inducted legend of the school.”  Richmond football club has removed him as a club vice-patron.

Fair enough, so long as targeting an individual does not get in the way of acting on the problem preventing other abusers from doing the same.

The big cause of the Catholic Church’s problems, and the reason for the fall of Cardinal Pell, has been the long and unrelenting battle for justice waged by the victims, and a push by a large enough membership of the church to make all the difference. They have pursued this all the way to the Vatican.

Even if this is a problem that will never go away entirely, a lot can be done reduce it, through changing the attitude that that this is not something to be talked about and swept under the carpet. For far too long, victims have been compelled to live under a cloud of shame, as if what happened to them was somehow their fault. Authorities have been slow to act to uncover the extent of abuse and to apprehend, charge and put to trial suspected offenders.

Organisations failing to act properly and found covering up should be held to account. They should be charged under criminal law, and if found guilty, suffer heavy fines. If it isa religious organisation, it should face the possibility of having its tax free status removed.

Society’s attitudes are changing. More individuals are standing up. Pell looks like doing significant jail time, unless his mates can organise to get him out of it. There will be an appeal.

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