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Tag Archives: Royal commission into child sex abuse

Pell appeal verdict unleashes a perfect storm for our Tory ruling class

Head bowed, a manacled cardinal is led hobbling out of court into a prison van, a shocking image calculated to rock our nation’s Tories to the core, last Wednesday, as Victoria’s Court of Appeal upholds Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on five counts of child sexual assault, for offences committed against two thirteen year-old altar-boys in a priest’s sacristy at St Patrick’s Church, in 1996 and 1997, whilst Pell was still Archbishop of Melbourne.

By Sunday, thank God and Rupert Murdoch, it’s all OK – at least, in Australia’s News Corp-led “mainstream media” as our corporate, oligarchical, media tribe is typically misnamed, whose stories quickly turn a convicted predator into an innocent victim. OK, too, in our progressive, post-modern, post fact, Trumpian universe of discourse, our collective, international pandemic of unreason led by lords of misrule from Boris to Bolsonaro to The Donald.

Bugger the facts, it’s the vibe that counts. As former PM Turnbull, pre-knifing by Scott Morrison, told Glyn Davis, Vice Chancellor of The University of Melbourne when Davis challenged Turnbull’s spin that all was rosy between town and gown. Davis dared air his heretical view that collaboration between business and university was crap.

“This is, by the way, you running against the vibe. You haven’t got the new zeitgeist. The new zeitgeist, Glyn, is to believe in yourself, is to have a go.”  Did Mal’s liberating ideology help spawn ScoMo’s “have a go to get a go”?

Bugger “police, the prosecutors, the courts, the jury system, the burden of proof and the entire rule of law. In its place is the new primacy of feelings: they feel Pell must not be guilty, therefore he is innocent. All else — most significantly, the fully tested testimony of the victim that they have never seen — gives way before their emotional need.” writes Crikey’s legal beagle, Michael Bradley. Above all, our establishment must protect one of its own.

Pell can’t be guilty: he’s part of the power elite, as untouchable as Casino King, James Murdoch. Pell’s protection is necessary to preserve the power of our monocultural bunyip aristocracy. However, it’s a secular crusade now, David Marr reflects. “Rome somewhere in the past few years lost the power” to protect men like Pell.

Above all, however, is the political purpose served by the all-consuming pseudo-debate over Pell’s innocence, a diversion adroitly exploited by a Coalition keen to soft-pedal its announcement that it is eagerly doing the US bidding; taking up gunboat diplomacy in the Persian Gulf because this will help “de-escalate tensions”.

Foreign Minister, Marise Payne keeps a straight face on ABC Insiders, Sunday; farcically claiming we are part of an “international mission” which is “modest, meaningful and time-limited”. In reality, we are offering Trump a blank cheque. It’s all about restoring “rules-based order and the rule of law”. No-one mentions the fact that we are about to break international law. Trump’s administration clearly hankers for the good old days when it ran Iran.

With British help, America overthrew Iran’s democratically elected conservative Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh’s nationalist parliamentary government, in 1953, to install Shah Reza Pahlavi, a dictator who gave 40% of Iran’s oil concessions to US oil companies. America supported the corrupt dictator until his overthrow by a popular mass movement in 1979. As punishment, the US backed Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in the Iran–Iraq War, 22 September 1980- 20 August 1988.

It is estimated one million Iranians died defending their country. Up to half a million Iraqis also lost their lives.

The international team comprises ourselves, the Great Satan, as Iran once called the US, Little Britain under Boris Johnson, a professional clown, now playing Albion’s accidental PM and Human Rights Watch pin-up, Bahrain, a state of unabated repression whose rulers’ crack-down on dissent has eliminated all opposition banned independent media and peaceful dissidents are roughed up, arrested, prosecuted and stripped of their citizenship.

Clearly, there’s a bit our government could yet learn from Bahrain and embedding our troops with theirs is a move guaranteed to bring mutual enlightenment, the rule of law and stability to a region where eighty million Iranians are starved of daily necessities from food to medicines as a result of forty years of US sanctions.

It’s possible, of course, that the sudden appearance of an Australian cruiser in January 2020 “for six months” or a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft to the Middle East for one month “before the end of 2019” will prove immensely re-assuring to Iran’s government and cause citizens to hi-five and hug each other in sheer relief.

Aussie diggers posted to Bahrain, super-charged with ANZAC can-do, could repair the nation’s moral high ground.

Luckily for Morrison’s government, the Cardinal Pell in the Pokey show is the perfect distractor; a timely bit of cultural warfare guaranteed to upstage any grovelling capitulation to the whims of hawks such as Bolton or Pompeo who run demented Donald Trump and his mad, neo-con, anti-Iranian, administration.

Hard right hacks, Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, Bettina Arndt rush to defend Pell. Left out of the moral outrage are the 1900 child sex-offenders, identified in Australian Catholic churches, whose 4,444 victims were on average under twelve years old, according to the 2016 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to child sexual abuse. Eclipsed almost entirely, is the suffering of thousands of abused children; or how their lives were ruined.

And who knows how many victims there are in the sexual abuse of nuns by priests, abuse which Pope Francis acknowledged last February? Catholic women are speaking out, too, under the #NunsToo hashtag. In the meantime, a sanctification of Pell proceeds, by some of our best and finest reactionary media mavens.

Poor George, whose Dad, a Ballarat publican, David Marr reports, ran an SP book from the public bar of The Royal Oak, from 1953 to 1976, becomes, by mythic invention, an icon of apostolic poverty, humility, chastity and saintly compassion who will appeal to The High Court. The magical thinking of his backers has him acquitted already.

A man of such grace and standing (Peter Kidd, Chief Judge at his sentencing commented on his “staggering arrogance”, in committing crimes he thought he could get away with), will automatically be granted leave to appeal. But in the eternal interim, the very idea of a fallen Pell is a monstrous offence against nature.

Worse, the appeal judgement is a heresy right up there with Aurecon’s shunning of Adani, a move which resources High Priest, Matt Canavan says is as “weak as piss” before calling on the energy oligopoly to shun and shame Aurecon. The Australian and others in the stable eagerly recycle the lie of Pell’s unblemished record.

Yet there is no question that Pell is the reactionaries’ reactionary, a one-stop shop for any crusade against change.

Pell held that abortion was “a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people.” is Papal-royalty. Boys driven to take their own lives through homophobia only had themselves to blame, Pell maintained;

It is another reason to be discouraging people going in that direction. Homosexual activity is a much greater health hazard than smoking.”

Pell denounces concern about climate change as “a symptom of pagan emptiness” The Greens? “Anti-Christian”.

Pell’s perspective on accountability is clear in his view, given in 2014, that “the church’s responsibility to those abused by priests is comparable to the responsibility of a trucking company to a hitchhiker raped by a trucker.”

Monday, Pell’s media acquittal continues. The Australian’s Mirko Bagaric blusters… it debases the legal and democratic process for anyone to insist — as a few prominent commentators have in recent days — that it is impertinent to believe that Cardinal George Pell is innocent despite losing his case in the Victorian Court of Appeal.

News Corp’s contempt for the rule of law is as staggering as the propaganda it peddles to buy its monstrous power. Its defence of St George, moreover, reveals Australia’s follow-the-leader-media rushing pell-mell to fall in behind Papal knight Sir Rupert’s News Corp’s Cardinal-as-Victim story-tellers.

Part of this narrative involves appeals to sympathy for “an old sick man” “who might well die in gaol” as the current Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli tells 3AW’s Neil Mitchell. Bizarrely, Comensoli maintains Pell is innocent – and the victim is telling the truth too. It was another priest who committed the sexual abuse.

Easy for a thirteen year-old altar boy to get one 190 cm priest mixed up with another.

The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and the odd guest on The Drum hold that Judge Weinberg’s dissenting view is the only one that matters or proof that our legal system is broken and or grounds for High Court appeal.

Paradoxically, another part of the story is that Pell is Australia’s most senior cleric, internationally renowned, a pal of Rupert Murdoch’s, a tall poppy cut down in his prime. The facts suggest otherwise.

At the end, Pell’s power in the Vatican rapidly waned, despite a promising start in modelling austerity by big spending. Outrage broke out over his choice of a 5100 euro a month apartment requiring he spend 87,000 on new furniture; employing an assistant on a 21,600 a month salary and even 6,650 euros on kitchen sink fittings.

Somehow word got out to Italy’s L’Espresso weekly of detailed opposition to Pell’s financial reform; not helped by his Secretariat for the Economy racking up a half-million dollars in expenditures in the last six months.

True, Pell rose to become Cardinal, but Francis, shrewdly diverted the ambitious antipodean prelate into the Sisyphean labour of draining the swamp of the Vatican’s scandalous financial mess, an impossible task – and one fraught with peril, for anyone, let alone a boy from Ballarat, who knew neither Vatican culture nor the rudiments of diplomacy or tact, author of The Melbourne Response, another monumental failure of Christian charity and human compassion which capped compensation clerical sexual abuse victims at $50,000.

They saw him coming, a retired priest says on The Drum. Rubbed them up the wrong way say Vatican insiders. Francis himself believes “Behind rigidity something always lies hidden,” he says. “In many cases, a double life.”

But nothing may detract from the Tory postmodern narrative of St George The Martyr. A man as powerful as Pell, a priest who could command a character reference from a former Prime Minister, (gasp) just cannot be guilty. The Pell pillar must be protected or the entire edifice of conservatism may be revealed to be rotten to the core.

It’s a monstrous spectacle made all the more shocking, somehow, by technical glitches which cause the live broadcast to freeze, the court website to crash and by appellant judge, Chief Justice, Anne Ferguson’s funereal delivery which brings “all the drama of a dead wombat to reading a summary of one of the most important criminal judgments of the year”, reports seasoned legal commentator, lawyer and writer, Richard Ackland.

The Tory world is in turmoil. Right-wing hacks and flacks led by News Corp, nutcase Andrew Bolt, thresh about protesting victim Pell’s innocence, slagging off Victoria’s judiciary and declaring war on the rule of law.

“Never any hope of justice for George Pell. He was too big a scalp for the howling mob,” tweets Bettina Arndt.

Could a Cardinal be so publicly undone? Could a high priest of our ruling elite, a fully-paid member of the board of Reactionary Australia Inc. be brought to heel? Could our rulers be held accountable? Perish the thought. Look at Crown.

The kid gloves are on in the federal government’s treatment of St James Packer’s Crown Casino where there is report from a whistle-blower that ought to be hair-raising. It’s a whale of a tale of high-rollers being fast-tracked through immigration, equipped with escorts before a restorative punt is followed up by a refreshing wildlife shoot.

Crown is a cathedral to our new age of mad depravity, infinitely more popular than any offering of the Catholic Church and more powerful. Crown’s backers rule our politics as the gun lobby does America’s, as former Victorian Premier John Cain observes.

Cain, whose government decided as early as 1983 that to build a casino would be to invite organised crime, warned of the power, grace and charm of casino lobbyists in 1990,  “Within three weeks of me going in August 1990, they had not only battered the doors down, but they were in the lounge room pissing on the furniture.”

Sensibly, heeding their mandate from silent Australians to leave no depth unplumbed, the Morrison government summons a toothless watchdog, no-one’s ever heard of.

Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), a Clayton’s investigator, is agreed upon by both major parties, to allow our gambling lobby to continue to uplift the moral tone of the nation, growing jobs and building wealth, especially in the off-shore bank accounts of Crown Casino and its coterie of money-launderers.

Conspiracy theorists swarm to depict poor, vulnerable Georgie Boy as the innocent victim of a Gillard-leftist-Victoria Police-Nine News plot. In the midst of this fertile, national conversation, Scott Morrison shrewdly chooses to announce he’s just engulfed us in another US oil war which his BFF, another vainglorious lout, the dangerously demented Donald Trump is brewing up against arch-fiend Iran in the Straits of Hormuz.

“200 troops”, he says out of the corner of his mouth. “Limited to six months,” he says. “Or longer, as the case may be” he says, skipping away.  Marise Payne, repeats his de-escalation double-speak, almost word-perfect as so sundry other MPs as interviews are merely an excuse for the re-iteration of central minders’ talking points.

Happily, the week brings the anniversary of Scott Morrison’s hugely undistinguished year in office, after knifing Malcolm Turnbull in a double, double-cross. His government has no energy, no environment, no economic or climate change policies, no vision and no shame. But it’s cranking up Robo-debt to go after elderly age pensioners. That blessed surplus won’t accrue all by itself.

No-one in government fusses over the two thousand who die after receiving Robo-debt letters between July 2016 and October 2018.  It’s not difficult to envisage a link between their deaths and the debt letters.

Yet Morrison is now the best PM ever, according to the worst, “lying rodent” John Howard, the PM who did most to unpick the threads of a prosperous, progressive, cosmopolitan and egalitarian society and who lied to parliament and people that he had legal opinion to join the illegal US war in Iraq.

Howard also wrote a glowing reference for George Pell.

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What does the government want from George Pell?

What do the Pope, George Pell, George Brandis, Tony Abbott and climate change have in common? Quite a lot, suggests Vanessa Kairies.

I have been following the climate change issue for a couple of decades. I thought I had heard it all and seen it all, until now. I was recently having a discussion with a friend who showed me the most disturbing video regarding climate change. One, which I urge all Australians to watch. It is an interview on May 2015 with Professor Peter Wadhams. An eloquent man who has been studying the Arctic and Climate Change for 40 years. He is one of the world’s leading Arctic scientists.

In it he states:

“The volume of ice that remains in the Arctic in Summer is only a quarter of what is was in the 1980’s.”

“If that downward trend continues … then the volume will go on to zero in just a couple of years.”

“We are being very complacent about sea level rise … we ought to be realising that many coastal regions … will have to be abandoned.”

“This will have an enormous impact on the global economy and the lives of people.”

“The disappearance of ice in the Arctic is leading to warmer air masses.”

 

 

Obama got it, with the coastal regions of America to be drastically effected. He and most of the world have instigated the change towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their countries. They are turning away from fossil fuels in droves.

Last year, Professor Wadhams was among a group of leading climate scientists who gave a presentation to the Pope (and his advisors) about the threat of climate change. It must have had some influence, as in June this year the Pope released his encyclical calling for swift action on climate change in which he said:

“The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

“Climate change is doing most harm to the poor.”

“A very solid scientific consensus indicates we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.”

Then the family feud in the Vatican happened when a month later our very own George Pell, Financial Advisor to the Vatican, enstated by the Pope himself, came out with the objection that “the Roman Catholic church had ‘no mandate’ to lay down doctrine on scientific matters“, adding that “the church has no particular expertise in science”.

Personally, when it comes to climate science I prefer to take my advice from the professionals such as Professor Wadhams – people who have dedicated their lives to study and science. The Pope does too.

George, are you being used as a pawn in the game that is Australian politics? More on that later.

Then came the revelation that Pell met secretly with Attorney General George Brandis in May this year, a month before the Pope’s encyclical was released. I wonder what they discussed?

Did George Brandis do a deal asking for George Pell to debunk climate change? Was it an exchange, guaranteeing a more lenient time in the witness box at the upcoming Royal Commission into Child Abuse?

George Pell has made the headlines here in Australia for all the wrong reasons.

In 2004 before the election, Pell met with current Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Shortly thereafter Pell openly attacked the Labor Party’s education policies. Tony Abbott denied that this meeting took place, but later admitted that the meeting had in fact taken place because he had sought religious guidance.

To digress, here is an old favourite of mine . . .

 

Returning to the Royal Commission, there are a number of questions for Pell when he does appear which may include:

1.Did he try to bribe one of the victims?

2.Did he ignore other victims’ testimonies?

3. What was his involvement in moving serial child sex offender Gerald Ridsdale around to different parishes?

4.How much did he know about Ridsdale’s abuse of children?

5.Was he the priest that witnessed Ridsdale raping a child?

Was the family feud in the Vatican instigated by the Liberal Party and their need to debunk climate change? And if so, might it have been a bit too obvious if Tony Abbott had attended the meeting instead of George Brandis? Given Abbott’s track record, I think so. I’m now waiting for Pell’s statement opposing marriage equality. That one is a given.

According to the the 2011 Australian National Census, there were 5,439,257 Catholics in Australia, representing 25.3% of the population. That’s a big audience. I wonder how many of them vote Liberal? And I wonder how many of them are guided by every word from George Pell?

It’s fairly obvious to me what Canberra is up to . . . and what they want from George Pell, but what is the cost?

Note from author:

Readers are welcome to view my Indigenous artwork on climate change, which I hope you enjoy.

Stop climate change.

The great climate change denial.

 

A sociopathic lack of empathy

One thing I have tried to teach my children is that, when you make a mistake, tell the truth, apologise, do what you can to make up for it, and learn from the experience.

The example being set by our nation’s leaders makes it hard to reinforce that message.

According to Tony Abbott, the Coalition’s woes at ICAC are due to the Labor government making rules about donations from developers, implying it is the rule that is wrong rather than the breaking of it.

Likewise in the Bolt case – his conviction for vilifying groups in our society was the fault of an unjust law rather than any wrongdoing on his part according to his special friend, George Brandis.

Hockey’s defence of the revelation that he is paying off his investment property by claiming $270 a night accommodation entitlements is that it is “within the rules”, a defence also used by Malcolm Turnbull and many other politicians.  Nowhere is it questioned as to whether this is what was intended by the “away from home” allowance.

Abetz and Hockey have both used the “blame the media” excuse for things they have said.  I was misinterpreted, I didn’t finish my sentence.  Abbott and Pyne tell us that we misunderstood when they said they were on a unity ticket about education funding.

Twelve months into their term, the government seem unable to take the reins, constantly repeating the “debt and deficit disaster inherited from Labor” line, with absolutely no plan for the future.  Tony counts off on his fingers (an exceedingly annoying habit that he seems unable to function without), “We axed the carbon tax, the boats are stopping, we are building the roads of the 21st century, and we are getting the budget under control”.  There is no thought about what we will do about climate change or how we will help refugees or whether those roads are the best infrastructure investment or modelling on how the budget cuts will affect the vulnerable in our society.

But the prize for the best “pass the buck” comment must go to Tony’s mentor and spiritual advisor, George Pell.  When being interviewed by the Royal Commission into child sex abuse yesterday, Pell made the crass analogy that the Church should not be held responsible for the actions of its clergy any more than a trucking company should be held responsible if one of their drivers molested a woman they picked up on the road.

The last time I looked, trucking companies didn’t run schools.  They were not placed in positions of trust to care for the vulnerable in our community or to provide moral guidance.  I would also suggest that if the company was informed that one of their drivers had raped someone they would not try to bribe the victim to not go to the police.

In 2002, Pell told his audience of World Youth Day delegates that “abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people”, during a public religious instruction session.  In response to the outcry this caused, Pell said he was merely trying to point out that sex abuse by Catholic clergy had attracted attention to the detriment of other issues.

Anthony Foster, the father of two of the abuse victims, has said Cardinal Pell displayed a “sociopathic lack of empathy” when they met to discuss the case in the 1990s.

This lack of empathy is the most frightening part of the current government and the people to whom they listen.  Anyone who is not rich is to be blamed for not working out how to rort the system.  Single parents are made to feel ashamed of their situation which Kevin Andrews and Cory Bernardi tell us will lead to their “sons ending up in gaol and their daughters being promiscuous”.  Unemployed people are just not trying hard enough, the disabled are lazy, and we can’t afford to keep giving handouts to the sick and elderly.  Refugees are to be incarcerated and vilified for wanting a better life for their families, and all Muslims viewed as terrorists waiting to behead us at the first opportunity.

A sociopath is someone who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.  I’d say that just about sums it up.

Is George Pell a problem for Abbott?

George Pell: Image by The Daily Telegraph

George Pell: Image by The Daily Telegraph

Now that the dust has settled and Tony Abbott is our Prime Minister, there is renewed interest in his relationship with the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell and some speculation as to how that relationship will develop given that Pell is the man Tony Abbott regards as his spiritual advisor. It is entirely reasonable to suggest that George Pell would regard Abbott as a supporter of Catholic dogma and willing to uphold Catholic teaching across a range of sensitive, social issues. It is therefore reasonable to ask how we, the voters, can be assured that Cardinal George Pell is not going to become a silent partner in running the country and that Tony Abbott won’t become his lapdog.

The Church in Australia is desperate to regain some of its dwindling influence. Sixty years ago, in pre Vatican II times, 75% of Catholics attended church regularly. Today, that figure has slumped to just 13%.  Today, just 5% of Australians are practicing Catholics. That figure renders Cardinal Pell’s job of placing Catholic teaching high on the list of political issues almost impossible. Issues such as contraception, euthanasia and gay marriage are a matter of non-negotiable Catholic dogma, contrasting starkly with an increasingly secular Australia which has long since moved in the opposite direction. The forum of public opinion would suggest these issues are private and best decided by those involved. The Church, however, would have government uphold what it regards as Catholic teaching. Tony Abbott is a practicing Catholic and heavily influenced by Cardinal Pell.  So where does this leave Abbott?

Cardinal George Pell has clear and concise alternatives to the preferences of an increasingly secular world but he struggles to present then in a way that is palatable. His policies which come from the Vatican are not the policies that most Australians would tolerate. While we know Abbott takes political advice from another mentor, John Howard, what we don’t know, is how much spiritual advice he takes from George Pell. We accept that the advice he receives from John Howard is specific to the issues of political success. We can make a considered judgement about that. What we don’t know and therefore are unable to judge, is whether the advice he receives from George Pell is specific to our interests or to the temporal interests of the Catholic Church and the success of George Pell’s agenda for Australia.

Lately, Cardinal George Pell is showing all the signs of a man who just doesn’t get it. His press conference on November 15th 2012 following the announcement by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard of a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse was ample evidence of a man who had lost touch with reality. Pell’s main concern seemed to be that the Catholic Church was a victim of a media smear campaign. He seems to think that claims against paedophile priests are exaggerated. (Ref 6). His performance at that press conference was arrogant and half hearted to say the least.

Pell also has his detractors inside the church. Retired Bishop, Geoffrey Robinson recently said of him, “He’s not a team player, he never has been.” On the question of priests breaking the confessional seal to expose child sex abuse, Robinson added, “On this subject too, he’s not consulting with anyone else; he’s simply doing his own thing. I have to say, that on this subject, he’s a great embarrassment to me and to a lot of good Catholic people” (Ref 3). To his credit, Abbott distanced himself from Pell on the issue of the confessional seal when he made his position clear on priests’ responsibilities in this matter.  “If they become aware of sexual offences against children, those legal requirements must be adhered to. The law is no respecter of persons, everyone has to obey the law, regardless of what job they are doing, what position they hold,” he said. (Ref 6)

But now that Abbott is prime minister we are entitled to know on what side of the spiritual fence he sits. To say he is highly conservative and would not support gay marriage or drug law reform is obvious. But on what grounds does he not support these issues? To what extent are his views subject to Catholic teaching?  His plagiarising of old hat references such as Sir Robert Menzies’ “faceless men” and John Howard’s “ticker” and “who do you trust” and his call for the now Labor opposition to “repent” on the issue of the carbon tax demonstrate his lack of originality and his attachment, even reliance, on those he sees as his mentors and those to whom he looks for advice. Cardinal Pell is one such mentor. Pell’s conservative Catholic views are well known, not so Abbott’s. We are entitled to know what might be behind some of his policy preferences and in what way Pell has influence over him. When one looks closely one can detect some behavioural aspects that give us some clues.

Abbott’s callous comment ‘shit happens’ in reference to soldiers dying in Afghanistan (Ref 5) tells its own story. It demonstrates a lack of empathy with those about whom he makes such a reference.  Let us not forget that he did it once before in reference to the now deceased champion of the James Hardie asbestos campaign, Bernie Banton (Ref 4). The Catholic Church displays a staggering lack of empathy across a range of social issues, not the least of which has been its attitude to the victims of sexual abuse by the clergy and to the use of condoms in AIDS ravaged Africa.

In Parliament Abbott attempts to sound scholarly as does Pell when speaking from the pulpit, but when in the arena of the real world, Pell struggles when constantly interrupted and Abbott sounds robotic when reduced to the fifteen second time bite. He succumbs to metaphors and superficial comments that lack any real substance or meaning. Interestingly, both platforms have seen Abbott uttering some frightful gaffes about women.

Tony Abbott adds to the dilemma with his seemingly confused understanding of what is and is not, Christian. In one blunder concerning the boat people, Abbott said:

“I don’t think it’s a very Christian thing to come in by the back door rather than the front door . . . I think the people we accept should be coming the right way and not the wrong way . . . If you pay a people-smuggler, if you jump the queue, if you take yourself and your family on a leaky boat, that’s doing the wrong thing, not the right thing, and we shouldn’t encourage it.”

Human Rights activist, Julian Burnside commented:

“It is not surprising that Mr Abbott has a view about the moral dimension of refugee issues.

What is striking is that Mr Abbott could get the matter so spectacularly wrong, both as to the facts and as to the moral equation” (Ref 7).

Abbott’s comments that we are rolling out the red carpet for asylum seekers by releasing them into community detention (2), sends us a mixed message. Such comments appear, on the surface, to fly in the face of Christian compassion, therefore we can assume it is a political ploy; a vote winner. One might have thought that a devout Christian like Abbott would be more sympathetic. He conveniently fails to acknowledge the financial benefits that come with such a policy and appears to have no regard for the psychological damage done to those who remain in detention centres. However, all of that is secondary, it would seem, to the image that “rolling out the red carpet” conjures up in the minds of those who have been paralysed by the fear campaign his mentor John Howard began. Metaphorically speaking, the Catholic Church likes locking up people too; not their bodies but their minds. Their idea of a perfect world is to have everyone faithfully observing the teachings of ‘the one true church.’ One wonders if Tony Abbott’s liking for mandatory detention is the manifestation of a similar theology.

On the treatment of women there are other behavioural signs. It is easy to think the church has a fear of women especially if you were raised Catholic. Over many centuries of a male dominated hierarchy within the church, certain attitudes of superiority over women developed which church leaders conveniently allowed to be incorporated within its plethora of Mysteries. This eliminated the need for a detailed explanation. For them, the threat of women ever usurping the dominance of the male role was countered by excluding them, then de-valuing them. One could argue that they did this because they were afraid of them.

Tony Abbott’s foot-in-mouth tendency, his apparent brain-snap comments when dealing with women’s issues, might easily be accounted for when one factors in his close association with, and commitment to, Catholic Church teaching. The Church doesn’t teach fear of women, but it is implied in much of its dogma. It’s refusal to ordain women as priests and its refusal to permit priests to marry (unless you’re a married Anglican priest and want to defect to Rome) betray its attitude to women quite clearly. Its insistence that all sexual intercourse must be open to the creation of life is another put-down teaching that places the primary role of women as child bearers before anything else. Abbott’s foot-in-mouth comment about the previous Labor government’s lack of experience in raising children (Ref 8) also betrays this Catholic Church mindset.

So what is Tony Abbott’s theology? And what has shaped his Machiavellian view and perhaps we should ask who is encouraging him? Each one of us, particularly that twenty five percent of Australians who claim to be Atheist (Ref 1) need to know what drives him when deciding how his values and particularly his religious convictions will impact upon us.   And, should we also ask: does he view his own agenda within the corridors of power as more important than that of serving the best interests of the citizens of Australia.

John Kelly

References

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_Australia

  2. Canberra Times, 18/02/2012, Kirsty Needham.

  3. http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2012/s3632475.htm

  4. http://www.news.com.au/news/abbott-phones-in-banton-apology/story-fna7dq6e-1111114764079

  5. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-02-08/shit-happens-abbott-grilled-over-digger-remark/1935128

6.  http://www.theglobalmail.org/feature/restoring-the-faith/477/

7.  http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/abbott-slams-boatpeople-as-un-christian/story-fn9hm1gu-1226422034305#mm-premium

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2012/oct/23/julia-gillard-children-australia-video

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