Special tickets

There’s a hearing on institutional responses to child sexual abuse in the Catholic church going on in Sydney now. It started off with a bang on Monday

Victims of child abuse and their supporters walked out of a public hearing at the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse after the Catholic church’s legal representative quoted the Bible in his opening address.

Peter Gray, representing the church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council began his opening statement by quoting a passage from the gospel of Mark, prompting cries of shock and disgust in the hearing room.

“Many will remember, from their own childhoods, the ageless words from the gospel of Mark,” said Gray.

“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such of these that the kingdom of God belongs.”

Members of Care Leavers Australia Network and survivors of abuse walked out of the room, some in tears.

Speaking to reporters outside the commission during a recess, Trish Charter said that at that point she could not listen any more and that hearing the words was “crashing us back down”.

Imbecile. Think about it. What do these many remember from their own childhoods? Hearing those “ageless words” in a context that made them a foul, cruel joke. Hearing them uttered by men who did nothing to help the real children in their power, or men who abused the real children in their power. Talk about whited sepulchre! King Lear says it best:

Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand.
Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back.
Thou hotly lust’st to use her in that kind
For which thou whipp’st her. The usurer hangs the cozener.
Through tattered clothes great vices do appear;
Robes and furred gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks.
Arm it in rags, a pigmy’s straw does pierce it.

David Marr reports on the first day’s testimony.

At one end of an immensely expensive room in the Sydney legal district was a squad of lawyers briefed months ago for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

But in the gallery at the other end sat victims and the parents and friends of victims who have been on the case for nearly 20 years. For some it has become their life’s work. And they came from all points on Monday to see what they had managed at last: to put the Catholic Church in the dock.

They made their presence felt. They groaned. They protested. A handful walked out when Peter Gray SC, counsel for the church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, began by quoting the “ageless words” of St Mark: “Let the little children come to me.”

Gray laid on the apologies not with a trowel but a front-end loader. He called abuse by clergy and its concealment by the church unbearable, disgraceful, heartbreaking, shattering and devastating. He declared the royal commission, “a watershed in church history and indeed in Australian history”.

The gallery was unmoved. For 20 years the church has been saying sorry and promising to do better. Nothing to applaud here. Nor did the campaigners seem impressed by Gray’s fresh assurances the church would co-operate “fully, without reservation” with the commission.

Isn’t that called, obeying the law?

Well…yes, for ordinary humans, it is, but for people with special tickets from god, it’s a different story.


  1. rnilsson says

    Apoplexies for swearing in temperance, but

    It started off with a bang on Monday…

    is a little tiny bit off-key too, don’t you think? Weekday, for one. 😉

    My only quibble with you, our gracious. On the topic, I am still left speechless.

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