It is important to try to understand the mass murder in Christchurch, but it is just too early to make any sound or meaningful assessment. Despite the manifesto, we do not know enough about Tarrant’s background and thoughts, and we know nothing about any of the others who may have been involved. That hasn’t stopped the mainstream media with its screeching headlines. More on that in a minute.
I know Christchurch a little. My mother was born at Lyttleton, Christchurch’s port and a very pretty place, and have spent time in Christchurch and worshipped at the cathedral. That poor city has had more than its share of troubles.
What we can say, and the first thing we must say, is this. There is no excuse, ever, for religious or political violence against ordinary people. Whatever their background, the victims thought they had found a home in New Zealand, and were entitled to feel safe and welcome.
What we cannot justifiably do, at least yet, is make the judgments about Tarrant’s views some media organisations have made.
Someone who hates capitalism, corporatism, and conservatism, who despises President Trump’s economic and foreign policies, who describes himself as a former communist, now an eco-fascist, who recently visited Pakistan and said he liked and respected the people there, and whose most admired country is communist China, is neither a white supremacist, nor right wing.
If he wrote the manifesto in his name, he is highly intelligent, and thoroughly evil.
To repeat, there is no excuse, ever, anywhere, for acts of terror against civilians. All such acts, wherever they occur, and by whoever they are committed, must be condemned, and every step taken to stop them recurring.
Tarrant suggested he was trying to defend the West and its traditions. The opposite is true. He has comprehensively betrayed our values and our history.
The history of the twentieth century is replete with radical groups scaring children about the future they are to inherit, and encouraging them to take to the streets to shout slogans they did not understand, to denounce their parents, and to demand political changes they could not comprehend. It is not a happy company.
The reason children cannot make major life decisions for themselves, and cannot vote, is that they do not yet have the perspective or background or thinking skills to understand scientific and political issues, or the long term outcomes of environmental or economic policies. Like greenies, they have difficulty with complex ideas and situations, and are not good at weighing different theories, or the objective analysis of risk. They are impressed by scary stories and scary pictures, and suggestions they will miss out or are being hard done by through the irresponsible actions of businesses, politicians and parents.
Children need to be exposed to a wide range of views, and encouraged to think about them carefully and critically.
Advocacy is a great and necessary thing, most of the time. It can also be a very dangerous thing, when the facts are incorrect, or theories wrong. Think of children in Communist China chanting Mao’s slogans in the street during the cultural revolution. Before taking sides, we need consider the sides carefully. A good education encourages and supports children to do this.
Become emotionally engaged, certainly. But be sure you have your facts right first, or you will do more harm than good. Good intentions, divorced from reality, are a fast track to disaster.
Schools and other authorities which encourage activism in children without ensuring facts are correct, and without encouraging critical analysis of diverse scientific and political views, are using children rather than aiding them, and indoctrinating them rather than educating them.
Have children been indoctrinated rather than educated?
Have they been told that current global temperature is between eight and ten degrees below the average for the last 200 million years?
Have they been told we are still in an ice age (it is an ice age whenever there is ice at the poles), and that there has been ice at the poles for less than 20% of earth’s history?
Have they been told that warming over the last 150 years amounts to less than one degree Celsius – a difference so small you would not even notice it moving from one room to another?
Have they been told half of this minor increase occurred before any significant human output of CO2, and that over the last twenty years, as CO2 output has increased, there has been no measurable change in global temperature?
Have they been told that changes far greater, in both directions, have happened frequently in the past without any human influence?
Have they been told that since the beginning of the current inter-glacial period, it has been both warmer and colder than now, and that the general temperature trend for the last 10,000 years has been downward?
Have they been told that CO2 levels in the atmosphere have been more than ten times higher than they are now, with no ill effects?
Have they been told that CO2 is vital for all life on Earth, and that at the beginning of the twentieth century, CO2 levels were almost catastrophically low, near starvation level for many green plants?
Have they been told that if the atmosphere were a stadium of 10,000 people, only four of those people would be CO2, and only one of those possibly of human origin?
Have they told that this minimal increase in this vital, non-toxic trace gas has resulted in new forest growth, more resilient grasslands, and better crop yields?
Have they been told there is no correlation between human production of CO2 and changes in global temperature?
Have they been told that Tuvalu and Kiribati, islands which were to have sunk by 2015, and from which we were expected to take the entire populations as desperate climate refugees, have actually grown in size?
Have they been told the origin of the media claims that 97% of scientists agree with catastrophic anthropogenic climate change, and given the opportunity to consider the merits of those studies?
Have they been encouraged to consider the work of leading climate scientists, geologists and physicists like Tim Ball, Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry, Will Happer, Murray Salby, Ian Plimer, Bob Carter, John Christy, Willie Soon, Ian Clark, Ernst Beck, or the thousands of others who have raised questions about the computer modelling behind the climate scare, and suggested that the scare is not supported by the data?
Then they are being used rather than aided, and indoctrinated rather than educated.
On March 13th, Cardinal George Pell was sentenced to six years jail on charges of child sexual abuse. He will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months.
Some people have pounced on comments at sentencing made by Pell’s defence team, suggesting that these were admission of guilt. This is not the case.
In both Australian and UK courts, once a jury delivers a verdict of guilty, the defence may not dispute that finding (until any appeal is lodged) but has to address the court as if the fact of guilt were now established.
The presiding judge is under a similar obligation, so Justice Peter Kidd’s remark prior to sentencing that his comments and sentencing were made on the assumption that the offences took place as alleged is striking and unusual. I have been present during a number of criminal trials, and I have never heard any judge say anything similar, almost as if he were distancing himself from the verdict, and making it clear he was going through the motions as required.
Why would he do this? Perhaps because the evidence falls far short even on a balance of probabilities basis, let alone where guilt is required to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. There is a principle in English and Australian jurisprudence that if there is a reasonable explanation of the evidence that is consistent with the defendant’s being innocent of the charges, a verdict of not guilty must be returned.
Not only were there reasonable alternative explanations of the evidence, but on the evidence given in court by multiple witnesses, it was simply impossible for Cardinal Pell to have committed the offences as alleged.
Some people have suggested that since the court was closed, no one can know what the evidence was, and therefore no one apart from the jury knows the full story. But this is not the case. The court was not closed. Several journalists and members of the public attended throughout. Media suppression is not the same thing as a closed court. That simply meant that details of the case could not be published in Australia until the suppression or der was lifted.
The prosecution’s case was that following Mass at the Cathedral, Archbishop Pell had found two boys in the sacristy drinking altar wine, and had forced them to give him oral sex. The “second victim,” who died before the case came to trial, had said specifically that nothing of the sort ever took place. The entire case against Cardinal Pell was the testimony, more than twenty years after the alleged events, of a single person whose credibility was not permitted to be challenged in court.
The prosecution did not dispute that after Mass Archbishop Pell had been at the door of the Cathedral greeting parishioners as they left, or that after this, he had been in the company of several other people until he left for another function.
The only time in which the alleged offences could have occurred were in the period after the final blessing, until the exit procession arrived at the main doors.
In summary, this is what the prosecution claimed on the basis of the word of a single, uncorroborated witness:
As the procession was forming to leave, two choir boys absconded, unnoticed by anyone at the time or later. At about the same time, the Archbishop, celebrating in his Cathedral for one of the first times, also absconded, also unnoticed by anyone else in the procession, or the hundreds of other people in the Cathedral. The boys returned to the busiest room in the Cathedral at that time, the sacristy, where they found some altar wine which they began to drink, even though altar wine is never left there unattended.
According to the alleged victim, neither the sacristan nor any of the other altar servers or helpers, who would normally be constantly in and out of that room at the time, were anywhere to be seen. Archbishop Pell entered the room, unseen by anyone, and demanded the boys give him oral sex.
It was not disputed that he was wearing his eucharistic vestments. These consist of a close fitting cassock with thirty-nine buttons from top to bottom, a cincture – a wide band around the waist of the cassock, an alb, a long white robe tied with a rope or cord (both cassock and alb are full-length garments, reaching from neck to floor), and over these a dalmatic and a chasuble, both heavy brocade garments reaching to the knees.
Evidence given by the prosecution’s single witness was that these garments were pushed aside. They cannot be pushed aside. It is just possible that they could be lifted enough to give access to everyday clothes underneath, and that these could then be opened, but the cassock, alb, dalmatic and chasuble would need to be held with one hand the entire time. It would tight and uncomfortable, and movement would be almost impossible. This would still be the case even if Pell were wearing only an alb, stole and chasuble over his street clothes, as some parish clergy do.
The prosecutions’ case is that having taken a few minutes to lift these tight, heavy garments and open his normal clothes underneath, the Archbishop, with very limited movement and one free hand, chased the two boys around the sacristy, unnoticed by the large number of people moving between that room and the sanctuary, forcing each of the boys to give him oral sex.
He then masturbated to completion, rearranged his garments, walked back through the Cathedral and re-joined the procession before it arrived at the Cathedral door, again without anyone noticing, while the two boys re-joined the choir, also without anyone noticing either that they were back or that they had been gone.
All of this, according to the prosecution, from the time the procession left the sanctuary to the time it arrived at the door, about one hundred metres distance, took place in about five minutes. In reality (I have been to mass at that Cathedral) about three minutes. Three minutes!
The story is manifestly ludicrous. It is impossible, simply silly.
Juries get things wrong. Facts can be complex, laws confusing, and trials long. But the finding of the jury in this case is unaccountable. The verdict is not an indictment of Cardinal Pell, far less the Catholic Church as a whole, but of Australia’s mainstream media, and Victorian Police.
Operation Tethering, the Victorian police investigation into Cardinal Pell, started in 2013. It was not set up to consider complaints of criminal behaviour; there hadn’t been any. It was set up to generate them. This campaign included the placing of advertisements in Victorian newspapers inviting people to make complaints. If you invite complaints, you will get them. The police had their man. They just needed a suitable victim.
Comparisons have been made between the calumnies heaped on Pell by the media, and the feeding frenzy of hate and condemnation directed at Lindy Chamberlain between 1980 and 1988. The media have been evil angels in both cases, and in the case of Henry Keogh, and of Archbishop Wilson, and others. A rush to gleeful condemnation has become an ugly, but presumably profitable, feature of some parts of Australia’s mainstream media. But at least in the Chamberlain and Keogh cases, something had happened which required investigation. Juries in both cases were misled by mind-bogglingly incompetent forensic experts. For Cardinal George Pell, there were no incidents or complaints to investigate. Police had to go hunting for offences with which to charge a man they had already decided was guilty.
The verdict will be overturned on appeal. But massive harm has been done, to Cardinal Pell himself, of course, to the credibility of Australia’s media and judicial system, and not least to genuine victims.
The guilty verdict in the trial of Cardinal George Pell is a travesty. It will be overturned on appeal, as was the equally baseless and vindictive conviction of Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide.
Thoughtful commentary here from gay activist Milo Yiannopulos. Having been the priest in charge of a small cathedral, and having frequently been involved in Sunday worship and other services at larger metropolitan cathedrals, I know the scenario described by the single accuser is simply impossible. A bishop in attendance is always in the company of a priest, during preparations before Mass, and when greeting parishioners after.
My view of this from general experience is confirmed in this particular instance through communication with observers present at the trial, and one person who also was present at the first, which was declared a mistrial after the original hung jury, which reportedly voted not guilty ten to two.
According to those observers, the trial was a “slam dunk” for the defence, which not only showed Cardinal Pell did not commit the offences alleged, but that it was simply impossible for him to have done so.
The campaign against the Australian Walking Company’s proposal to build eco-friendly lodges at two locations on the KI Wilderness Trail is a perfect example of the dog in the manger negativity that hurls itself at every new project on Kangaroo Island.
Some of the arguments are beyond ludicrous. One was: A completely different company built some completely different buildings somewhere completely different, and they are ugly, so we all need to unite in opposing this project. Um.. OK.
The lodges will not be visible from the main track. The argument that they might be visible from part of the beach below reminds me of the story of the elderly woman who rang police to complain about her neighbour exposing himself. Although this happened at night, and he was in his own home, the woman insisted he was doing it deliberately to upset her. An officer called and looked through her window as directed. “His curtains are closed. I can’t see a thing.” “Of course not,” said the woman “you have to stand on the cupboard.”
Or there is the theory that this is the “thin edge of the wedge” (time to come up with some new clichés, people) and that the park will be ruined by private development. On the contrary, AWC have a strong interest in maintaining the wild beauty of the park – that is why people come.
This project will bring new people to the island, and create thirty full-time equivalent jobs. Those opposed perhaps need to remember the park is not their private playground. It belongs to all Australians, and new facilities constructed at no cost to the tax-payer which give visitors more choices make it more accessible to ordinary Australians, not less.
If you don’t want to stay at the new lodges, that’s fine. You don’t have to. Just keep walking. Why try to spoil it for others?
Further thoughts on this, which may appear in print over the next few days:
Unlike ninety percent of those who gathered at Parliament House on Wednesday to protest the Australian Walking Company’s proposed eco-friendly accommodation on Kangaroo Island, I live and work on the Island.
The proposed development is not about “privatising the park,” as was claimed. It does not “set a dangerous precedent,” it will not “reduce visitor access to the park.”
Private investment in National parks around Australia is an important contributor to meeting the need for infrastructure and facilities for visitors. Whether for cafes, accommodation, or ski facilities, private investment improves accessibility and user friendliness. The planned new Falls to Mt Hotham wilderness trail, for example, specifically includes provision for accommodation and other amenities along the trail to be constructed with a mix of public and private funding.
Private investment means improved facilities without the need for additional tax-payer funds, and at the same time provides additional income to parks for conservation and maintenance.
Flinders Chase is some 320,000 hectares in size. The proposed development will occupy about 1 hectare (approximately half a hectare at each site). The lodges will not be visible from the main track, nor interfere with anyone’s view or movement along the track.
AWC have a history of building and managing high quality, eco-friendly accommodation along some of Australia’s premier trails. They responded to a state government call for expressions of interest in providing such accommodation on the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail with a proposal to spend some $4 million on the Island, and to create thirty FTE jobs.
The new accommodation will enhance the accessibility of the Trail, for example for older or disabled people who may prefer to walk in a group or with a guide, and for whom camping is not an option.
I am sure most of those who turned up to protest as instructed thought they were doing a good thing. But we do not need a low-information rent-a-crowd to tell us, nor to tell politicians on our behalf, what development is appropriate for Kangaroo Island.
The problem with Greens like Jeremy Buckingham and Sarah Sea Patrol is that, being dwellers in an alternative Starbucks-half-shot-low-fat-pumpkin-latte-with-a-dash-of-organic-breast-milk-from-an-Ethiopian-shepherd-girl universe, they are completely unfamiliar with the nature they wish so desperately to save.
When they do encounter nature, they are terrified, for example, Jeremy Buckingham’s horrified discovery that natural gas (swamp gas) is both natural and flammable, and his certainty that this meant we were on the edge of the apocalypse. I can only assume he thought natural gas was made by specially trained Oompah-Loompahs, and served a merely symbolic purpose, gas ovens and hot water supplies actually being powered by organically grown pixie dust delivered in chemical-free hemp handbags.
Or if they are not terrified, they are disgusted. For example, poor Jeremy’s throwing up at the sight of a dead fish.
One of the Groan’s most cherished fantasies is that prior to invasion day, the Murray-Darling was a constantly flowing, ever-clear stream. Anything short of this, therefore, is considered proof of human greed and disregard for nature and also the dangers of capitalism. Also, white people are bad. Especially men.
In reality, before European settlement, the Murray Darling was, for most of its length, a series of interlinked waterholes which, every couple of years after heavy rains, changed into a massive, roaring river, gradually settling to a gentler flow, and then returning to its default; dry riverbeds and muddy ponds and lakes.
Fish died, frogs died, things dried up. Until the next flood. A bit like that poem:
I love a butthurt country, a land of weeping swains,
of plump transgender penguins roaming proud across the plains.
Jeremy Buckingham says the lack of flow downstream is all the fault of Cubbie Station. They’ve got plenty of water, which they are meanly holding back so everyone downstream has none. Because they are mean, and have paid off the government. Or something.
A summary of Cubbie Stations’ recent water use and water diversions can be found on their website. Cubbie diverts less than one quarter of one percent of the Murray’s flow. That is a lot, but it is nothing like the gigalitres allocated for irrigation downstream. And Cubbie’s allowance is almost entirely taken during the once in ten years or so storms that send massive amounts of flood water down the system. Cubbie’s storage acts as a flood mitigation system, reducing flood damage downstream, and catching water that would otherwise be lost to evaporation.
The water currently in Cubbie’s storage is water that would have been lost if Cubbie were not there. Despite the claims made by Jeremy Buckingham and others, Cubbie Station’s water allocation does not reduce flow lower in the system, nor reduce supplies available to irrigators downstream.
But if Cubbie is not the problem, what is?
The Murray-Darling is no longer a series of muddy water holes linked only in times of flood. By installing locks and pumps, we have essentially turned the lower half of the river into a massive canal and irrigation system.
We have also created a huge artificial fresh water lake system at the bottom of the Murray. Because of evaporation, the lower lakes require approximately 2500 gigalitres of fresh water flow from the Murray every year to maintain levels. This is in addition to local rainfall and inflows.
The simple fact is this: there is enough water to maintain irrigation and steady levels in the Murray, or enough to maintain the lower lakes, but not both.
The simple solution is this: build a weir at Wellington, remove the barrages, and let the Coorong and lower lakes return to their natural state.
This will return 2500 gigalitres per year of water to the Murray, and restore the natural habitat of the lower lakes and Coroong.
All that is need to solve the problem is politicians for whom the future of the country is more important than popularity.
This is part two of a two part response to media articles (not in Australia, where the media are banned from reporting or commenting on this issue), Facebook and Twitter posts responding positively to the conviction of Cardinal George Pell on charges of child sex abuse. Part one discussed general issues about the history and credibility of the Catholic Church. This second part addresses the child sex abuse scandal, and the trials of Archbishop Wilson and Cardinal Pell.
Strangely, for one usually so sceptical and questioning, the alleged high rate of child abuse in the Catholic church was something I simply absorbed from the ether, or perhaps from the ABC, which, since I disagree with it about almost everything, is my primary news source. Looking back, I am still not sure why, while enthusiastically poking holes in most other ABC reporting, I was content to accept their claims about the church being the locus of most child abuse. I wasn’t a Catholic at the time. Perhaps it was simply comforting to be able to think of something so nasty as being nothing to do with anyone I knew, or any organisations I was involved in. Except it wasn’t true.
It is hard to know where to start with this, so I will make just a few key points, which you can follow up or check if you wish. During the Royal Commission into institutional child abuse, the ABC breathlessly reported that 60% of child abuse in a religious institution took place within the Catholic Church. Shocking! How disgusting! What a hive of degenerates! Except that by not telling the whole story, the ABC was saying something completely untrue. What was left out was that during the time under investigation, 80% of children who attended a religious school or were resident in a religious institution, were students in or resident in a Catholic institution. The twenty percent of students/residents in institutions run by other religious groups accounted for 40% of the total abuse reported. In other words, a student in a non-Catholic religious school was more than twice as likely to have been molested than a student in a Catholic school.
In fact, Catholic clergy have lower rates of abuse than clergy of other religions or denominations (some groups, for example the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have far higher reported rates of abuse than any mainstream denomination). In turn, clergy of other denominations have lower rates of abuse than occur in secular community and sports groups and public schools (the boy scouts in the US has just filed for bankruptcy because it cannot keep up with payouts for abuse claims). And abuse in any church, school or community group is far outstripped by abuse in the home. Bettina Arndt noted “It’s total hypocrisy. We jump up and down in the Royal Commission about abuse of people in institutions. We don’t give a stuff about the major risk for children which is, you know, children in single parent families being abused by boyfriends passing in and out of those families … There are a whole lot of areas [of sexual child abuse] we don’t discuss because they are not politically correct. Obviously, we’re trying to get the Catholic Church and attack churches.” Ninety percent of all child sexual abuse occurs within the child’s own home.
The Royal Commission noted that there had been 2504 incidents of alleged child sexual abuse in the Uniting Church between its inauguration in 1977 and 2017. This compares with 4445 claims of abuse in the Catholic Church between 1950 and 2015. Some parts of the media pounced on this figure as again proving the disproportionate amount of abuse that occurred within the Catholic Church. But two other factors need to be considered. The Commission did not consider any abuse claims made against the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches during the 27 year period from 1950 to 1977. Most abuse claims in the Catholic Church occurred in the 1970s. This may also have been the case in other denominations. But whether so or not, this is 27 years in which abuse in the Catholic Church was considered and counted, but not in other denominations. In addition, media reports generally failed to note that the Catholic Church has five times as many members as the Uniting Church. On the Commission’s figures, a child attending the Uniting Church was more than twice as likely to have been molested than a child attending the Catholic Church.
Another important fact that become clear in the cases reported to the Royal Commission is that almost all reported abuse in the Catholic Church occurred in the sixties, seventies and early eighties. Was it disgusting? Absolutely. Was it wrong? Absolutely. Should perpetrators be brought to justice? Absolutely. Is it still happening? No. Or hardly.
So what changed, that the rate of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, already lower than other denominations and community groups, was reduced dramatically even further? Part of the answer is that strong leaders like Phillip Wilson and George Pell were appointed to positions where they able to make a difference. It is no co-incidence that those two, who were most vigorous in setting up systems to support victims and to ensure that perpetrators were stopped, are also the men who have been targeted by the media and the courts.
At the time Archbishop Wilson was charged, I spoke to a senior priest, now a bishop. The charges seemed incomprehensible to me. On the evidence available it was not clear how any responsible prosecutorial team could reasonably expect a conviction. He agreed. “They don’t care,” he said. “They just want to get a senior Catholic.” Hard to believe, but if so, then the trials of Wilson and Pell are not so much trials of those two men, but a trial of Australia’s system of justice.
I wrote an article shortly after Archbishop Wilson’s conviction (that he had known of and failed to report abuse by priest James Fletcher) which was published in Quadrant Online. In it I argued that the malleability of memory is so well understood that a conviction could not possibly safely be based on two alleged conversations never noted or reported to anyone else until formal complaints were made over forty years later. I suggested that the presiding magistrate’s finding that the case against Archbishop Wilson was proven could only be understood in the light of the kind of media bias noted above, and predicted the verdict would be overturned on appeal.
It was. District Court Judge Roy Ellis offered similar reasons to set aside the conviction as I had suggested in my article. Some of the evidence considered at the original trial as contributing to a finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt was even more ludicrous than I had first believed. One of the two conversations which contributed to the “proof” of later Archbishop Wilson’s alleged guilty knowledge of the sexual abuse perpetrated by James Fletcher took place in the confessional. The complainant acknowledged he could not see the priest was to whom he was speaking clearly, but thought he saw red lips, and said the priest had a deep voice, and on this basis came to the conclusion it was Fr Wilson, then a 25 year old parish priest. But Archbishop Wilson does not have red lips or a particularly deep voice. The original finding that Archbishop Wilson had known and deliberately covered up knowledge of the activities of James Fletcher, based on this and one other alleged conversation more than forty years earlier, was clearly and grievously wrong. Justice is not done, nor are victims helped, when innocent people are vilified and persecuted.
One of George Pell’s first actions on becoming Archbishop of Melbourne was to set up clear processes for dealing with complaints of sexual abuse. This was not in response to media alarm about child abuse. The Boston scandal, for example, was five years in the future. Nor was it an attempt to protect the reputation of the Church. Pell was one of the first in any organisation in the world to put protocols in place which protected victims, supported them through whatever processes they wanted to follow, including police action where appropriate, required any accused person to stand down during independent investigation, and which instituted a one strike you’re out policy.
It is hard to think of anyone in Australia who has done more to prevent child sexual abuse, to bring those responsible to justice, and to support victims and simplify processes for them.
However, it did not take long for The Guardian and the ABC to identify Archbishop, later Cardinal Pell, as an enemy, a prime target. He is on friendly terms with John Howard and Tony Abbott. He has publicly dismissed climate alarmism as a scam which, if policies based on it and urged by the UN and various celebrities were instituted, would cause serious harm to the world’s poorest people. He publicly described abortion as the worst possible child abuse. He declined to be sorry when some Catholic teachings, on the nature of marriage, for example, or the sinfulness of homosexual activity, were claimed to be offensive. He believes that Western culture is worth preserving, and that immigrants to Australia should enter the country legally, and apart from a carefully measured number of refugees, should be people who are willing and able to make a contribution. And perhaps worst of all, he noted that it is impossible to take proper action to correct a problem until the problem is correctly identified and therefore any proposed remedies to sex abuse in ecclesiastical settings needed to take account of the fact that while girls and young women are overwhelmingly the most common victims of sexual abuse, almost all of the child sex abuse that had taken place in the Church involved homosexual men and adolescent boys. Others who have pointed out this connection have been met with similar fury, most recently, German Cardinal Walter Brandmueller .
If you did not know Cardinal Pell, and you wanted to invent a perfect nemesis for Australia’s left-wing media, you could not do better than to come up with a an intelligent, energetic, tough-minded, rugby-playing, politically and religiously conservative straight white male.
The ABC’s almost psychotic obsession with finding something dreadful to report about Cardinal Pell was noted at least as long ago as 2015, when veteran Australian journalist Gerard Henderson suggested the mainstream media had the wrong target, and was focussing on Pell simply because he is a social conservative.
Then there are comments from left-wing media consumers. “He must have done something, they’re all at it.” (No, they’re not). “Even if he is not a pedophile himself, he protected them, moved them around.” (There is no evidence whatever this is the case.) “He had to know something.” (ABC journalist Paul Bongiorno, who shared a house with notorious pedophile Risdale says he didn’t, and never said anything. As soon as Pell was in a position to do something to stop child sex abuse happening and to support victims, he did). “Someone needs to be held accountable.” (Yes, the perpetrators and anyone who assisted or covered up for them. As I noted above, there is no correction to injustice in committing the further injustice of vilifying and convicting people who are innocent.)
But what of the specific charges against Cardinal Pell? They were that, while Archbishop of Melbourne, he found two choir boys drinking altar wine after Mass at the Cathedral, and demanded they give him oral sex. Shocking? Yes. Terrible? Yes. And ludicrous, as Andrew Bolt noted at the time this claim was first made public .
Firstly, despite the gruesome headlines, there was one complainant, not two. The second boy alleged to have been a victim denied he had ever been abused. The accuser only claimed the second boy had been involved fifteen years after the alleged event, and after that boy, then a young man, died of a drug overdose in 2014. So a single, uncorroborated complaint.
The accuser was not able to specify an exact time when the claimed abuse took place. Instead, he claimed it occurred on a Sunday some time between August and December 1996. St Patrick’s Cathedral was being renovated during much of this time, and Archbishop Pell celebrated Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral only twice during the accuser’s four month window. On both of those occasions, Pell remained at the door of the Cathedral after Mass, greeting and talking with parishioners and visitors before leaving for other engagements. On both of those occasions he was accompanied by another priest who gave evidence that he was with Pell, rarely at more than arm’s length distance, for the entire time he was at the Cathedral.
Other witnesses pointed out that on both of the occasions on which Archbishop Pell celebrated Mass between August and December 1996, choir practice was held immediately after Mass, and that the absence of two choirboys would have been noted immediately. Other witnesses gave evidence that the accuser’s description of finding and drinking altar wine in a back room was unlikely in the extreme, given that altar wine was kept in a vault and only brought out in required quantities before Mass.
The presiding judge instructed both defence and prosecution teams that they were not to question, or to bring into evidence anything that might call into question, the credibility of the accuser. This is a frankly astonishing instruction – the case against Pell rests entirely on the credibility of his single accuser. More than one of the choir members at the time has said that even if it had only been the accuser’s word against Cardinal Pell’s, given the personality and history of the accuser, there could be no confidence any such events ever took place.
But it was not merely the accuser’s word against Cardinal Pell’s. Journalists and members of the public present at the trial said it was “a slam dunk for the defence.” The defence evidence, some of which is summarised above, showed not only cause for reasonable doubt, not even that Cardinal Pell did not commit the alleged offences, but that it was not possible for him to have done so.
The verdict is not an indictment of Pell and the Catholic Church. It is an indictment of the media, whose vindictive witch hunt led to a public furore and frenzied demands that someone, anyone, be punished. It is also an indictment of police departments and court administrators who allowed themselves to be driven by that frenzy, and perhaps, of the running of the trial and instructions given by the trial judge to the jury. There is a long-standing principle of Western jurisprudence that if there is a reasonable explanation of the evidence which is consistent with the defendant’s innocence, a verdict of not guilty must be returned. At very least, that should have been reiterated to the jury, and evidence of the accuser’s personal and criminal history made available as bearing on the credibility of his accusations.
The verdict will be overturned on appeal, as was the equally egregious verdict against Archbishop Wilson. So no harm done.
But harm has been done. Firstly to Archbishop Wilson and Cardinal Pell, both faithful servants of the Church and the wider community. Secondly to the Church, which despite having lower rates of abuse than other bodies, has been, with a few appalling exceptions, open, forthright and pro-active in acknowledging abuse where it occurred, and putting processes in place to support victims. Many other institutions face a far larger public reckoning; there is filth lurking in places yet undreamed of. Thirdly to Wilson and Pell’s friends and families, who, like many other friends or family of alleged child abusers, have been subject to irrational hatred and slander, as well as unnecessary pain and doubt and confusion. Fourthly to genuine victims of child abuse, who, seeing these trials and their politically-driven outcomes, will wonder how they can rely on those whose duty it is to listen to them and protect them. And finally, following these debacles, harm has been done to Australia’s courts and police, whose credibility and independence is rightly called into question.
There have been several media articles (not in Australia, where the media is banned from reporting the issue), posts on Facebook, and comments on Twitter over the last two weeks rejoicing in the conviction of Cardinal Pell on charges of child sex abuse.
That trial and its outcome are nothing to rejoice in.
I intended to respond to those posts and articles by addressing the trial and the evidence presented. But when I began, it became clear that I could not do so without first considering the context of some of the other reasons the Catholic Church is commonly held in contempt by Australia’s left-wing media and others.
Consequently my planned response is in two parts. This first part addresses some of the common misconceptions about the Catholic Church and its history. This is not a comprehensive discussion, but a brief summary. For anyone seeking more information, I recommend Diane Moczar’s Seven Lies About Catholic History, which is both well-research and documented, and easy to read.
The second part focusses specifically on the child sex abuse scandal, and the trials of Archbishop Wilson and Cardinal Pell.
I became a Catholic a few years ago because I was convinced that the faith taught by Jesus to the Apostles, and by the Apostles to those who came after them, was the same faith taught in the Catholic Church today.
Paul describes the Church (1 Tim 3:15) as the pillar and bulwark of the truth. Jesus (Mat 16:18) said the gates of hell would not prevail against it. But the entire edifice of Protestantism is built on the belief that between the 1st and 16th centuries the Church had fallen away from the truth, the gates of hell had prevailed against it, and there had been a great corruption of the faith, an apostasy so deep that remedying it required the formation of an entirely new church.
There is no evidence this large scale apostasy ever took place. Reading the early church fathers makes it clear that what the early church held and did and believed was the same Catholic faith as now.
For example, the letters of Ignatius of Antioch (c 110 AD) bear witness to the structure of ministry (bishops, priests and deacons), the day of worship (Sunday), and the crucial role of the Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.
Justin the Martyr (c 140 AD) writes of the incarnation, the trinity, Sunday worship as opposed to the Jews who worship on Saturday, grace and the call to love as the reason “God cancelled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands, setting it aside and nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14) He writes of the Eucharist as the defining form of Christian worship, and the importance of careful and humble adherence both to revealed truth and to reason.
There is clear continuity from the Apostles into the early Church. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (in what is now Turkey), had been taught by the beloved Apostle, John. Amongst those taught by Polycarp was Irenaeus, who was born in Smyrna and later became a priest, then Bishop of Lyon in Gaul, now France. Amongst other things, Irenaeus (c 150 AD) bore witness to the importance of the church in Rome, stating that all churches everywhere must be in fellowship and agreement with that pre-eminent church. He talked about the importance of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her co-operation with the will of God. He talked about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and he identifies the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the only gospels to be given credence in their description of Jesus’ life and work.
Or read the history of the Council of Nicaea (325 AD), where the generous and formidable Bishop Nicholas of Myra (better known to us as Santa Claus) slapped the heretical priest Arius across the face. Not because what Arius taught about the person of Jesus could not be taught from Scripture – both Arianism and Orthodox Christianity can be supported from Scripture – but because everyone knew, including Arius himself, as St Nicholas suspected, that Arianism was simply not what the Apostles had taught, was not the tradition in which St Paul had commanded the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 2:15) to stand firm and to which they were to hold fast.
These are just a few examples of hundreds of possibilities. “Sola Scriptura,” the idea that the Christian faith in its entirety can be formulated exactly from the Bible alone, is a late medieval invention, a nonsense. No text can be read without context, or outside of an interpretive community. Sola Scriptura leads to a never-ending splitting of the Church, and a never-ending parade of prophets and preachers who have at last discovered the real meaning of the Bible, or who have received some new revelation.
There were other issues I needed to consider. I already knew that the claimed opposition of the Church to science was nonsense. Science and the scientific method could only take hold in a world view that the material world is objectively real, not simply an illusion, that the material world is good – something worth investigating, not an evil to be escaped from, that the material world is ordered according to rules which can be investigated and understood, and not by the whim of inhabiting spirits or an god who rules by fiat, and that faith has nothing to fear from the truth. This is the standard Western understanding, so it seems difficult to many Westerners to imagine that people could think otherwise. But in reality this combination of beliefs is uniquely Judeo-Christian. This is why science, the systematic and objective study of reality for its own sake, has taken root and flourished in the West as nowhere else, which has in turn given the West enormous advances and advantages in science and technology. The Church has always been the patron and protector of science.
The usual response to this claim by detractors is: “But what about Galileo?” The fact that most people can think of only one possible counter-example in 2,000 years of Church history is itself telling. In reality, Galileo was never tortured, never imprisoned, and was always free to teach the Copernican theory as a theory, as was done in other Catholic universities throughout Europe. (Catholic universities is a tautology, by the way – every university was Catholic.)
The Church insisted that students be taught every reasonable alternative, with the evidence for and against, and allowed to make up their own minds. The problem the Church had with Galileo was that Galileo refused to teach anything except his own pet theories. In many of these, he was completely wrong. For example, as Einstein noted in 1953, his theories about tidal action were nonsense. Galileo believed the rings of Saturn were not rings but a large moon on either side. He was savage in his attacks on Jesuit astronomer Orazio Grazzi, who correctly described comets as small heavenly bodies, while Galileo insisted they were reflections shining on vapours rising from the earth, and refused to teach or consider any other possibility. As philosopher of science and Berkeley professor Paul Feyerabend noted, it was the Church, not Galileo, which was on the side of reason and science.
But what about the Crusades? Don’t they prove a violent and imperialistic tendency in the Church? Well, hardly. The Crusades were a limited response to nearly 400 years of Islamic aggression. The magnificent Christian civilisations of the Middle East and North Africa were crushed, millions tortured, raped, murdered, leaving a legacy of violence and poverty that remains to this day. Spain was invaded. The great centres of Rome and Constantinople were besieged. Nor was it only Christians who were affected. Zoroastrianism was virtually wiped out in Persia, and the invasion and destruction of the peaceful and creative Buddhist society of what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan was well advanced. The Crusades were not even an attempt to regain lost territory, but to stop the advance of terror any further into Europe, and to enable safe passage of pilgrims to the holy land.
But the inquisition – that was horrible and violent, and there can be no excuse for that, right? Well, again, no. Kings and queens from the earliest days of humanity until quite recently almost all held that uniformity of religion was vital to a unified and loyal state. Anyone who did not believe as the King did should be executed as a traitor, or at least exiled. At no time was this more clear than in Spain following the Reconquista in 1492. The Church stepped in and said, in effect “Wait. If anyone is going to decide who believes the right thing, that should be us.” During the entire period of the Spanish Inquisition, from 1480 to 1700, of 44, 674 cases heard, 826 people were handed back to civil authorities for execution – less than 2% of the total. What would have happened without the Inquisition? Without that brake on royal power, as many as 72,000 Lutherans, Catholics and other religious undesirables were executed by Henry VIII in the last 20 years of his reign. The Inquisition saved thousands of lives.
But what about child abuse? Surely a church whose leadership is so prone to child sexual abuse must be deeply corrupt? Part two of this article addresses that issue, and the cases against Archbishop Wilson and Cardinal Pell.
A couple of news articles of possible interest over the last week or so.
From Portland in Victoria, Yumbah has entered the public consultation phase of its application to construct a new abalone farm in close proximity to the port facilities at Portland in Victoria. The new abalone farm will be approximately the same distance from ships berthing at Portland as ships berthing at Smith Bay will be from Yumbah’s existing farm there. See satellite image below.
The jetty at Smith Bay will initially service about twelve ships per year over a three month period, shipping approximately 600,000 tonnes of natural timber each year. Portland facilities include six berths which operate 24 hours per day throughout the year, exporting over six million tonnes of mixed products, plus imports and cruise ships.
As part of the application process, Yumbah is required to estimate effluent flows into the bay. These are expected to be some 5200 litres per second or up to 500 Megalitres per day. For comparison, the entire treated sewage waste output from the city of Adelaide and surrounding areas is approximately 200 Megalitres per day.
Included in the projected waste outflow into Portland Bay is some 660 tonnes of suspended solids per year, including 406 tonnes of abalone faeces. Research conducted so far into the impact of this volume of waste on local marine eco-systems has been completely inadequate. In particular, almost no research has been conducted into the impact on marine mammals of the bacterial load of more than 400 tonnes of faeces dumped into the bay each year, or in the case of Smith Bay, a much smaller and more sheltered bay, about 200 tonnes of faeces per year.
Despite busy port activity, the waters around Portland are clear and inviting. Dolphins are permanent residents, and Portland is known as Australia’s whale watching capital. Both Southern Right whales and Blue whales make regular visits along their migration path. Portland’s famous whale viewing platform is about 600m from the Port breakwater, and about half-way between the Port and Yumbah’s proposed new site.
I am not sure what the marine wildlife will make of 500 million litres of effluent pumped into the bay every day, along with over 400 tonnes per year of faeces. The abalone farm on KI is about half the size, with about half the waste output.
In other news, last week’s Islander reported that the proposed jetty, which was to have been about two thirds the length of the Kingscote jetty, will now be about the same length. It is not clear why this is news, considering this information has been publicly available for the last six months. There is nothing nefarious about this change. It has been proposed to reduce the amount of dredging necessary, and consequently reduce the impact of the development on the sea floor, and to move the berthing area further from intakes to the abalone farm.
Then there was this, from SA Wilderness Society Director Peter Owen:
“Smith Bay is a completely inappropriate location for another port, both from an environmental and public safety perspective. The coastal vegetation in the area and the pristine marine environment must be protected. Log truck traffic on the long haul down to Smith Bay… creates a tourist hazard and raises serious public safety concerns. Surely there are more appropriate locations than Smith Bay… ”
But wait a minute.. This is being reported by the same people who were telling us only two weeks earlier that the even longer haul down to Ballast Head, using major tourist and school bus routes was great, peachy, much better.
And “surely there are more appropriate locations than Smith Bay.” Easy to say, but name one. It must be within reasonable distance from plantations to optimise safety and reduce road maintenance. It must have good road access. It must have power on the property or available nearby. It must not be in a marine park. It must drop off into deeper water, 14 meters with minimal dredging, within 100 metres or so of shore. It must have level or near level land adjacent to the jetty so that product can be stored securely and in a way that prevents any runoff. And it must be available for purchase and development.
The objections to Smith Bay have been:
Firstly, that jetties and shipping are incompatible with aquaculture. Half an hour’s research and few phone calls make it clear that this is not the case; ports and aquaculture exist side by side in Australia and around the world. Yumbah’s proposed new development at Portland demonstrates they are not in fact concerned about this at all.
And secondly, that Smith Bay is a pristine marine environment that must be preserved. In reality, from any common-sense perspective, the fact that there is already industrial development at Smith Bay, of a far more visually unattractive and environmentally hazardous type than a jetty loading twelve ships per year with a natural, sustainable native product, makes it a more, not less suitable location. Why add a jetty to a genuinely untouched (that is what pristine means) part of the North coast, when there is a site that meets all practical and logistical requirements, and already has industrial development?
It has been suggested that if I had my way I would see the abalone farm and other local businesses closed. It is certainly true that I regard the abalone farm as an abomination. I was horrified the first time I saw it, and am still dismayed every time I think of the visual damage caused by that hideous construction to what was a truly lovely little bay. It is visual vandalism of the worst kind. The potential damage caused to the local marine ecosystem from the astonishing quantities of waste pumped into the bay is even worse, and make it a perfect example of profit-driven environmental vandalism. If the foreshore could be reclaimed as reserve, or a picnic and play area, as an outdoor exercise course, or even as a camping ground or any other of hundreds of visually attractive and environmentally responsible possibilities, I would be delighted. However, the abalone farm is there, and its needs and concerns need to be taken into account. On the other hand, to suggest a jetty is unattractive or off-putting to visitors is simply silly. Our jetties are some of our most loved and visited landmarks. They would be rare visitors who did not depart from KI with photos of at least one of our jetties in phones or cameras.
I could not feel more differently about other local businesses, which have received great reviews, which are a perfect match for KI, and of which their owners are justifiably proud. I am a little at a loss, though, to know why a few extra trucks each day, turning off out of sight of, and eight hundred metres from, another business’s gate, should have any significant negative impact. However, people are entitled to ask questions, and if concerns exist, to ask for clarification, and that KIPT work with them to ensure positive outcomes for all parties.
Sustainable harvesting of farmed native timber on Kangaroo Island will bring over 240 new jobs to the island. In the end, everyone will benefit.
The Ballad of Jack and Dianne…
Jack and Dianne had lived on Kangaroo Island for a few years, when a shop became available on Dauncey St. They decided to open a coffee shop. Although they had never run a coffee shop before, they had run other successful businesses, and Jack had training and experience as a barista. They prepared a business plan, applied for finance, and set up a website to let people know what they were doing.
A few days later, Dianne logged onto Facebook.
Save Dauncey St: Has everyone seen this proposal? This will wreck Dauncey St. Speak up now!
Curious Resident 1: I think it’s just a coffee shop. Not sure there is much to worry about, really.
Save Dauncey St: We have just discovered they plan to have a roaster in there. So much for being just a coffee shop. Makes you wonder what else they’re not telling us.
Friend 1 of SDS: OMG! Imagine the fire risk, and the risk to nearby businesses, and the smoke pollution. This is just irresponsible.
Friend 2 of SDS: Why is this even being considered? It doesn’t tick any boxes for KI!
F3 of SDS: No one makes any money in retailing. That shop should just be bulldozed and made into residential units. No one needs another coffee shop. We need more cheap accommodation.
F4 of SDS: Just bulldoze it and leave it as a park. It’s time this community started thinking about the children.
F5 of SDS: It’s not just the fire risk with a roaster. Where are they getting beans from? You can bet they are not just organic Australian beans. It’s clear no one has thought about the biological hazard this presents! There goes our clean, green image.
F6 of SDS: Three shops have failed on Dauncey St in the last ten years. Why should this be any different. It’s just another kick in the guts for KI!
Curious Resident 2: Guys, really. I think it’s just a coffee shop.
F1 of SDS: Who is paying you to write this crap? What’s in it for you? Anyway, you’ve only lived here for twelve years. What gives you the right to have a say?
Curious Resident 2: Nothing. I just think it could be nice to have another option.. And it means a few more jobs for young people. Let’s just give it a go.
F2 of SDS: You might not have any vested interest, but it’s clear you have an agenda. How could anyone who cares about the island support this?
F3: I hate it when people come to the island immediately start trying to change it. If you don’t like the island as it is, why come here?
Curious Resident 2: Couldn’t you just talk with them? Negotiate? Try to work out something that will work for everyone.
SDS: There’s nothing to negotiate. This shouldn’t be allowed. Ever. Anywhere.
F1: Why don’t they just go down to that derelict shop at the end of the road where the koalas are? It was good enough for that other shop that didn’t open.
SDS: Yes, good idea. As long as it’s not near my end of the street.
F2: When I opened my shop I didn’t think there were going to be any other shops on Dauncey St. What if people stop coming to my shop now? It isn’t fair.
Curious Resident 1: Have a look at their website. Let’s just wait and see exactly what they are planning, and then object if you really want to.
F4: OMG! Time some people learned to SHUT UP!
F5: My friend who has been helping with the renovations says they have no grease extractors on their exhaust fans. Grease and smoke from their cooking is going be spewed all over the rest of Dauncey St. This will wreck the tourist industry.
F6: My cousin who is a plumber says there are no grease traps on their drains. It was never meant to be a food shop. Grease from cooking will just be washed straight down into the sea.
SDS: You can see why we were concerned. This needs to be stopped now. Imagine all that grease floating under the jetty. No protection for seals or dolphins. There shouldn’t be any waste going into the sea! It is a disgrace this is even being considered!
Curious Resident 2: But wait a minute SDS. Don’t you have a huge drain at the back of your place that goes straight into the sea?
CR2: But I was there yesterday. I’ve got photos.
SDS: Oh, that drain. Well, nothing comes out of it, and if it does it’s nothing to do with us, and anyway, it’s just water. Or nearly.
F6: OMG, CR2. You should be ashamed, saying such horrible things about a local business. How low.
F1: I had a visitor over the weekend who said she was shocked something like this had been proposed. She said she would never come back to Dauncey St if it was smoky and smelly and covered with grease.
SDS: My friends say the same thing. But it gets worse. What about the leafy sea dragons? How are they going to respond to all this pollution?
F2: I just read on their website they are planning to sell cakes! They want to put everyone else out of business.
SDS: We told you they were not telling us everything. Think about the impact on fishing from the jetty!
F3: I just saw on their website it’s cold drinks as well. Someone needs to put a stop to this out of control project now!
F4: My friend who works for SDS said they were thinking about putting another person on next year, half time, maybe. But now they definitely won’t. So much for new jobs. We are already losing jobs for something that won’t even get off the ground!
CR: But are they are planning to do any cooking there? Why not ask them?
F5: They haven’t been telling the truth about this project from the beginning. Look at all the things we discovered on their website! Why would you trust anything they say?
F2: Of course they are going to be cooking. No one makes money from coffee.
F6: Exactly. They have a vested interest. What is the point in asking people who don’t care about the community or the environment and are just out for money?
Although this was distressing for Jack and Dianne, they were eventually able to open their coffee shop. There were howls of indignation: “How could this be approved when so many of us were against it?” But it was approved because most of the objections had nothing to do with what Jack and Dianne had planned or built. The ones that did, fire safety for the roaster, for example, were well provided for to ensure safety both for the little coffee shop, and for neighbours. They had never intended to do any cooking on site, as their website had made plain from the beginning, so there were no issues with cooking smells or grease.
Eventually, people realised the coffee was pretty darned good, and The Happy Bean soon became a favourite with locals and visitors alike. People forgot all the fuss, and life went on as usual. Dauncey St had another successful shop, a bit more colour, and maybe even a few more visitors.
But no one ever apologised.
Oh, and some real information:
If you have to lie to make your case, you don’t have a case.
Never has this been more starkly clear than in the determined opposition to KIPT’s proposed new jetty at Smith Bay. This is a project that will bring a massive ongoing income stream to Kangaroo Island, and has the potential to revitalise the island more than any other project since the advent of reliable ferry services. Cue the wailing…
“The Environmental Impact Statement they have submitted is not what they are planning to build!”
OK. Right. In a time-consuming and expensive process, KIPT is seeking permission to build something they do not intend to build, and are not seeking permission to build what they do intend to build. This is so manifestly silly it is just, well, silly.
“Building a jetty on the pristine North coast will pollute the bay and damage whales and dolphins!”
There are four jetties along the pristine North coast already, plus a couple of boat ramps. One of those jetties, at Penneshaw, loads and unloads as many as six boats per day. These carry dangerous cargoes including pesticides, creosote treated logs and other building materials, fuels, and livestock. They travel several times per day directly across the migration path of whales and other marine wildlife.
But one more jetty loading twelve boats a year with a sustainable, organic, native product is going to ruin our tourism industry and ruin the environment.
Right. This is even more manifestly ludicrous than the claim KIPT wants permission to build something they don’t want to build.
“But Smith Bay is pristine!”
You have to wonder at the mental and photographic contortions needed to attempt to portray Smith Bay as anything resembling “pristine.”
With a monstrous barbed-wire fenced industrial facility squatting across almost the entire foreshore, looking like a set from Resident Evil, pumping thousands of litres of waste into the bay every hour, Smith Bay is about as pristine as my arse after a hot curry and dozen beers. Not something I would recommend swimming in.
Some of the other objections verge on comic absurdity. Or rather, they jump the verge in a manic delirium and charge headlong down the cliff into La La Land. “There’ll be trucks! There’ll be dust! There might be some noise! Tourists won’t like it! I don’t like it! Make it stop!”
What’s next? Demands that we stop growing sheep on the island? “There are trucks! There is dust! There are nasty smells! You know they only grow those things to kill them! It’s inhumane. The trucks run on petrol. It’s ruining the environment! The world’s going to burn! We’re all going to die!”
OK. Put down the bong. Step away slowly. Move outside. Take a few deep breaths… Better now?
Seriously, if there are any real concerns, not drug-fueled paranoia or dog-in-the-manger silliness, but real concerns about environment, or safety, or tourism, and you have talked with KIPT about them, not just had a whinge on Facebook, or complained to the other members of your echo-chamber, but actually talked to KIPT, and you still think your issues have not been properly addressed, let me know. I will be right behind you in seeking answers.
I have seen a few posts on Facebook over the last week suggesting a two day fuel strike.
The idea seems to be that if people don’t buy fuel for two days, the oil companies will learn their lesson, and reduce the price of petrol.
This isn’t quite the dumbest idea ever. That was voting for Rebeka Sharkie. But it is definitely up there.
Quite frankly, the oil companies couldn’t give a stuff if a handful of people decide to buy petrol on Wednesday or Saturday instead of Thursday or Friday. You are still going to buy petrol.
In addition, of course, the oil company margins and retailer mark-up are a long way from being the single largest component of the cost of fuel. I will let you guess what that might be.
What this proposed strike may affect in a negative way are the mostly small, family owned fuel outlets, who still have to employ staff, pay their power bills, buy stock, regardless of how many people come in on any given day.
Fuel strike? Yeah, nah. Write to your pollies and demand lower fuel taxes. Or just elect politicians who know how to balance a budget.
Our Federal member (for Mayo) has been in Wentworth over the last week campaigning for Kerryn Phelps, safe-schools supporter and promoter of the early sexualisation of children.
Now it is looking likely Dr Phelps will be returned, Ms Sharkie has formed an alliance with her and Cathy McGowan, and despite having promised not to support any no-confidence motions, now says she will do so unless a list of demands are met.
What exactly are these three blackmailing the government to get? Better conditions for their own electorates? Cheaper electricity? More attention to schools, the disabled, veterans?
Nope, nope and nope.
They want “action on climate change,” which will achieve no change to climate at all, but will make power prices higher, businesses less stable, manufacturing and processing priced out of competitiveness with Asia, more unemployment, and less tax revenue for the government, which means either higher taxes for everyone else, or less money for schools, roads, hospitals.
Then they want illegal immigrants who have not been able to pass security checks or who simply refused to co-operate with authorities to be settled in Australia. At what cost, in both money and security risks?
These are their two “top priorities.”
What about the people who elected them?
Do Christians have a duty to warn others of sins and their consequences?
Ezekiel 33:8.9 When I tell wicked people they will die because of their sins, you must warn them to turn from their sinful ways. If you refuse to warn them, you will be held accountable for their death. If you do warn them, and they keep sinning, they will die because of their sins, but you will be innocent of their death.
Leviticus 19:17 Do not hate your neighbours, but rebuke them frankly, so you do not share in their guilt.
Or in Glen Campbells’ paraphrase:
If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and say, you’re going the wrong way
Well, that’s pretty clear. Christians have a duty to warn friends, neighbours, family, if they are on the wrong track.
On the wrong track means living in such a way that they will cause serious harm to themselves or to people near them. And the most serious harm is to live in a way that alienates them and those around them from the love of God, to act in ways that shut God’s grace out of one’s life. That is, to live in mortal sin, which denies a person the ability to know the depth of God’s love and purpose for his or her life here and now, and without repentance, shuts them away from experiencing God’s love forever, which is hell.
But how does this work in practice? Are Christians meant to go around telling all and sundry: “Stop doing that. It will ruin your life and you will go to hell?”
It is not any particular sin that alienates us from God, or even a besetting sin – a lingering temptation we cannot seem to shake, to the point where we feel it to be part of who we are – so much as Sin itself. Repenting of a particular sin does not make us right with God. An axe murderer who repents of his axe murders and decides to commit them no more is not thereby set right with God and destined for heaven.
What we aim to do is what Jesus aimed to do. To help people recognise that without God their lives are empty, and become emptier to the point that they narrow down into loneliness and darkness and resentment, till that resentment becomes spite, and gnaws away at us forever and there is no hope of redemption. And to know that by choosing to repent of sin and live for Jesus, they can replace that anguished darkness with light and hope and eternal life.
That does not mean they (and we) may not still sin, and make mistakes and bad choices, but that they are saved; they are on the road that leads to life, and the more they walk on that road, and the more they try to follow Jesus’ example, the more peaceful, joyful and purposeful their lives will become.
So what does this Christian duty of warning, leading, advising mean in practical terms?
Firstly, it is a very serious thing to pretend something God has said is a sin is not a sin. People cannot repent of a sin they do not believe is a sin. If we tell people it is fine for them to continue to behave in a way God has said is not OK, we will most certainly be held accountable for the harm that comes to them.
This is a bit like a parent who insists, against a toddler’s screams of outrage, that the toddler must not stick forks into electric sockets. A parent who did not do his or her best to stop this behaviour, especially if it was repeated, would be considered at fault if the child came to serious harm.
Secondly, any such warning must, like that of a parent for a child, spring from genuine love and compassion. It has been well said that people will not care what you say until they see that you care. If you do not have a history of practical care and friendship for a person, then warning them that a particular action will cause them harm and separate them from the love of God, is not likely to be heard as anything other than self-righteousness and judgmentalism.
However, Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, lest you be judged,” is often taken out of context. It most certainly does not mean that we cannot judge evil actions. We can and must, and so must any just and civilised society. Rape is not OK, theft is not OK, murder is not OK.
The judgement we are not to make is that others are less valuable to God than we are. No matter what they have done; murderer, child molester, bully, wife beater, etc, etc, – every single person who has ever lived is loved by God so dearly that He sent His only Son so that person could have life eternal, that is, be with Jesus as a beloved friend forever.
God does not write people off, so neither must we. We must endeavour to see and treat every person we encounter in the knowledge that that person is valued, treasured by God beyond any human measure. We must not use, abuse or dismiss others, we must not judge or belittle them.
This means, if anything, that our duty to warn is even greater, not less. But how to do this? Our example must be Jesus.
We certainly need to heed Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:4,5 “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Examine your own life first; the way you treat the members of your family, your language – even when alone, what you look at and let your eyes linger on, the little shortcuts you take in business, the shading of the truth, the failure to take responsibility, the over-eating, the laziness. Be a harsher critic of your own decisions and choices than you are of anyone else’s. The first soul you are responsible to God for is your own.
But don’t wait till you are perfect! You never will be, not in this life, anyway. And like a loving parent, the fact that you fail sometimes should not stop you trying to help and protect others.
Two examples from the life of Jesus:
Luke 19:1-10, the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector.
Tax collectors were despised not just because they were civil servants to the hated Roman occupiers, but because they abused and stole from the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, and because they frequently used violence to extort money where it was not owed. They were scum. Or that is how most of Jewish society saw them. Yet Jesus invites himself to dinner at the home of a tax collector.
Complaints ensued. Understandable complaints! Jesus was someone who had consistently spoken for the poor, who was one of the poor and lived among them. He had also spoken unmistakeably about the need to live justly before God. Zacchaeus knew this. Jesus showed him by his actions that he was loved by God. It was up to Zacchaeus to accept the offer of fellowship, not just a once-off over dinner, but to be Jesus’ friend for all eternity. Or to reject it, knowing that if accepted, it meant he needed to make a break with his past; not just to cease acting in the way he had, but to make what amends he could, and to try to live a life of integrity and generosity from then on. Salvation came to Zacchaeus not just when Jesus spoke to him, but when Zacchaeus responded with repentance.
Love, not abuse or lecturing or rejection, led to Zaccaheus’s seeing that he was loved by God, and could have a life in which he was loved and valued by others. Jesus did not accept or slide over his sins, which were many and grievous, but the most important thing was to let him know that in spite of everything, he was valued, and could have a life richer and deeper than the materially rich but horribly empty life he had led to that point.
John 8: 1-11, the story of the woman caught in adultery.
I was astonished to read on a website recently (I cannot now find the link, sadly) that Jesus was a leader in recognising and blessing the sex industry. The author’s argument was that Jesus had not condemned the woman, who was following her chosen career (according the article’s author), but rather, had condemned those who stood against her. Therefore Jesus recognised and accepted the dignity of sex work. But this is not how John describes what happened. Jesus does indeed ask the woman “Has no one condemned you?” and when she answers “No, lord,” He replies “Then neither do I condemn you.” But this is not an acceptance of her actions.
The crowd was about to stone her; a horrifying punishment that is still used in some Middle-eastern countries. What is meant is “Has no one thrown a stone? Has no one condemned you to death?” They had not, and neither would Jesus. But not condemning someone to death is not saying their actions were acceptable. Jesus makes it clear that she is acceptable, valued, and worthy of love, but that her actions are not. “Go then. And do not sin again.” According to some traditions, this was Mary of Magdala, who become one of Jesus’ followers, and was the first to bring the good news of His resurrection to His disciples.
It was the combination of unfailing genuine love and service to the person, unyielding, relentless, unconditional love and acceptance of them as a person, along with unyielding rejection of behaviour harmful to them and others, that brought both Zacchaeus and Mary Magdalene to repentance, into fellowship with Jesus, and into eternal life. This is the example we are to follow.
A last word. There is this: Proverbs 9:8 “Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.” Mockers are not people who mock you or your ideas, but those who mock the need for God, or faith in God. As I noted above, it is not repentance from any particular sin which saves us, but turning to Christ. It is in a relationship with Jesus that we are born again and find eternal life. Without that, turning from any individual sin is meaningless.
There is no point in suggesting to people who are not Christians that a particular behaviour is setting them on the wrong road or alienating them from God. Not only is there no point, but such suggestions are likely to reinforce the view that Christians are judgmental and uninterested in them as persons. This is what Paul meant when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:12 “I have no business judging those who are outside. It is those who are inside we are to judge.”
We are called to love others because God loves them. Even when they are rude, spiteful, dishonest, even when they reject us and use us and say unkind things about us, God loves them and gave His Son for them. We are called to do the same. People are not objects, or even projects. They are to be treasured for themselves, because God treasures them.
Of course we will sometimes get it wrong. We will lose our tempers, be selfish, harsh and thoughtless. That matters, but it is not the end of the story. Because just as all those around us are loved, so are we, and God our Father is relentlessly, unyieldingly forgiving and welcoming.
We are loved, and so we are called to love.