"The Personal is Political" – And Not Just Ecclesiastical…

In an op-ed piece in today’s Age, Paul Austin writes:

A few legal niceties also need to be restated if our justice system is to retain its integrity. Theophanous is entitled to the presumption of innocence and to due process. …He has not been charged with anything. Indeed, he has not yet been interviewed by the police. Like many alleged rapes, this is likely to boil down to his word against hers. The investigators have not even heard his account yet.

Politically, the harsh truth for Theophanous is that he is almost certainly finished. The only conceivable scenario in which he returns to cabinet is if the police determine the allegation has no merit and that Theophanous has no case to answer. But even then he will be soiled goods in public image terms. The political damage done to Theophanous is real, even if the allegation is false. He is 60. Come the next election he will be 62. His long career was nearing its end anyway; now the end has been hastened, fairly or otherwise.

That’s the best-case scenario for Theophanous.

Sound familiar? The parallels between this case in the political arena and recent cases in the ecclesiastical field are not just astounding, but EXACT.

I know some of our readers like to say that they are “always on the side of the victims”, but once again I ask: who is the victim here? It is frightening how easily personal careers and family lives are destroyed through simple unsubstantiated allegations reported enthusiastically in the media.

When it is such a simple procedure for destroying those in the public eye, is it any wonder that some find the temptation so irresistable?

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “"The Personal is Political" – And Not Just Ecclesiastical…

  1. Peter

    On the other hand, a Catholic who claims religious discrimination is likely to be ignored or even jeered at rather than supported as a victim. The politically cunning (and amoral) know to play the kind of victimhood which is currently in-vogue.

  2. Louise

    But even if Catholics knew how to do this, we wouldn’t want to encourage our co-religionists to be a bunch of cry-babies.

  3. Tony

    There will always be those who take advantage of situations like this. It could be the press, bogus victims, lawyers or the church itself.

    Tell me that the church is not taking advantage of a legal loophole in the case of the Canberra Marists (see http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2008/s2396243.htm).

    We may come to expect this sort of amoral response, this avoiding responsibility at all costs, from institutions like the media or large corporations who are always looking to protect their shareholders — in fact that’s as near as they get to a moral benchmark — but the church?

    When the church takes advantage of the legal system to avoid responsibility, why is it any wonder that this whole issue is so poisonous?

    When the institution that is supposed to be a witness to compassion, to love, to protection of the most vulnerable, to having the courage to face responsibility, uses the legal system to do a ‘Pontious Pilate’, why be surprised if other institutions or individuals join in?

    We know as individuals — and its backed up by the kind of moral teaching promoted by our church — that if you do something wrong or you are responsible for some wrongdoing you confess and you reconcile and, if possible, you make amends. We know too that it’s the best way. As soon as you know and apology is required, do it. When you don’t, even small offences are compounded when denied.

    Larger offences denied poison relationships — sometimes for generations.

    I know people — some lifelong, devoted Catholics — who can no longer face being involved in the church because of what they know.

    It’s all very well to ‘blame society’ for the decline in church involvment, but I think we grossly underestimate the effect that this abuse crisis has on deep attitudes to the church.

    As individuals we are supposed to defend truth even at the risk of death. The church, so often in terms of this issue, shows us the example of avoiding truth in the hope of staying alive.

    When we ‘die for truth’ our life is transformed, even if we physically die. When we deny truth our life is demeaned and becomes a lie.

  4. Louise

    Tell me that the church is not taking advantage of a legal loophole in the case of the Canberra Marists

    If this report is true then it’s despicable. There is no way members of the Church should be trying to hide from justice. We definitely must deal with this appalling issue properly and see to it, as far as humanly possibly, that it doesn’t happen again.

    Kyrie eleison.