I asked Barney what the latest religion story was for the paper, and he said “Sex abuse”. I thought he was talking perhaps of the Irish report, but it turns out he was talking of a report that has just been released by the Anglican Church in Australia. “It’s a positive story,” he said, “about the way they are really dealing with it.”
A positive story, perhaps, but we are still talking The Age here. Now I know that the author of any piece of writing in The Age has no control over the headline the editors decide to give their pieces, so I can’t blame Barney for the loudly negative headline that they gave to Barney’s otherwise “positive” piece. In both the print and online editions, the headline screamed: “Don’t leave clergy alone with children: report”.
In fact, in the story, what Barney has written was “They recommended clergy and youth workers should never be alone with adolescents where abuse could occur, such as a home, church or car.” As a measure, it could be called over-reactionary, but then one has to acknowledge that this measure is rather more directed than some previous “blanket” approaches. As Barney writes: “The report said the church needed to concentrate its effort on the areas of most risk, such as youth groups, rather than its present blanket approach.”
Aside from the measures being taken, it is interesting to note that according to statistics, there is little differentiation between the Anglican Church’s experience in this area and the Catholic Church’s. Which does at least tell us one thing: mandatory celibacy laws are not the (or even a) reason for the pattern of abuse in the Catholic Church, and relaxing the discipline would not be an effective measure in lowering the numbers of cases of abuse.