Trust in Catholic Church lost ‘for generations’: adviser
FEBRUARY 18, 2016 12:00AM
How does the Catholic Church regain its moral authority?
It will take the Catholic Church “two to three generations” to regain the moral authority it had before the revelations of widespread, global child-sex abuse and attempts to cover it up, according to a cultural adviser to the Vatican.
John Haldane — a Catholic philosopher in Australia for a semester professorship at Notre Dame University and a series of 13 lectures titled The Good Society, its Nature and Foundations — said the rebuilding of trust was “no small question” .
“Even within Catholicism itself it has been recognised that sexual exploitation by the clergy is a particularly heinous offence, so heinous that it cannot be ordinarily forgiven or absolved,” Professor Haldane told The Australian.
“The effect on the church ... is for it to lose respect and authority. On this rebuilding, it is not going to happen in the lifetimes of people alive today. I think we are looking at two or three generations.”
Part of Professor Haldane’s lament about modern society is its inability to prosecute arguments in a reasonable and civil manner.
He said he was moved after hearing a “compelling, human argument” of the father of two sexual-abuse victims yesterday in which the father made the case for victims travelling to Rome to hear Cardinal George Pell give evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
“This would, he said, create the conditions for the existential reality of that suffering to be present in the room at the same time in which he (Pell) was giving evidence,” Professor Haldane said.
“I thought this contrasted very sharply with (musician) Tim Minchin’s, it seemed to me, coarse and rather self-indulgent contribution, which I thought did him no credit.
“It contributes to something that is more pervasively problematic, which is the kind of coarsening and aggression which has entered into public exchange and discourse.
“He (Minchin) is not even a victim himself, he has parked in on the back of real suffering.”
Minchin has written a song urging Cardinal Pell to come home to give evidence. Proceeds from the song are going to a crowdfunding effort to send victims and their families to Rome to hear him give evidence.
Professor Haldane said part of the aggression in society came from people treating others as “aliens”, remarking on a tension in some nations in relation to immigration and the mix of religions.
“The kind of philosophy of multiculturalism has urged immigrant peoples to retain their identities, not only their ethnic traditions and so on, but also urged them not to see themselves as subject to a requirement to become Germans or French or British,” he said.
“So we have had this issue and I think it is increasingly problematic of large communities who have almost been encouraged not to think of themselves as British.”
He said it remained to be seen whether Australia could hold on to its successful integration strategies, particularly as friction around the nature of Islam increased. “I think what Islam needs to do is find a way of locating that text (the Koran) and faithfulness to that text within a world that recognises difference and disagreement, even about the text itself,” Professor Haldane said.
“And it hasn’t really. Islamic scholars who are open to that issue themselves have been subject to various kinds of threats.”
He called the Vatican “witless” on its messaging but noted there was a “disappointment” coming for those who believed Pope Francis was either a reformer or about to dramatically change the church’s teachings on marriage.
“I will put any money you require on the table that it is not going to support same-sex marriage,” he said.