Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Politicians make calls to end the secrecy of the Sacrament of Penance
The privacy of the confession is an ancient church canon and breaching it would largely destroy confessions. Politicians can spout all they like but will have no influence on church canons. Priests may not reveal what they have learned during confession to anyone, even under the threat of their own death or that of others. The paedophile priests should be severely dealt with but attacking penance solves nothing.
The Catholics concerned below are just covering their behinds. They are not faithful to the teachings of the church. But, then again, nor are the paedophile priests.
And the references below to His Eminence as "Mr. Pell" seem deliberately insulting. Is "Cardinal Pell" too much to expect?
Senior federal Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne has declared that priests should report child sex abuse crimes revealed in the confessional to police.
On Wednesday, Mr Pyne - who is a practising Catholic [He needs more practice] - said that as a member of Parliament, it would be wrong of him to advise citizens not to report crimes, particularly something as serious as child abuse. "If a priest, or anyone else, is aware of the sexual abuse of children that is going on, I think there is an obligation on them to report it to the appropriate authorities," he told ABC Radio.
On Tuesday, in the wake of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's announcement of a royal commission on child abuse, Cardinal George Pell said that the seal of confession was "inviolable".
Mr Pell said that if a priest knew what would be confessed prior to the confession, then they should refuse to hear it.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said on Wednesday that it was important that she did not have a position on particular issues that were going before the commission.
"We really want the commissioners appointed to be able to explore every issue that they feel they need to," she told ABC TV.
But she also said that the commission needed to look at institutional barriers to reporting child sexual abuse, noting that it was a crime.
"I think the whole community finds that idea [that priests would not report abuse] really abhorrent and we've been through these debates for mandatory reporting for doctors, teachers, for others that [are] meant to be in close relationships and nevertheless have been required to make reports, so I think we really need to look carefully, there aren't a different set of rules that apply."
Ms Roxon added that it wasn't just priests who didn't report but other adults in other school or institutional communities. "A lot of people knew and somehow the system still failed those children," she said.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said that everyone has to obey the law when it comes to reporting child sex abuse, including priests.
"There are various requirements on people if they become aware of sexual offences against children," he told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday. "Those legal requirements must be adhered to."
In Australia, mandatory reporting requirements differ between states and territories. For example, in South Australia, the confessional is exempt from mandatory reporting. In the Northern Territory, "any person with reasonable grounds" must report.
Under the NSW Crimes Act, a person must disclose knowledge of a sexual assault or risk being charged with concealing a serious indictable offence, but priests are one of a small class of occupations that cannot be prosecuted unless the Attorney-General consents.
On ABC Radio, Ms Roxon cautioned that the royal commission would take "years, not weeks or months".
Ms Roxon said that when the terms of reference were set later this year, there should be "proper report-back", so the public could be updated along the way.
Cabinet Minister Bill Shorten has said the royal commission must address the controversial issue of whether priests should be legally compelled to report evidence of abuse they hear in the confessional.
Mr Shorten, who strongly urges a general system of mandatory reporting, said: "What immunity can you claim when it comes to the safety and protection of little children? "When it comes to the abuse of children, that privilege, if it ever had validity, is well and truly exhausted."
New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell, a Catholic, has also questioned confessional privilege. He said he struggled to understand how, "[If] a priest confesses to another priest that he has been involved in paedophile activities, that that information should not be brought to police."
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu supported mandatory reporting but said there had been "a separate issue" about the confessional. This would be looked at by the Victorian inquiry into abuse and he expected it would be raised through the commission.
Mr Shorten said Victoria police supported mandatory reporting and state law should be changed to bring it in. Police should not be obstructed by institutions failing to report matters, and it was important institutions understood that internal processes were no substitute for police investigation.
Mr Shorten said his own strong views had been influenced by the fact his family had for years attended the Sacred Heart parish in Oakleigh, served by notorious paedophile priest Kevin O'Donnell. He said thousands of Australians had been victims of sexual abuse, "and too many haven't received a real apology, atonement or recompense".
The $5000 question - claims Julia Gillard's ex-boyfriend Bruce Wilson put cash into her account
JULIA Gillard's past continued to haunt her last night, with allegations emerging that in June 1996 a union employee told the national head of the Australian Workers Union that he deposited $5000 cash into her account.
The allegation, outlined exclusively in The Australian today, is that the cash had come from the Prime Minister's then boyfriend, AWU official Bruce Wilson.
Ms Gillard has always denied any wrongdoing over the creation of a union slush fund on behalf of Mr Wilson and union official Ralph Blewitt during her time as a lawyer for Slater and Gordon.
The allegation comes as Mr Blewitt indicated he is willing to speak openly about his role in the union scandal but wants the police to guarantee him immunity from prosecution.
The Australian reports that then national AWU head Ian Cambridge, now a Fair Work Australia Commissioner, recorded in his 1994-1996 diary allegations by union employee Wayne Hem that Mr Wilson, after a night at a casino, had given him a wad of cash totalling $5000 along with Ms Gillard's bank account details and told him to deposit it.
The report also states that Mr Hem's allegations formed part of a statutory declaration sworn to the newspaper in Melbourne three days ago during a lengthy interview.
The report stressed it was not known from where Mr Wilson got the funds and there was no evidence, nor was it suggested, Ms Gillard asked for the payment or knew of its origins. Ms Gillard yesterday repeated her denial of any wrongdoing.
Her spokesman issued a statement to The Australian saying: "The Prime Minister has made clear on numerous occasions that she was not involved in any wrongdoing.
"I also note that despite repeatedly being asked to do so, The Australian has been unable to substantiate any allegations of wrongdoing."
Mr Hem told The Australian that he told Mr Cambridge about the bank deposit on June 7, 1996, during a drive to Melbourne. During this time Mr Cambridge was investigating AWU fraud.
Mr Cambridge's June 7, 1996 diary entry notes Mr Hem telling him "about an event that took place in about July last year (1995)", The Australian reports.
"This event involved Bruce Wilson handing Wayne an envelope which contained approximately $5000 in $100 and $50 notes and Wilson instructed Hem to deposit this $5000 into a personal account of Julia Gillard."
Mr Hem provided further detail on the allegation in his statutory declaration to The Australian, saying he had been asked to attend Mr Wilson's office. "I went down and he handed me about five grand," Mr Hem said in the report.
"Then Bruce handed me a piece of paper with the account number and a name on it, and it was Julia's name. "He said 'Go put this in Julia's account'. I said 'OK'. "He (Wilson) made a comment about not saying anything. I just went down to the bank, put it in, came back, gave him the receipt.
"I didn't know if it was for Julia or if the account was a private account or a Slater and Gordon account. It just had Julia Gillard's name on it and I put it in the bank account."
Another emptyheaded Anglican cleric
He's probably never even heard of salvation or read Romans chapter 1. His gospel is secular
TERRITORIANS were more likely to find the gospel at work at Throb nightclub than Potter's House Church, a senior religious figure has said.
The Very Reverend Jeremy Greaves from Darwin's Christ Church Cathedral yesterday slammed Potter's House after the NT News revealed it had been using a Halloween show as a ruse to preach its anti-gay, anti-abortion message.
"It is no wonder the church has become irrelevant to so many when the loudest voice in Christianity is one of hatred and bigotry," Rev Greaves wrote in a letter to the NT News.
"The Gospel is more in evidence at Throb on a Saturday night with their clear message of welcome and acceptance than it is in those churches that continue to peddle such a narrow understanding of the faith."
Abbott ventures into indigenous minefield
The rule in Australia today is that all blacks are equal, even if they are white. So Abbott's even hinting at that absurdity provokes outrage. It should be noted that Abbott personally works with Aboriginal communities to do what he can to help them
TONY Abbott has blundered into one of Australia's most dangerous minefields - the question of who is a "real" Aborigine.
The Coalition leader said he wanted Territory Indigenous Advancement Minister Alison Anderson in federal politics because she would be an "authentic" indigenous representative in parliament.
He described federal Liberal lower house MP Ken Wyatt as an "urban Aboriginal" - a "good bloke" but "not a man of culture".
"It would be terrific if, as well as having an urban Aboriginal in our parliament, we had an Aboriginal person from Central Australia, an authentic representative of the ancient cultures," he said.
"It's very important that the Aboriginal people of Australia are represented in our decision-making institutions, including the national parliament."
Ms Anderson was born at Haasts Bluff and speaks six indigenous languages. She was chief executive of Papunya Community Council for 15 years from 1985.
Award-winning author Russell Skelton said in his book King Brown Country that Ms Anderson oversaw "motorcar dreaming" during her time as council leader.
Prominent traditional owners were said to have been allowed to buy cars with money from the community store. Ms Anderson has denied the allegation.
Mr Wyatt became the first indigenous member of the House of Representatives in 2010. He is of Aboriginal, Indian, English and Irish descent. Wikipedia describes him as the first "self-identifying" Aboriginal MHR.
Students get right to sue training colleges
This could lead to damaging litigation by dim students.
DISGRUNTLED students will be able to sue their training colleges for shoddy education under new laws to be introduced in Victoria.
The state government hopes the new rules will prevent dodgy training providers from delivering substandard education. The rules will apply to students whose vocational training was subsidised partly or fully by the state government.
An explanatory memorandum of the legislation, seen by The Age, said students could seek compensation for a college's "failure to deliver training". The state government contracts training providers to deliver courses to students.
An Education Department spokesman said students would soon have the right to enforce terms of that contract.
"This is designed to provide greater protection for students if there is a breach of contract between the government and vocational training provider," he said.
But he said contracts would vary between providers.
Earlier this year the national training regulator rejected a training college's registration after finding it had failed to meet quality standards.
More than 1200 students were enrolled at the college, which offered a wide range of courses from aged care, childcare and transport and logistics. The students were forced to find other colleges to complete their courses.
The Australian Education Union's TAFE vice-president, Greg Barclay, said the new laws were a "good move" but the government needed to ensure the contracts were fair to students.
The Victorian TAFE Association's education policy consultant, Nita Schultz, said the greater capacity to seek compensation would "fill a gap" in students' rights as consumers. "It's got to give students more confidence," she said.
Ms Schultz said students might also be entitled to sue their training college if it closed their course before they could complete it.
The new laws are part of legislation recently introduced to the Victorian Parliament about how universities and TAFEs are governed.
Some of the new legislation is highly contentious, including the removal of the requirement that university councils and TAFE boards must include students and staff.
More than 220 academics have signed an open letter protesting against this change.
Melbourne University professor and author Raimond Gaita and La Trobe politics Professor Dennis Altman are among the high-profile academics who have lent their names to the "defence of university autonomy and academic freedom". The letter calls on the state government to abandon the bill.
"Universities are not businesses selling education and research products. They are some of our oldest public institutions and their autonomy is crucial to a properly functioning democracy and vibrant civil society," the letter said.
But Higher Education Minister Peter Hall said there was nothing to stop universities appointing students and staff to their councils if they had the necessary skills.
He said the government was introducing the changes after extensive discussions with chancellors and vice-chancellors from Victoria's universities.