Last night on ABC Radio National across this wide, brown land of Australia we were treated to an interview with Chrissie and Anthony Foster the parents of three daughters two of whom were raped as little girls by a Holy Roman Catholic Priest. One of the daughters eventually took her own life in despair after a long period of self harm and the second daughter raped, after a similarly long period of self harm, walked in front of a speeding car while intoxicated and today requires round the clock nursing care that will last for her entire lifetime. The program the interview was broadcast within is called The Spirit of Things hosted by the respected Australian religious affairs' broadcaster, Rachael Kohn. It is an interview that puts the moral credibility and moral authority of all the bishops of Australia on the line!
A program at once spiritually uplifting...
It was a program at one and the same time spiritually uplifting at one of the highest orders you can imagine — watching the human spirit soar in two people who have faced one of the worst nightmares that any parents might be put through — the rape and effective spiritual murder of two of their children, and the attempted murder of their own spirit by a Holy Roman Catholic Priest. The Foster's story is even worse than that though, as the interview last night brought out so graphically, this was also the story of an institution where the institutional leaders got it not just wrong but profoundly wrong.
...and religiously depressing!
At the same time it was a program that was profoundly depressing. This was an interview which brought into stark relief the failings of an institution that is supposed to be the protector of the weakest and most vulnerable in society. Instead of protecting them though it has adopted a style of protecting its own backside and reputation and "to hell" with the victims — a similar attitude to the one that it seems to express to the now 86% of the baptised who have told the ecclesial leadership to "stuff it all" and have stopped listening to any spiritual advice or wisdom they might think they have to offer to a world hungry for spiritual nourishment.
We do hope every bishop and priest in Australia has listened to the interview right through. Years ago now the editor of Catholica remembers a group of Christian Brothers telling him — the good ones; the ones who were never guilty of abusing children — how embarrassed they were to wear their religious habits in public, even lapel pins designating their religious status, or even to use the designation "Brother" before their names so humiliated did they feel at what had been done in their name.
The challenge facing the true spiritual leaders amongst the Australian bishops...
We sincerely hope all the decent bishops and priests across this land today might begin to feel a similar sense of embarrassment and abject shame at what was disclosed so publicly last night by the behaviours of both Kevin O'Donnell and, more especially, George Cardinal Pell. While Cardinal Pell was the principal one singled out for attention in the program last night, Chrissie Foster's book, Hell on the Way to Heaven, which formed the background to the interview cites six bishops, at least one of them now deceased, who screwed up in their responses dealing with the complaints of Chrissie and Anthony Foster and others whose children had been raped or emotionally interfered with by a man under their responsibility, Kevin O'Donnell. Unfortunately based on previous evidence, including what has been presented in Chrissie Foster's book, Cardinal Pell has more front than Myers Department Store and it will probably wash over him like water off a duck's back. One would hope the decent spiritual leaders in this country might have the testicles to stand up and say to the Pells of this world, and the other bishops and cardinals like him, that "enough is enough" — this is now deeply embarrassing to every person wearing any sort of clerical collar and deeply embarrassing to every baptised Catholic. Gentlemen, it is over to you. The Fosters have told the truth — and from the heart. What are you going to do? Stand there like stunned mullets searching around to ask your mothers what to say and do nothing because most of them are dead, OR are you going to stand up for truth, justice and the modelling provided by Jesus Christ. If you haven't yet heard the interview I suggest you go to the Radio National website and listen to it online right now [DIRECT LINK] before someone actually forces you to listen to it later down the track, or forces you to read Chrissie Foster's book Hell on the Way to Heaven. Judge the evidence for yourself and then ask yourself what you should do.
A first step to re-establishing some credibility in spiritual leadership...
Here at Catholica we suggest your first step collectively should be to annul totally the priesthood of Kevin O'Donnell and if you can't get the Vatican to do that on the evidence available to you, you deserve for every single Catholic to immediately walk out of your pews and to stop listening to every single word you have to say about anything. If you cannot do that your moral credibility and authority to provide spiritual guidance to any person is now absolutely and totally trashed. The only people you deserve to be spiritual guides to in the world is the "precious remnant" of the gullible and Benedict's "little people" and "simple people". When will they wake up — when one of their children is molested, or raped, or commits suicide?
Brian Coyne, Editor and Publisher, 28Mar2011