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Xenophon: attack the church - but not the man

By Brian Holden - posted Monday, 19 September 2011

Under parliamentary privilege, Senator Nick Xenophon has named a priest who allegedly was guilty of sexual abuse 45 years ago. His justification for the exposure was the entrenched policy of secrecy of the Catholic Church and the current risk to the congregation of the accused priest’s parish. In view of the accused priest’s advanced age, that risk was greatly exaggerated. Nothing exaggerated should ever be heard in parliament under privilege. I was particularly disturbed by that exposure due to a second-hand experience of my own.

One week before the Pope’s visit to Sydney, the media was running a story on a priest whose sexual misbehaviour was covered up. The Pope’s host, Cardinal Pell, was clumsily involved in the cover-up. The wayward priest was a long-time friend of in-laws of mine. I would assume that the priest had enriched the lives of many people as much as he had for my in-laws. There can be no doubt that his young victim was severely damaged. But there was another victim as now the priest with a history of social work far beyond that of the average citizen’s contribution to society, was ruined. 

Xenophon approached his burning issue from a position of scientific ignorance. I am almost as ignorant as research on the Internet has turned up no solid theories on the psychological and psychiatric state of mind of those who take a vow of chastity. With the title of “Catholic priest” being synonymous with the word “paedophile” in the view of the masses, one would think that the Vatican would be doing everything possible to get a professional consensus on a very obvious question: Are accusations of sexual abuse of vulnerable people more prevalent for those who take the vow of chastity than for those who don’t?


Surely this unknown has to be settled. Accusations of abuse by priests and teaching brothers have been receiving major media coverage since the mid-1980s. Why have 30 years gone by and the Vatican still cannot present the general opinion of the professionals? My guess is that they know what it will be, and are trusting that no news is good news.

Even if it were established beyond reasonable doubt that the margin between those committed to chastity and those who were not, was too narrow to draw any conclusions, there would be a huge factor skewing the results of any survey. The man of the cloth believes that he will suffer in hell for all eternity - and yet he still commits the mortal sin! From this it can be deduced that there is a serious pathology in play. The highly stressed perpetrator cannot help himself and may not even remember that he committed the sin. If there is pathology, then Xenophon is way out of line. Certainly attack the church - but not the man.

All over the world there has been what appears to be the promotion sideways in lieu of the sack for the accused staff. With the executive’s fingers crossed that it will not happen again, the accused go from one locality to the next place of temptation. This policy can be easily explained. Too much expense and time has gone into training its lowly-paid priests, teaching brothers and nuns, for the church’s executive to sack anybody. Then there is the time the accused has put into his or her calling to be considered. It may amount to several decades.

But the real source of the problem dates back to 1859. That was when Charles Darwin revealed that man was just another sexually reproducing mammal. All the systems in a dog for reproduction are in his human master. However, one can be totally sexually inactive and still be well adjusted - providing the knowledge is there that it does not have to be that way. They’re in no inner turmoil. But a vow of chastity seems to be setting the person up for a mental illness. The vow even applies to sexual feelings. The more an activity that ordinary people are enjoying is forbidden, the more attractive it becomes - until resistance becomes torture.

What are the chances of the Vatican accepting the principle of evolution by natural selection? There is no chance - as at no point in the millions of gradual steps in the evolution of humans can God have suddenly inserted the soul into a fertilised human egg deserving of eternal reward or punishment. With no afterlife, all religions lose the reason for their existence.

Xenophon seems not to realise that the church’s behaviour is a desperate tactic in what it sees as a fight for survival. It will not change its 1700 year-old core policies, and it still has a few years left in it. All the Senator will achieve is to make one man’s life more miserable.


Nevertheless, with each passing year the church’s resistance to the facts becomes more pitiful. Evolution by natural selection has now been proven right down to the level of molecular biology. No more the theory. It is now scientific law. Sadly, a lot of confused but good people who were called to serve their God when they were young and vulnerable are going to be incrementally humbled until they either die or walk away from the church.

It is a sorry business. The most productive member of the Senate should have left the poor tortured man’s name out of his flawed, but admirable, crusade to right this country.

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About the Author

Brian Holden has been retired since 1988. He advises that if you can keep physically and mentally active, retirement can be the best time of your life.

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