Hysteria Down Under: As Commission Inquiry Approaches, Writers Warn of Anti-Catholicism in Australian Media Coverage

Andrew Bolt Australia

Seeing an anti-Catholic agenda at play: Australia's Andrew Bolt

News of decades-old abuse by Catholic priests in Australia has now reached down under. The breathless reporting by Australian media, however, presages a media narrative in which reason, facts, and logic are ignored, and the media feeds on sensationalism, exaggeration, and anti-Catholic bigotry.

Amidst the report that a "Royal Commission" will look into "institutional responses to instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia," a small number of voices are now airing the view that an ugly anti-Catholicism is beginning to fill the air.

An inquiry that could be "useless, unfair and anti-Catholic"

In an opinion piece (also here) that appeared in a number of major media outlets in Australia, pundit Andrew Bolt sees the commission's inquiry simply becoming an excuse for an ugly "anti-Catholic crusade":

Bolt exposes the hidden agenda behind the media's sensational coverage:

"I agree, we need a royal commission into the sexual abuse of children. The air must be cleared.

"Yet this royal commission called by the Prime Minister already risks going badly off the rails and becoming not a force for good, but of cultural destruction …

"Many in the largely anti-clerical media want to use this excuse to smash a church which lectures on modesty, duty, faithfulness and other fun-killers

"And already we have journalists and politicians demanding priests betray the confessional if they hear someone admit to child abuse.

"It would be a tragedy if the Catholic Church was to be broken by this inquiry. There are few, if any, organisations that have inspired so many Australians to build and run schools, hospitals, hospices and services for the homeless.

"Destroy this church, the one that has best survived the decay of faith, and I doubt the Greens will pick up the slack and tend to the sick or minister to the poor."

Bolt also added:

"We should be far more concerned with stopping the abuse of children today than with spending millions to recall the abuse by priests now dead, jailed or too old to be dangerous.

"Churches no longer are – if they ever were – where the worst child sex abuse occurs. Aboriginal communities are."

Bolt's article is a must-read in full.

Where does the road lead?

Another important piece is by Alexander Downey, a former foreign affairs minister. Downey writes that the Inquiry is simply a pretext for atheists to bash Christianity:

"Although the this will be a broad-ranging inquiry not confined to any church or institution, the Catholic Church has been singled out in public commentary, letters to the editor and so on. It's been an excuse for atheists to let loose against Christianity and sectarians to attack the church's beliefs and traditions."

How will events in Australia pan out? Will the Commission treat the Catholic Church honestly and fairly?

As always, stay tuned.


  1. jim robertson says:

    Ah The show's begun. The main event Australia.

    • Stu says:

      The show is actually over–it was over long, long ago, Jim. Sorry to dissapoint you.
      But the circus in Australia is about abuse in government schools too. 
      I can't wait for that one.

  2. Julie says:

    Thank you Andrew Bolt.

  3. jim robertson says:

    Circus? You find child abuse amusing? You think survivors are the show? Oh no, Tom Doyle and SNAP are the show. Let's see how little the Church and government will get away with paying. Thanks to the colabaration of the Church and the government, Just like in Ireland. Agree to settle with the victims if they take next to nothing for their horror. That's what's going on in Australia.

  4. Publion says:

    As so often in the Catholic Abuse Matter , there are so many coincidences on the larger stage of events.
    Politically, the British establishment is reeling from the BBC-Savile scandal; there is no better way to distract attention from a troublesome government scandal than by creating another scandal somewhere else. But the BBC-Savile scandal is so deeply entwined with the British government establishment that any effort by that government to do some scandal-stoking would be too obvious. Suddenly – tah dahhh! – the closely allied Australian government announces the possibility of a Royal Commission to investigate that time-honored and field-tested bugbear, past Catholic sex abuse.
    One of the presumptive fantasies underlying so much of all this Catholic Abuse Matter is that governments sorta just waltz down the lane like Little Red Riding Hood going about the chores, until suddenly some Evil thing deliberately intrudes itself, forcing Ms. Hood to take righteous action. But that’s not how governments work: they are very deliberate in the calculations they make as to what ‘Evil’ to notice and even what problem to declare to be an utter Evil. So in this case, the Church – and all that past abuse – is a hydra-headed attraction: already a familiar script in Western countries, a proven mechanism for distracting public attention, and dear to the heart of a whole roster of liberal or secularist or conservative law-and-order or non-Catholic or anti-Catholic demographics.  A government would be foolish not to take advantage of such a tool in a time of difficulty.
    Whether or not the fact the Australian PM is a woman (implying here possible connections to radical-feminist and secularist tendencies) and so is the Australian Attorney-General … whether that plays a factor here, especially from an Australian-politics perspective, is an interesting question.
    With Obama’s re-election, the Australian political establishment certainly cannot lose creds by running one of the trusty plays from the American political game-book; thus running up some nice IOU’s from both the Brits and the Americans.
    But there are difficulties. The Aussie pols say they were galvanized by a DCI in the sticks who wrote an open-letter to the PM complaining about some aspect of priestly sex-abuse. Rarely do career mid-level public employees, especially Detective Chief Inspectors of Police, consider it a wise move to write uninvited ‘open letters’ over the heads of their entire departmental hierarchy, addressed straight to the head of government. If, on the other hand, the letter was ‘invited’, so to speak, by higher authority, then writing it would be a most valuable career move indeed.
    And the question also arises: after a highly-publicized 30-year run, can the classic American-invented Catholic Abuse Matter play be run all over again in another Western venue with exactly the same results? Apparently – thanks to this TMR article – it is clear that there are still elements on the Australian public scene who by temperament aren’t easily hoodwinked or stampeded and now have all the past 30 years of watching the queasy and darkling American soap-opera to further fortify their suspicions and their resolve.
    I recall almost two years ago a big international press splash – although it lasted only a couple of weeks at most – over the release of a Dutch government Catholic Abuse Report. But to this day, while a search reveals numerous media articles around the world that discussed the government press releases announcing the Report, yet the text of the Report itself has never been made public (at least in any form that responds to any search I have been able to make). Which is rather odd. But then again, perhaps the Report fell into the same fantasy swamp as the war-crimes and crimes-against-humanity lawsuit that SNAP filed with the ICC quite some time ago.
    And, of course, the proposed Australian gambit would target only the Catholic Church, and not any other organizations in Australia. And as one of the persons quoted in the article notes, that also means that the proposed Royal Commission would be dealing with past allegations of abuse. Which is once again a classic gambit: you get all the lurid and telegenic allegations (almost completely immune from scrutiny or analysis); by focusing only on one organization you don’t upset any powerful public employee unions or create a politically difficult alliance among a number of large and influential organizations threatened by your ‘investigation’; and since it’s the Catholic Church, then you can hopefully count on the knee-jerk support of the same congeries of special-interests who want the Church substantially weakened in the public esteem. (In that regard, American religious-history scholar Phillip Jenkins noted as early as 2002 that within the Church here it has been clergy (including Sisters) that have been the core agitators for so-called liberalizing reforms, rather than the laity.)
    And – as always – there remains the possibility in these deeply difficult economic times that the American 2002 suing-for-settlements pinata strategy can be set up locally. Since the huge Western economic debacle that began in 2008, that is no small temptation.
    And, of course, there is the ever-vague and infinitely malleable definition of ‘abuse’, which – as I have often pointed out – covers a very broad spectrum of activity. And then on top of that you have all the ancillary complications of ‘alleged’, ‘suspected’, ‘credible’ and so forth.
    The article by Mr. Downey,  linked-to in the TMR article, raises a number of points.
    He notes the number of studies that would appear to link troubled-adults and childhood ‘abuse’ (of any sort: physical, emotional, or sexual). But he admits that “no one can be sure of the accuracy of these studies”. He’s on to something there. In some cases, the studies simply accepted the self-reports of persons already incarcerated or otherwise in difficulty that they were ‘abused’ as children, and then on the basis of that credulous presumptive acceptance of such ‘reports’, the researchers claim a causal link between ‘abuse’ and criminality or psychological or emotional or other forms of life-derangement or stunted maturity.
    There is also the problem that studies include ‘abused and neglected’ children, which hugely expands the numbers of possible ‘victims’, but does so by hugely complicating the research required since it now has two possible causes to explore. And also reminds us that for some researchers ‘neglect’ is a form of ‘abuse’, and for others is a separate category.
    And it raises the whole Question as to just what a government can do to resolve these matters. Mr. Downey acknowledges the necessity of mature and competent parenting as being far more valuable (and, I would add, far less a threat to democratic process) than having government agents and bureaucrats taking over the raising of children (which Mussolini insisted on doing, at least for the male babies who would constitute the military forces). But then – as Mr. Downey astutely observes – the general thrust of modern culture is that individuals must be ‘free’, and thus many parents don’t like to be told how to raise their children.
     I would add that precisely as a result of many core modern cultural tendencies, far too many individuals reach the age where they can make babies without having been helped to achieve any substantial maturity themselves (‘maturity’ being a ‘judgmental’ term about ‘absolute’ values that is imposed on individuals and thus ‘oppresses’ them).
    As far as using abuse as an excuse for later life failures  – especially in regard to criminal activity –  Mr. Downey , with a refreshing Aussie candor, rejects it.
    He is “no fan of the nanny state”. As well he shouldn’t be. To have the government involve itself in matters that do not directly pertain to the limited purview of governmental authority that evolved in the West in the past two millennia is to embrace – no matter how jarring the conceptual connection might be to conventional wisdom – a form of ‘totalizing’, a government ‘totalitarianism’ by which the government assumes total responsibility for fixing the totality of its society’s and its culture’s difficulties.
    While it has become a form of historical presumption to assume that totalitarianism is somehow a phenomenon of the Right (think Mussolini and Hitler and Imperial Japan), the dynamic of governmental ‘totalizing’ has actually driven various forms of Western progressivism, especially in the past 40 years: the more ‘problems’ the government assumes the authority to address, the more ‘total’ its control of society and culture. And this ‘totalizing’ dynamic – embraced by Right or Left or both together – has been, I would say, the greatest danger to genuine democracy that the 20th century produced.
    Mr. Downey, his vision un-blurred by American forms of victimism and the Pollyanna view of ever-intensifying government involvement in society and culture as being purely good, brings us to the very difficult Question: how to address childhood abuse (in any form) without inviting in through the front door the vampire of totalizing (and eventually ‘totalitarian’) government. This is not a problem that the American, government-heavy and government-dependent, mutation of victimism cares to confront.
    So in a way, looking at the Aussie thoughts about starting up the Catholic Abuse game there, we are looking at the challenge America faced thirty or forty years ago. But America took a different path. What the Aussies will manage to do and how they will or will not confront their government’s latest stab at ‘totalizing’ is a question that will bear close watching.

  5. jim robertson says:

    So did you ever get to visit Berchesgarten or do you only go there in your dreams?

  6. jim robertson says:

    What exactly in not "totalizing" about the Catholic  (UNIVERSAL) Church? The Coverup and transfer of pedophile priests was "universal" or catholic in it's very essence. Your system, your hierarchy did this. Yet you are playing a make believe game that a large percentage of claims are fake. And you are playing that game with no proof. Incredable! Maybe what's fake here is your analysis. A projection of universal thievery, that comes from your own head.
    So  in the end you are the real victims. Your Church is being victimized by the press and governments and the kids that were hurt. Good luck with that. You'll need it.

  7. Mark says:

    I live in Australia and I doubt that anyone has to worry about the Royal Commosion being biased against the Catholic Church. The issue is that George Pell comes across as an arrogunat men who doesn't care about the victims, no matter what he says.

  8. Viv Kennedy says:

    Hi, so glad to have found your site. So much bias here in Australia. Although I come from the opposite side of the political spectrum from Andrew Bolt, I do agree with him on this issue.  Our PM, an atheist woman like me, is very fair-minded and I do not feel that she is trying to make any political capital out of these sad events. The opposition leader  here is a very prominent practising Catholic,  whose political views are very different from mine.  However, I like fairness and truth in journalism and we are not being given that here. the Catholic church is being portrayed as the embodiment of evil. one would think given the media reports here, that every second Catholic priest is a predatory pedophile, whereas the actual incidence is between 4 and 6%.  And these are based on historic cases – today the incidence is almost zero.  Anyway, I will attach some of my attempts to be a moderating voice - eg, some letters I have sent to various media, politicians etc. Here is one to a MP who had written an article in local paper concerning my home town of Newcastle, one of the focal points of the investigation.

    Dear Mr Shoebridge,
    Yesterday, I read your article in the Newcastle Herald – (although I usually only bother with the crossword in this particular paper, such is my opinion of it) – and here are some thoughts on your piece. Since I took the time to read your piece I hope you will spare a few moments to read this. The gist of it is that children are being abused every day in their own homes but where is the outcry regarding compensation for them. It seems that when the abuse involves clergy, different standards apply.
    The issue of compensation has been raised, in your article in Newcastle Herald and elsewhere, re institutional – especially the institution of the Catholic Church – child abuse. Although comparisons are odious, I would like to make the point that when a child is abused by people outside the family like a churchman or swim coach, scoutmaster, etc – (a terrible crime, I am not saying otherwise) – at least once the abuse is revealed the child mostly still has a support system – i.e. the family – to rally behind him/her and to help the individual pursue justice. When a child is abused within the family, disclosing often means the child is ostracised and/or the family disintegrates, and thus the child is then isolated. The chances of disclosing abuse, let alone for pursuing and obtaining, compensation for these children is much, much less than for victims of institutional abuse, as it would – very often – mean losing everything for them. Although compensation doesn't soften the pain of abuse, at least it is a concrete acknowledgement of the truth of the allegation. I would contend that it is actually even more difficult to disclose when the abuser is a family member, particularly a father or grandfather, as disclosure will often mean the disintegration of the family and the collapse of the child's world. Although this Royal commission is important, I think children who have been victims of sexual abuse within the family will feel that institutional abuse can be compensated, but their suffering will never be compensated. In any case, what entity would they sue? Their own family, for dereliction of duty in their responsibility towards their child? And what if the family is poor – even if such a scenario were possible, which I doubt. (I'm not a lawyer, just an ordinary citizen, so am only speculating). Also, my understanding is that the church has already voluntarily paid out a good deal of compensation, so even though it can't be sued as a legal entity as you said, it seems that they (i.e. the church hierarchy) are prepared to pay up when cases are proved. So maybe it is not really an issue that they are not a "legal entity" which can be sued, if they are prepared to pay out because they recognise a terrible wrong has been committed and should be compensated. I am an atheist by the way, and am not defending the church, but I do think that the press is determined to present the church as evil, and to ignore any attempts which have been made to weed out pedophiles and to right past wrongs – notwithstanding how inadequately they have gone about it. I do not believe that all of their attempts, in recent times, have been directed to avoiding accepting responsibility, but the media invariably presents it in this light.
    I have no doubt that some priests have committed terrible crimes, but I think the atmosphere of moral hysteria that is being created serves no one well. There could have been much less sinister reasons for the "cover up" than those attributed, as society is much more aware of and discusses – endlessly, it seems – the subject now. One reason could have been the very ill-disguised hatred of Catholics in Australian history, which seems to be again surfacing in the present circumstances. Given that old prejudice, when it was discovered that a pedophile was operating within a religious order, they may have thought that they could contain the problem within the church and avoid outpourings of outrage from the wider community. Evidence of poor judgement, but hardly evil. And many people at the time – including psychiatrists – thought that these sorts of deviant sexual practices could be amenable to treatment. It seems that this fear of hatred and ostracism was justified given some of the very nasty and venomous comments I have read and heard in various media. Many of the comments I have read on various social media sites are just blatantly anti-catholic and have little to do with child abuse. The best estimates seem to vary between 4 and 6% of Catholic clergy offend against children – and while one case is one too many, no one is claiming otherwise! – that means that over 90 % have never, (and never will molest), molested children. Given the number of schools. orphanages, care homes, hospitals that the Catholic church has run over the years, it is not surprising that pedophiles should have infiltrated these institutions. Other denominations also ran such institutions but not in any where near the numbers. Where the state ran similar homes, the same problems have arisen. Pedophiles go where children are found, and children are found in large numbers in such places.
    As an atheist, I would like to live in a society tolerant of all – or no – faiths, but I fear the approach the media is taking is creating an atmosphere of hysteria, sectarianism and hatred. There seems to be a determination in the media not to accept that the church is trying to rectify past wrongs and address present difficulties. The media simply do not want to hear this, but would rather whip up moral outrage in the community. Hardly a foundation for good, responsible journalism.

  9. jim robertson says:

    My athiest sister, you've offered no examples of the sectarianism or hatred or hysteria towards the Catholic Church in Australia. If that's happening; it must be being noticed by lots of outsiders and judged appropriately as wrong.

  10. jim robertson says:

    Are lots of people pissed off? You bet. But no mob as appeared on the horizon in my view. At least none that the Royal Commission can't head off.

  11. Viv Kennedy says:

    Press time is almost exclusively given to victims .eg I gave was the actual incidence as opposed to the public’s perceived view that every Catholic priest should be regarded as a pedophile until proven otherwise. Nothing of what church is trying to do to address problem is ever reported on.

  12. jim robertson says:

    So what "press time is given to victims" ? The injured have a right to call out who injured them. The Church has every right to say these people are lying. Why isn't the Church saying that? Why is it saying nothing? Silence, according to one rather famous Catholic saint, St. Thomas Moore, infers aquiesence. You know the Church would fight back hard if they were massively wrongly accused. You know they would and rightfully so. But they don't. Why is that?