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    Further Explanation...
    Posted by BrianC on October 15, 2003, 1:03 pm


A few days ago you were suggesting that this story was some kind of "beat up" by the BBC to "get at" the Catholic Church or Catholics. You did not use those precise words, but that was the thrust of your argument. I have agreed with you that all organisations have "agendas". In this case though, even if there was some scurrilous agenda behind what the BBC has broadcast which I do not think there is the Church has some exceedingly serious questions to answer.

You do need to read the transcript in full and dispassionately.

What I was using a bit of journalistic licence about in the last two quotes that you took from me is this....

This is a HUGE story, news wise. It is potentially bigger than the controversy that erupted over Humanae Vitae back in 1968 and the recent sex abuse scandals in the US and other parts of the world. People will leave the Church in droves over this UNLESS IT IS CORRECTED QUICKLY AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS IN THE CHURCH. The evidence is already there that in the last four or five decades tens of millions of people left the Church in the developed world largely because of the two controversies I have just mentioned. This controversy, if uncorrected, has the potential to inflict as much damage again.

The Church did not do a good job of handling the HV controvery. Even PJPII admits that and do I really have to quote the section from George Weigel's biography again where that is acknowledged? There is then very serious worry, given how badly the Church responded to both the HV and the abuse scandal controversies, that they will not respond in the appropriate way to this new controversy. If they don't the consequences will be that many people will walk.

Now, and this is the GOOD NEWS....

As I often write, every situation in life, good or bad, also carries with it an opposite. Every fabulous thing that happens in our lives always carries some cost. Likewise, every calamity that happens in our lives always has a bit of good in it as well.

This present controversy which has occurred simply because a very highly ranked officer in the Church has made a serious gaff and error of judgment also carries a potential lot of good in it if it is handled correctly. We saw that here in Australia just a couple of months ago. The prestigious ABC television current affairs program, the 7.30 Report, carried a story that was deeply damaging to the Jesuits and the Catholic Church, about a man who had been abused by a lay teacher back in the 1960s. The head of the Jesuits did not appear on the program because his lawyers had told him not to. His non-appearance was part of the error but not the whole error. The impression given by the program was that the Jesuits and the Catholic Church could not care less about what had happened to this man and his family. The Church, for a long time, had been failing to listen to this man's complaints when he wrote to bring it to the Church's attention. The head of the Jesuits refusing to talk to the television program only made that all the worse. When the program was broadcast the whole matter was an unmitigated public relations disaster for the Church and for the Jesuits.

Fr Raper, the Provincial of the Jesuits very quickly realised the damage that had been done. He ignored the advice of his lawyers and contacted the television station and agreed to do an interview with them. This appeared on the following Monday night. He admitted the errors and apologised and pulled out all stops to begin correcting all the damage that had been done to that man over all those years. The whole event ended up turning out to be probably the best bit of publicity the Church has had in Australia in decades. Now we are not doing these things merely for the publicity or to prevent some damage being done.

The lesson to be learned is that the truth has enormous power. Fr Mark Raper used the truth, and on behalf of all of us (ie all Catholics in Australia) admitted that we (the Church) had made a serious error of judgment. All Catholics in Australia were able to walk a little taller on the Tuesday morning after that broadcast.

What we are seeing at the moment is a repeat of precisely the same kind of thing at the international level...

At the moment the Church is in a diabololical position because of the BBC broadcast. If it does the correct thing ie makes the correct response it can actually turn this disaster into possibly the biggest positive thing that has happened to the Church in half a century. It will start to earn back a lot of the respect that has been causing these tens of millions of people in the Western world to walk out of the Church.

This present disaster also has the potential in it, if handled in the correct manner as Fr Mark Raper SJ handled the disaster he found himself engulfed in, to be the very best thing that has happened to the international Church in living memory. What I was trying to imply in my journalistic short cut way is that if she does rescue victory out of this present disaster she will begin to win back the loyalty of those millions who have walked out of the Church since Vatican II.

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