Former NSW Premier and a current media celebrity Kristina Keneally tries to be clever (and ironic) and ends up being too clever by half (without any irony):
Call it the Abbott Test for Moral Action. We can’t defeat a threat until we properly identify and name it, and the most important threats are those that have already proven deadly.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott led a chorus of voices last week demanding that political leaders define recent deadly terrorist attacks as Islamic…
Should we label [sexual abuse and cover up within the Church] “Catholic terrorism”? The Australian victims of sexual abuse have been terrorised by the Catholic church, no doubt. Is it “radical Catholic ideology” or “extremist Catholic belief” to cover up the sin of sexual abuse for “the greater good”? It’s hard to deny it.
As a Catholic, I shudder at the thought. But I know that such labels would be truthful. And I know, as Abbott argues, that if we really want to solve the problem of the child sexual abuse by Catholic religious (priests, brothers and nuns) then we should name it appropriately…
Under the Abbott test, we should call such flawed thinking out. We must name it. It’s Catholic extremism. It’s killing and terrorising Australians.
Unless we see it for what it is, we will remain powerless to stop it.
The left’s favourite tactic when confronting problems they are uncomfortable with (such as Islamist terrorism) is either to blame anyone but the perpetrators for it (it’s our foreign policy! or Islamophobia! or global warming!) or to remind everyone that others (most often ourselves) have also done bad things. In her “Guardian” op-ed Keneally goes for the latter. Sadly, in her drive to demonstrate societal (or perhaps more precisely conservative) double standards and blind spots, she instead reveals again the famed ability to grasp and frame issues that made her such as a success as a state premier.
Sexual child abuse is odious. In fact, it’s one of the most odious crimes imaginable, no matter who the perpetrator is. But it’s arguably more odious where the abuser is in a position of trust and responsibility in regards to the child victim (such as a relative or a teacher). And it’s arguably even more odious where the abuser is in a position of spiritual trust and responsibility, like a priest, who should be the conduit of God’s love but ends up bringing hell to the innocents in charge. The extent of the paedophile priests problem is bad enough, but the history of denial, negligence and cover-up by the Church authorities makes the situation even worse.
But is it really “Catholic terrorism” or “radical Catholic ideology” or “extremist Catholic belief”? Only if you confuse who the perpetrators are with what motivates them.
Those of us who call terrorist attacks committed by groups and individuals associated with or inspired by Al Qaeda or ISIS “Islamist terrorism” do so because the perpetrators think of themselves as Muslims acting in accordance with their faith and in pursuance of politico-religious objectives espoused by the violent variety of political Islam they adhere to. Contrary to all those who say terrorists are not real Muslims and terrorism has nothing to do with religion, Islamist terrorists are clearly operating according to a particular interpretation of their religion, which you might not like or disagree with, but which has existed for the past 1400 years.
What about the child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church? The perpetrators are religious functionaries to be sure, but what they are doing is indulging their own perverse sexual appetites. What they’re doing is not only in no way sanctioned or inspired by the Catholic teachings but the perpetrators are fully aware that their actions go against everything their religion stands for. No priest quotes the Bible to justify their abuse, no perpetrator rationalises the crimes they commit as doing God’s work.
Ah, but as Keneally says, it’s “hard to deny” that it’s “‘radical Catholic ideology’ or ‘extremist Catholic belief’ to cover up the sin of sexual abuse for ‘the greater good’.” But again, if it’s supposedly a religious ideology or a belief, what is its Biblical or theological basis? Which part of the Catholic belief did the Church misinterpret to justify to itself covering up for paedophiles? Herein again lies the logical rub: just because a person of certain faith thinks something or does something, it does not mean that he or she is motivated by their faith. The Church’s reasons for cover-up seem quite worldly to me: avoiding public shame and embarrassment as well as legal liability. There is no radical Wahhabi offshoot of Catholicism that quotes Jesus to justify shifting paedophile priests from parish to parish in order to hide the problem.
It makes no difference to a passer-by blown up by a suicide bomber whether the bomber was motivated by religion or secular politics or mental illness, just as it makes no difference to a sexually abused child what’s inside the mind of their rapist. But it makes difference to the rest of the society, because it determines how we respond to the crime and how we try to prevent it from happening in the future.
Keneally might think she’s woke and edgy, and her op-ed certainly feeds into one of the left’s favourite narratives that whatever “The Other” might do, we are much worse. This sorts of “reasoning” equates Margaret Court with people who throw gay men off high buildings in the Middle East, and posits moral equivalence between Western conservative politicians and the Taliban. It might be emotionally satisfying for the left, but it’s intellectually vacuous, and it does nothing to prevent another terrorist attack or another case of sexual abuse.