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Bishop’s behaviour an ethical minefield

THE abuse of children –particularly by people in positions of power and trust – must never be condoned nor forgotten.
Nanjing Night Net

Bishop Gerard Hanna

This week, the Catholic Bishop of Wagga Gerard Hanna gave evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, conceding that he was aware of the previous behaviour convicted paedophile priest John Farrell when he came under his charge in 1984.

Bishop Hanna was the administrator of a parish in Tamworth when his bishop told him he was sending Farrell there.

“The bishop said, ‘Oh, you know Gerry, it’s that usual thing. He was messing around with altar boys’,” Bishop Hanna said.

When asked what was meant by “the usual thing”, Bishop Hanna told the commission: “It wasn’t unknown … that there were priests who used altar boys.”

There is no defence for people who have turned a blind eye to those who prey on the most vulnerable in our communities.

Priests are among the most trusted members and therefore have a higher duty of care to weed out such perpetrators.

Bishop Hanna was undoubtedly placed in a difficult position.

The moral and ethical contest that faced clergy during these times was significant but sadly, the silence was deafening.

At a time when many children were being abused, those in positions of power and influence turned a blind eye to the crimes and the result of their inaction has seen countless lives ruined – and many cut tragically short.

History will judge those who knew of this abuse harshly – as it should.

But there also needs to be an understanding and acknowledgment of what was expected in the various religious and community organisations where such crimes were carried out.

There was a culture of silence and those who spoke out did so at great risk.

Was Bishop Hanna right to admit his knowledge or would he have been better to do what so many others have done and claim no understanding of the activities of paedophile priests?

It could be argued that the bishop’s efforts to “control” Farrell while under his watch was a commendable action, however the fact that he went on to abuse more children after leaving Tamworth weighs heavily on those who allowed their commitment to the church outweigh a responsibility to the wider community.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


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