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Cardinal Pell facing Australian court on sex abuse charges

Cardinal George Pell arrives at an Australian court in Melbourne on March 5, 2018. Pell attended a hearing to determine whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to try him on sexual abuse charges. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Wearing his clerical collar, the most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis appeared in an Australian court for a hearing to determine whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to put him on trial.

Australian Cardinal George Pell’s committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court before Magistrate Belinda Wallington is scheduled to take up to a month, with testimony of alleged victims to be suppressed from publication.

Pell arrived Monday (March 5) by car and was flanked by police and one of his lawyers, Paul Galbally, as he walked through a large group of media and into the court security screening area. He remained silent as he entered.

He emptied his pockets before walking through a security metal detector and a security guard frisked him in a routine procedure, patting down Pell’s light-colored coat, black shirt and black trousers. Pell indicated to the guard that had no objection to the examination.

Other security guards ensured the public kept their distance from the 76-year-old cleric in the foyers of the seven-floor downtown courthouse in Australia’s second-largest city, where he was once archbishop.

Pope Francis’ former finance minister was charged in June of last year with sexually abusing multiple people in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations against the cardinal have yet to be released to the public, though police have described the charges as “historical” sexual assault offenses — meaning crimes that are alleged to have occurred decades ago.

Defense lawyer Robert Richter accused police who investigated Pell of failing to follow guidelines for investigating prominent people.

Richter told Wallington that a former judge had prepared a report on how police should handle such investigations.

“It is a guide to police about how to fairly investigate claims against prominent people,” Richter said.

“We say that was not followed because there was a presumption of guilt,” Richter added.

Richter also said police had 21 witness statements provided by the defense that were favorable to the cardinal.

“These documents are certainly relevant to the alleged offenses,” Richter said.
“I know it doesn’t suit the prosecution because they are exculpatory of the cardinal.”

The case places both the cardinal and the pope in potentially perilous territory. For Pell, the charges are a threat to his freedom, his reputation and his career. For Francis, they are a threat to his credibility, given that he famously promised a “zero tolerance” policy for sex abuse in the church. Advocates for abuse victims have long railed against Francis’ decision to appoint Pell to the high-ranking position in the first place.

When Pell was promoted in 2014, he was already facing allegations that he had mishandled cases of clergy abuse during his time as archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney.

Pell has not yet entered a plea. But his lawyers have told the court that the cardinal plans to formally plead not guilty if he is ordered to stand trial.

One of the charges was withdrawn last week because the accuser had recently died.
Pell was silent throughout a 25-minute hearing that began with prosecutor Mark Gibson amending dates and wording of charges.

The cardinal sat in the first of two rows of public seating behind his four lawyers in a cramped, wood-paneled courtroom in which reporters far outnumbered members of the public.

Gibson told Wallington that complainants would give evidence by a video link.

Richter said he did not object to the complainants not attending court in person.
Their testimony beginning in the afternoon is not open to the public or media.

Richter told Wallington that given Pell’s age and medical condition, it was important that he be allowed to be accompanied in court by a supporter. Richter did not detail Pell’s health.

Richter told Wallington he understood the prosecution “has an objection to that support person being a priest, although I can’t understand that.”
But Gibson replied: “That’s not quite right.”

Pell’s lawyers told the court last month that the allegations stemmed from publicity surrounding a national inquiry into child abuse three years ago.

His lawyer, Ruth Shann, said the first complainant approached police in 2015, 40 years after the alleged crimes, in response to media reports about Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Australia’s longest-running royal commission — which is the country’s highest form of inquiry — had been investigating since 2012 how the Catholic Church and other institutions responded to sexual abuse of children in Australia over 90 years. The inquiry issued its final report in December.

Pell testified to the inquiry in a video link from the Vatican in 2016 about his time as a priest and bishop in Australia. He did not attend in person because of medical problems.

Shann said the first complaint set off a chain of events with others making allegations against Pell. None had previously complained to anyone, Shann said.

After years of alleged cover-ups and silence from the church over its pedophilia scandal, abuse survivors and their advocates have hailed the prosecution of Pell as a monumental shift in the way society is responding to the crisis.

So far, Francis has withheld judgment of Pell, saying he wants to wait for Australian justice to run its course. And he did not force the cardinal to resign. Pell said he intends to continue his work as a prefect of the church’s economy ministry once the case is resolved.

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  • While the court case is of interest, it’s best to wait for the outcome of the court case before commenting further.

  • Right… because we’ve never seen this kind of thing in the Catholic Church before…

  • Kudos to Rod McGuirk and RNS: “Advocates for abuse victims have long railed against Francis’ decision to appoint Pell to the high-ranking position in the first place.
    When Pell was promoted in 2014, he was already facing allegations that he had mishandled cases of clergy abuse during his time as archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney.”
    Well done.

  • 50 years ago, in Southern Mexico, men armed with machetes would mete out justice to clergy who abused children. Cheap, quick, and effective!
    Viva Mejico!!

  • Couple of things stand out to me in reading this.

    Seems to me that just about everywhere we have a problem of trusting the “system” to actually deliver justice, especially when it comes to sex crimes. More, we are also going through a time of loss of trust in religious institutions, not just for sex crimes, but from a more general sense that modern science and ways of seeing the world call into question how we have up to now explained God, creation, the Bible as a source of reality based history and truth. People are warring everywhere over religious differences – it is down right scary.

    On the specific issues raised by Pell’s lawyers, I am concerned about the lawyers trying to make something out of two factors. One is the fact that people didn’t come forward until 40 years after the abuse occurred. It should be apparent from investigations of the last 10-15 years that people who do are sexually abused do not come forward until decades after the abuse.

    A second concern is with Pell’s lawyers thinking there needs to be some sort of special rules regarding police investigations of “prominent people.” Guess what, the less powerful people who were sexually abused did not come forward, in part, because they think they would not be believed because of the prominence of “prominent people.” Twenty, thirty, fourty years ago who would have believed the young person claiming a priest sexually abused him/her? In many cases, not even the parents believed the child.

    I don’t have an answer. I think “prominent people” (bishops, football coaches, doctors) got away with either child abuse or ignoring the abuse they knew about because the prominent people wanted to protect their prominent friends or feared damage to their prominent institution. Sex abused children were a price they were willing to allow.

  • We only have to hope that they got the right people.

    Butt if you are a fan of vigilante justice and violence, then Why not.

  • Another Catholic priest caught in the pedo scandal coverup

    In other news, water is still composed of H20.

  • He did deal with it. He gave a disapproving look at it with great determination and fortitude.

    Look on the bright side. Someone just outed FORTY priests and seminarians to the Vatican from ONE diocese in Italy. The most interesting part of the news story was the NONE of the priests and seminarians had been abusing underaged kids.

    It gives a whole new perspective on it: they got to say it. On the other hand, they HAD to say it, because that was also “the news”.

  • Like the old joke about the deadliest weapon of the old time British Bobbies:

    STOP! Or….I’ll say STOP again.

  • “It is a guide to police about how to fairly investigate claims against prominent people,” Richter said.

    Fairness has nothing to do with investigation. Facts are facts and evidence is evidence regardless of whether or not the subject is famous. The trial itself may (or may not) be influenced by a defendant being prominent, but as far as the investigation goes, it should be irrelevant.

  • Law was granted residence (sanctuary) in the Vatican for decades, as was Marcinkus in the Banco Ambrosiano scandel in the early 80’s.

    I don’t understand why Pell wasn’t given “sanctuary” in the Vatican as well.
    Is Francesco going soft ?

  • Wasn’t Pell the guy that wanted to have an outside audit of Vatican finances? It was announced, and then Francis caved. Pell was probably not very popular within the Vatican power structure.

  • Or, to put it another way, people didn’t come forward until so much time had passed that defending against the charges became impossible.

    Keep in mind this is taking place in Australia which has a legal system that would offend most Americans since the safeguards we take for granted under the Bill of Rights are either non-existent or greatly attenuated.

  • Agreed. This is another “Let’s have a fair trial before we hang him” in a country which is hardly pro-Catholic.

  • Bob, you point to one of the problems in finding justice for those who have been sexually abused: in the past they have not come forward until long after the abuse occurred, making investigation difficult. More, there was a great deal of naivety on the part of the public, police, courts, regarding the simply fact that ministers of faiths really could be sexual deviants.

    One more point: we now know that institutions will protect the institution first and not even worry about caring for the one abused. That happened everywhere in all kinds of institutions, from religious organizations, to Boy Scouts, to big name private schools, to public universities.

    Now that we know there are impediments to recognizing sexual abuse in society and to young people coming forward, we need to work on making it more possible, easier. And we need to work on making reporting a clear responsibility of the adults that know of or suspect abuse is/has occurred.

    Yes, the law in Australia operates somewhat differently from the U.S. But, there are also strengths in that system. More, the investigation by the Australian Royal Commission and the investigations in Ireland are incredible powerful findings of a great wrong that had occurred, was occuring. We need to be willing to learn from what they discovered. I am not at all sure that there is any more or less justice under their systems than under our own.

  • Statutes of limitations go back at least to classical Athens because due process is fundamental to justice. And, whatever the reason, going back decades denies due process.

    So, whatever the reasons, justice is not served by bending the rules to fit hard cases.

    The Australian Royal Commission, to get some idea of how things work there, told the Catholic Church in Australia it needed to change its religious discipline on celibacy and its doctrine on the seal of confession.

    Both of those were not only inappropriate, beyond the competence of the Commission, but could not have been done her due to the First Amendment.

  • Pell has the best lawyers that money can buy.

    Secondly, unlike the United States, Australia abolished the death penalty decades ago.

    Thirdly, Australia’s largest and most influential religious body is the Catholic Church. The present and the previous Prime Minister are both Catholics. So much for anti-catholic prejudice.

    Those who complained about clerical sexual abuse against children had a hard time of it. See this account: https://theconversation.com/vale-anthony-foster-a-man-of-deep-courage-and-quiet-determination-78462

  • The best lawyers that money can buy can’t provide due process when the witnesses and physical evidence have disappeared decades later.

    We don’t execute child molesters. Abolishing the death penalty totally simply means that retributive justice cannot be meted out.

    We also have “Catholic” politicians who oppose their church, vote for abortion, some of whom have been told not to show up for communion until they get their act together. So much for no anti-Catholic prejudice.

    The comments of the Commission on the Catholic discipline of celibacy and the doctrine of the seal of the confessional simply could not have been made in the USA by a governmental or quasi-governmental body.

    In any case, a lack of reasonable statutes of limitations in the Pell case results in something that can by not stretch of the imagination be considered due process.

  • You wrote, “a lack of reasonable statutes of limitations in the Pell case results in something that can by not stretch of the imagination be considered due process.”

    Of course, that is your opinion. Fair enough. However, in the case of child sexual abuse, people have been so damaged by it that it may take decades before they can make a complaint. That is why the law was changed. In any case, similar problems of child sexual abuse have occurred in the United States and other countries, and have been dealt with under the laws of those countries.

    I know the Catholic Church has taken exception to the recommendation of the Royal Commission on compulsory celibacy and the seal of the confessional. If you feel that the Commission was out of line in making this recommendation, so be it, but I cannot see that it would be out of line for this argument to be made. After all, the Royal Commission had the right of free speech in making its recommendations.

    In the case of Cardinal Pell, one of the charges against him was withdrawn because the complainant had died. Therefore the cases that are still current must involve complainants that are still alive. Without wishing to prejudge the case, I think we can be pretty sure that the skilled QC (Queen’s Counsel) defending Cardinal Pell will ensure that he has the best possible chance of defeating the accusations that have been made against him.

  • A lack of reasonable statutes of limitations in any case cannot be considered due process, and that is the considered opinion of every civilized nation since ancient Athens. The only folks in favor are lawyers who can make money off the cases, politicians who fold in the face of popular hysteria, and a handful of accusers whose stability has often turned out to be dubious.

    It is the very thing about which the Romans coined the legal maxim “Hard cases make bad law”.

    That in the case of child sexual abuse people have been so damaged by it that it may take decades before they can make a complaint is actually evidence in support of a statute of limitations.

    If they’re that damaged, their recollections are also so damaged they can be influenced and misdirected. Abuse by person A may be remembered as abuse by person B.

    Person B decades later is simply unable to establish whereabouts, alibis, find witnesses, in short their hands are tied.

    We already had one round of this sort of thing here

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day-care_sex-abuse_hysteria

    and it led to numerous peoples’ lives being ruined since these charges are nearly impossible to defend.

    The Catholic Church has more than taken exception to the recommendation of the Royal Commission on compulsory celibacy and the seal of the confessional. It is not the role of government or its creations to dictate to religions unless a religion is offering human sacrifice.

    Section 116 of the Constitution of Australia of 1901 prohibits the Commonwealth government from establishing a church or interfering with the freedom of religion. We can see how well that is honored.

    And there is a long history behind this.

    In early Australian Colonial times, the Church of England clergy worked closely with the governors. Some of the Irish convicts had been transported to Australia for political crimes or social rebellion in Ireland, so the authorities were suspicious of Roman Catholicism for the first three decades of settlement and Roman Catholic convicts were compelled to attend Church of England services and their children and orphans were raised by the authorities as Anglicans.

    This attitude permeated the Australian public psyche, as the violation of Section 116 by the Royal Commission was hardly noticed.

  • Bob, we know from the investigations in the U.S., Ireland, and Australia – probably elsewhere – that the institution of the Catholic Church knew of cases of child and youth sex abuse and kept it hidden, moved abusive priests hither and yon.

    I think there is a problem with the way the Church does not cooperate with the law enforcement agencies in countries in which it operates. While we focus on confession, remember that the Church does withhold absolution from penitents who confess to maligning a priest by falsely accusing him of solicitation. Why would it not work to require a person confessing child or youth sex abuse to report himself to police before absolution is provided.

    But a second point is that in some cases a bishop learns of accusations or suspicions of a priest being a sex abuser not in the confessional but from reports from others. And they still do not report them to the police unless legally required to do so. The pontifical secret remains a problem because it is imposed by the motu proprio regarding handling child sex abuse just as it has been imposed for decades. The only reason bishops are allowed to report sex abuse within the Catholic church now is to protect the bishops from prosecution. And it is obvious.

    I realize that time delays of decades in investigating crimes leads to problems in proving one side or the other. But, we have also learned from the investigations here, in Ireland, and elsewhere, that the church (or the institution involved) has records that, if seized, provide a lot of information that shows patterns of sex abuse. What also starts happening is that after one person “breaks the silence” more victims of the same abuser or someone close to them come forward. Cases are built on a preponderance of evidence, getting records released by institutions is built on an accumulation of evidence. Getting someone tried may be built on more than one person coming forward. The fact that it is more difficult should not preclude the ability of those harmed from seeking justice.

  • What we know is that some bishops of the Catholic Church did not follow Canon Law, report credible accusations against some clergy, and follow the canonical procedures for removing clergy proven guilty from the ministry.

    In the United States that problem was compounded by bishops such Rembert Weakland, who themselves were engaged in immoral conduct and “covered” for those in similar situations, and the fact that a numbr of bishops had been sold the bill of goods that these perversions were treatable by mind mavens at locations like St. Luke’s in Silver Spring, Maryland. It turns out they are not curable.

    A general statement that “the Church does not cooperate with the law enforcement agencies in countries in which it operates” is not well supported.

    The reason why would it not work to require a person confessing child or youth sex abuse to report himself to police before absolution is provided is that sacrament itself requires only that the penitent be contrite and intend not to do it again. Jesus never admonished a sinner to turn himself or herself in. Also, reporting himself or herself to the police would probably result in the penitent never returning.

    Bishops are required to report accusations of a priest being a sex abuser from reports from others after first assuring himself that the accusation is at least credible. No bishop is required either under Canon Law or Civil law to report every accusation by cranks, malcontents, or obviously disturbed individuals.

    Your understanding of a “motu proprio regarding handling child sex abuse” is mistaken, and I believe we have covered this, or you have covered it with someone else and I read the exchange.

    Nor is it true that the only reason bishops are allowed to report sex abuse within the Catholic church now is to protect the bishops from prosecution. The requirement was already in Canon Law and was simply disregarded.

    The church does not have records that, if seized, would provide a lot of information that shows patterns of sex abuse. Canon Law requires that after an adjudication internally by the Church, the only record that should be maintained is the final decision.

    In the end we cannot correct an injustice with a comparable or greater injustice.

    Removing the statutes of limitations ALWAYS creates an injustice.

  • Hello Bob,

    Thank you for explaining in detail why you think a statute of limitations law is important. Certainly, such limitations protect the defendant. Good luck to the defendant and bad luck to the victim of the crime! That is why in many jurisdictions there is no statute of limitation for heinous crimes. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_limitations

    A Royal Commission is not the government. The government of the day is free to accept or reject the findings of a Royal Commission. Your objection to two of their recommendations does not invalidate the Commission’s findings about the sexual abuse of children.

    You might want to accuse the Royal Commission of anti-Catholic prejudice but the Commission found the problem of sexual abuse in many religious and secular organisations. Their findings were not confined to Catholics.

    You refer to anti-Catholic prejudice in the first three decades following the First Fleet. That was 200 years ago. Times have changed since then. If that’s the best evidence you have of anti-Catholic prejudice in the Royal Commission then your argument is foolish.

  • I accuse the Royal Commission and the government which commissioned it of violating the Australian Constitution. A Royal Commission has no authority or existence beyond its creation by the government. Trying to create one, authorize it, fund it, and then pretend it is not the government is an amusing political ploy but has about the same substance as a puppet on the string of a puppeteer.

    There can be no “findings” on a matter of doctrine.

    I referred to the fundamental anti-Catholic prejudice that commenced in the first three decades following the First Fleet. It continued since, until 1945 the vast majority of Roman Catholics in Australia were of Irish descent, causing the Anglo-Protestant majority to question their loyalty to the British Empire.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20120324111940/http://www.catholicaustralia.com.au/page.php?pg=austchurch-history

    While the Australian Constitution of 1901 provided for freedom of religion. Australian society was predominantly Anglo-Celtic, with 40% of the population being Anglican. It remained the largest Christian denomination until the 1986 census.

    That explains why, as a Protestant, you’re tone deaf to the incredible chutzpah of the Royal Commission, which even by Australian legal standards was out of its lane. That may be the very best evidence of prejudice.

    The nature of these crimes, which involves a “he said, he said” situation, a lack of physical evidence, and relies completely on recollections, precludes any pretension that eliminating the statute of limitations is consistent with due process.

  • Hello Bob,

    The Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was duly appointed by the Australian Government, it held extensive findings and came down with its findings. You might not accept its findings but it has had a great effect in Australia.

    Your picture of Australia is an anachronistic caricature. Since the Second Vatican Council, most sectarian bigotry in Australia has dissipated and Australia has become increasingly secular.

    This is some of what the Church said in response to the Commission’s findings:

    “The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia in its submissions to the Royal Commission … have made a commitment recognising and acknowledging the crimes of the past and the devastating harm caused by child sexual abuse.

    In the statement Church leaders commit to repairing the past wrongs, listening to and hearing survivors, putting their needs first and doing everything possible to ensure a safer future for children.” http://www.tjhcouncil.org.au

    The Catholic Church in Australia acknowledged that crimes had been committed and resolved to do better in future. That’s a long way from your dismissal of the evidence as “he said, he said”

  • Bob,

    You don’t appear to have read the sources you linked above. The Wikipedia article on sectarianism in Australia concluded:

    “In contemporary Australia, sectarianism between Catholic and Protestant is extant, but minimal and occasionally raises comment,though the issue intermittently reappears – for example, in discussion of sexual abuse being associated with certain denominations, or when politicians are said to follow their faith more than the public interest in deciding matters of public policy.[37][38] Furthermore, public sectarianism in Australia today is more likely to be manifested in terms of a Christian-Muslim divide than a Catholic-Protestant one. With rising irreligion in Australia, Andrew West has declared that sectarianism in contemporary Australia is best described in terms of secularists versus religious.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sectarianism_in_Australia#Australia_today

    While I would quibble about using the word “irreligion” this is a reasonably fair summation of the situation in Australia today.

  • The net result of the Australian experience is a local variety of Orangeism, seen typically in the UK on Guy Fawkes Day, which exhibits as a sort of nonchalance at the constitutional violation by the Commission’s intrusion into Catholic discipline and doctrine.

    Btw, research over the years has not supported the notion that celibacy has a thing to do with any “acting out”, which IMHO highlights the political circus status of the Commission.

  • Hello Bob,

    I think you’re fighting the battles of your youth. Times have changed and sectarian bigotry has declined as I have shown.

    You have stated that celibacy has nothing to do with sexual abuse. The Wikipedia article gives a different impression https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debate_on_the_causes_of_clerical_child_abuse

    You have objected to several of the findings of the Royal Commission. How about these ones?

    Candidates for religious ministry should undergo external psychological testing, including psychosexual assessment, to determine their suitability to be in the ministry and to undertake work involving children. Any problems, Bob?

    Any person in religious ministry who is the subject of a complaint of child sexual abuse which is substantiated … or who is convicted of an offence relating to child sexual abuse, should be permanently removed from ministry. Any problems, Bob?

    And what about these recommendations?

    The Australian Government should oversee the development and implementation of a national strategy to prevent child sexual abuse.

    The Australian Government should establish a National Office for Child Safety.

    The Commonwealth Government should establish a national model for Working With Children Checks within 12 months, to include the creation of a centralised database accessible across states.

    The Australian Government should initiate a review to be conducted 10 years after the tabling of this final report.

    The Australian Government should establish a mechanism to regularly audit the implementation of the Child Safe Standards in immigration detention by staff, contractors and agents of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

    A national memorial should be commissioned by the Australian Government for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts. Victims and survivors should be consulted on the memorial design and it should be located in Canberra.

    For state governments:

    All state and territory governments should introduce legislation to provide that good character be excluded as a mitigating factor in sentencing for child sexual abuse offences where that good character facilitated the offending, similar to that applying in New South Wales and South Australia.

    State and territory governments should introduce legislation to create a criminal offence of failure to protect a child from risk of abuse within an institution.

    State and territory governments should extend grooming laws so that it is not just an offence to groom a child, but also to groom their parents or carers.

    State and territory governments should provide nationally consistent and easily accessible guidance to teachers and principals on preventing and responding to child sexual abuse in all government and non-government schools.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-15/royal-commission-recommendations-you-should-know-about/9262758

    If you have any problems with these recommendations, Bob, state them.

  • I have NOT “objected to several of the findings of the Royal Commission”.

    I specifically objected to:

    https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/sites/default/files/final_report_-_recommendations.pdf

    – “Recommendation 16.18”

    “The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference should request the Holy See to consider introducing voluntary celibacy for diocesan clergy.”, and

    – ” Recommendation 16.26″

    “The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference should consult with the Holy See, and make public any advice received, in order to clarify whether:”

    “a. information received from a child during the sacrament of reconciliation that they have been sexually abused is covered by the seal of confession”

    “b. if a person confesses during the sacrament of reconciliation to perpetrating child sexual abuse, absolution can and should be withheld until they report themselves to civil authorities.”

    Admittedly there are other completely inappropriate recommendations based on nothing except personal opinions that the Commission snared in this political sideshow, but those two are (a) unsupported at all and (b) over the line. 16.18 is not supported by any research, and 16.26 involves a core doctrinal issue for Orthodox, Catholics, and others which is not up for “revision” based on “recommendations”.

    The Australian Constitution provides:

    “116. Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion”

    “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”

    On 11 January 2013, Governor-General Quentin Bryce issued Commonwealth letters patent appointing six commissioners and the commission’s terms of reference. The commissioners were directed “to inquire into institutional responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse and related matters”.

    Therefore, the two objectionable recommendations I mention by appointed commissioners whose only authority rests on letters patents by the Governor-General were officially sanctioned Commonwealth interference in the free exercise of religion.

    That it doesn’t bother you simply illustrates the extent of the problem in Australia, the tone deafness to inappropriate intrusion into churches by the government.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debate_on_the_causes_of_clerical_child_abuse#Clerical_celibacy

    provides some impressions of different folks, two of whom – Christoph Schönborn and Hans Küng – have longstanding and public axes to grind, and zero research.

    My comment was that “research over the years has not supported the notion that celibacy has a thing to do with any ‘acting out'”, and the Wikipedia entry does not dispute that.

    Earlier the Wikipedia entry notes an expert stating that

    “Almost all the cases coming to light today are cases from 30 and 40 years ago. We did not know much about paedophilia and sexual abuse in general back then. In fact, the vast majority of the research on sexual abuse of minors didn’t emerge until the early 1980’s. So, it appeared reasonable at the time to treat these men and then return them to their priestly duties. In hindsight, this was a tragic mistake.”

    So, nope, no, and nada.

  • Hi Bob,

    I know you object to several of the recommendations of the Royal Commission but now you have clarified the fact that you have no objection to several other recommendations that they have made.
    Thank you for this.

    Now about the Australian Constitution’s provision about making laws that impose any religious observance or imposing any religious observance etc. Please note that the Royal Commission makes recommendation. Recommendations aren’t laws. The recommendations about modifying clerical celibacy were to the Catholic Church, not the Australian Government.

    If you object to that, so be it, but a recommendation is not a law, so it isn’t covered by the Constitution.

    You mentioned that the Commissioners were directed to “The commissioners were directed “to inquire into institutional responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse and related matters” And that is what they did.

    And this is some of what they found:

    “Counsel Gail Furness, SC, said 4,444 alleged child sex abuse incidents were recorded in the survey.

    “Ninety per cent of the victims were boys, with their average age at time of abuse being 11-and-a-half years old.

    “Girls were only 10-and-a-half years old on average when they were abused.

    “7pc of Australian Catholic priests accused

    “Seven per cent of priests ministering in the 60-year period have been accused of child sex offences.

    “This is an even starker figure to similar research carried out in the US which found that from 1950 through June 2015, 5.6 per cent of the 116,153 priests who worked have been accused of child sexual abuse.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-06/child-sex-abuse-royal-commission:-data-reveals-catholic-abuse/8243890

    Not a pretty picture. Bob.

  • You’re doing a bit of a Kabuki dance on the Commission.

    The Royal Commission had no authority and no existence outside the letters patent.

    It was a government creation.

    The recommendations about celibacy and the seal confession were to the Catholic Church by a creation of the Australian Government.

    Accusations are not convictions.

    In the U.S.A. between 1950 and 2002, accusations of abuse were made against 4 percent of the Catholic clergy. A bit less than 2% were substantiated.

    The Commissioners were directed to”to inquire into institutional responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse and related matters”.

    There was nothing about recommendations, let alone recommendations to churches on doctrinal matters.

    Here is the source material for the recommendations:

    https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/research

    Can you find the “research” behind the two recommendations I objected to?

    Here is the “final hearing” on the Catholic Church:

    https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/sites/default/files/file-list/Issues%20Paper%2011%20-%20Catholic%20Church%20Final%20Hearing.pdf

    Do you see any reference to studies, research, or anything else actually supporting it?

    So, what you’re arguing is that the Australian government can set up, fund, and otherwise create a commission, set it upon institutions without the ordinary safeguards of due process, treat accusations as though an accusation were a conviction, and make recommendations outside its commission and expertise, and that is okay because “Recommendations aren’t laws”.

    I’ll retire to Bedlam.

  • Hello Bob,

    Now that you have done your dance, here is my response.

    1 Try reading the things you link. Here is what I found when I read just one of the links you provided:

    7. To what extent has any Catholic Church authority in Australia taken action in response to the published reports of Royal Commission case studies? These include:

    a. Report of Case Study No.4, The experiences of four survivors with the Towards Healing process

    b. Report of Case Study No.6, The response of a primary school and the Toowoomba Catholic Education Office to the conduct of Gerard Byrnes

    c. Report of Case Study No.8, Mr John Ellis’s experience of the Towards Healing process and civil litigation

    d. Report of Case Study No.9, The responses of the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide, and the South Australian Police, to allegations of child sexual abuse at St Ann’s Special School

    e. Report of Case Study No.11, Congregation of Christian Brothers in Western Australia response to child sexual abuse at Castledare Junior Orphanage, St Vincent’s Orphanage Clontarf, St Mary’s Agricultural School Tardun and Bindoon Farm School

    f. Report of Case Study No.13, The response of the Marist Brothers to allegations of child sexual abuse against Brothers Kostka Chute and Gregory Sutton

    g. Report of Case Study No.14, The response of the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong to allegations of child sexual abuse, and related criminal proceedings, against John Gerard Nestor, a priest of the Diocese

    h. Report of Case Study No.16, The Melbourne Response

    i. Report of Case Study No. 26, The responses of the Sisters of Mercy, the Catholic Archdiocese of Rockhampton and the Queensland Government to allegations of child sexual abuse at St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol

    These case study reports are available on the Royal Commission website, at: http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/public-hearings/findings

    Every case study – and there were hundreds of them – involved research.

    As for the Royal Commission being “set upon” innocent institutions, don’t come the raw prawn! The real victims here were the children who were set upon and sexually abused..

  • Thank for proving my point; a series of he said/she said comments, but zero research.

    There is no research supporting the notion that celibacy is *cause* of any sexual acting out, dysfunction, or anything else.

    There is no support whatsoever in the materials at the Royal Commission website supporting that recommendation.

    The intrusion into a doctrinal matter, confession, could have been avoided by simply picking up the current Catechism of the Catholic Church and looking it up.

    The source of this disregard of other people’s religious practices is rooted in Australians’ English background as a core identity, loyalism, and innate notion of Protestant supremacy which is still in the Australian psyche.

    The Anglican Church of Australia gets some high level suggestions on one page in the Final Report. The Catholic Church in Australia gets four and a half pages of detailed recommendations intruding into doctrinal matters.

    While the real victims here were the children who were set upon and sexually abused, the “cure” is a long poorly supported litany of feel good twaddle intruding into matters beyond the competence of the Commission, with the implication that somehow religion itself is to blame, with a major but unsupported emphasis on Catholicism.

  • Bob,

    I am puzzled that you can even entertain the thought that the Royal Commission has not done any research. The Commission “conducted 57 case studies, resulting in 45 reports to government, culminating in Friday’s final report. It has employed almost 700 staff since its inception in 2013,”

    But don’t take my word for it. Check out this report at https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/dec/15/royal-commission-final-report-australia-child-abuse

    The Royal Commission said so much about sexual abuse in Catholic schools because there was so much of it. Take this passage from one of the reports to the Royal Commission:

    “No religious community has been free of child sexual abuse cases – and that is no doubt true of non-religious institutions – but the various organisations and institutions that make up the Catholic Church have had a particularly high number of complaints in comparison with other churches. This is the case in Australia and in many other countries in which the Catholic Church is not the only substantial faith community (Parkinson, 2014). Nonetheless, it is important to note that the Catholic Church is a myriad of different organisations, consisting mainly of dioceses and religious Orders, submitting to the overall leadership of the Pope and answerable to various bodies in the Vatican. Any analysis of abuse histories within Catholic dioceses, religious orders and organisations needs to take account of that diversity.” https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/sites/default/files/file-list/Research%20Report%20-%20Assessing%20the%20different%20dimensions%20and%20degress%20of%20risk%20of%20child%20sexual%20abuse%20in%20institutions%20-%20Causes.pdf page 17

    As for your speculation about Australia’s English background and Protestant supremacy, you’re out of date. An article in The Conversation documents this fact. It points out that the British Protestant percentage of the population “has declined to about 20%, making it smaller than Catholics.”

    Better still, read the whole article at https://theconversation.com/census-2016-shows-australias-changing-religious-profile-with-more-nones-than-catholics-79837

    You might describe the recommendations of the Royal Commission as “a long poorly supported litany of feel good twaddle” but when it comes to credibility, I’d put the Royal Commission above yours.

    Certainly, the Australian Catholic Church has taken notice of the Royal Commission’s findings. Take Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney.

    “Recently, in the wake of a deluge of grim revelations at the royal commission regarding the reported extent of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church he posted a video message saying he “personally felt shaken and humiliated by this information”.
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-23/catholic-archbishops-giving-evidence-at-the-royal-commission/8294584

    With respect, I would take more notice of this than I would of your speculations.

  • Interviews are not studies and are not research.

    As has been pointed out in the American Catholic press, the Commission “knew” before it began the “problem” was the Catholics, and that’s what it found.

    It treated accusations the same as convictions.

    Just as a project, show me the research that called for an end to celibacy.

    In the USA the rate of sex crimes with minors is higher among Protestant clergy, who are not celibate, than among Catholic clergy. The rate of sex crimes with minors is higher among public schools teachers, few of whom are celibate, than among Catholic clergy.

    I feel bad for Pell, and Anthony Fisher, and Catholic in Australia in general given that they were just emerging from the ghetto when slammed with what amounts to a conviction without a trial.

    With respect, I am sure as an Australian Protestant none of this bothers you in the slightest.

  • Where is your evidence that all the Royal Commission did was interview people? Not one skerrick of back-up evidence!

    Where is your evidence that Protestant clergy have a higher or lower rate of sex abuse than Catholic clergy in the United States? This could be true or false, but where is your evidence? You made the call. You provide the evidence.

    You said that the rate of sex crimes with minors is higher among public school teachers than among Catholic clergy. Where is your evidence? Either provide the evidence or withdraw your accusation.

    Where is your evidence that Catholics in Australia were living in a ghetto? Either provide the evidence or withdraw your statement.

    That is my project for you. Let’s see if you can come back with credible evidence.

  • Where is your evidence that supports the recommendation on celibacy?

    That is where we started, and I will begin your project when you complete that one.

    I assume you’re an Anglican.

  • About the connection between mandatory celibacy and sex abuse, here is one study:

    “Mandatory celibacy and a culture of secrecy created by popes and bishops are major factors in why such high rates of child abuse have occurred in the Catholic church, a comprehensive study has found.

    “The report, which looked at the findings of 26 royal commissions and other inquiries from Australia, Ireland, the UK, Canada and the Netherlands since 1985, found that while the endangerment of children in institutions has been considerably lowered in Australia, children remained at risk in Catholic parishes and schools and Catholic residential institutions in other countries across the world, especially in the developing world where there are more than 9,000 Catholic-run orphanages, including 2,600 in India.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/sep/13/catholic-sexual-abuse-partly-caused-by-celibacy-and-secrecy-report-finds

    Here is how and why the Royal Commission felt impelled to make its recommendations about clerical celibacy:

    “Initially the Commissioners were quite tentative about whether it would be more appropriate for them to be making recommendations regarding canon law and other sensitive church matters. When they expressed their hesitation directly to the metropolitan archbishops in the Case Study 50 public hearings in February 2017, Archbishop Coleridge of Brisbane reassured them that “it would be very appropriate for the Royal Commission to make whatever recommendation they judge to be in the best interests of children and therefore the best interests of the Church” and that “he personally would welcome any suggestions or recommendations that the Royal Commission would present”. As the Commission commented in the Final Report, “There may be leaders and members of some institutions who resent the intrusion of the Royal Commission into their affairs. However, if the problems we have identified are to be adequately addressed, changes must be made to the culture, structure and governance practices of institutions. A failure to act will inevitably lead to the continuing sexual abuse of children, some of whom will suffer lifelong harm. That harm can be devastating for the individual. It also has a cost to the entire Australian community.”

    “The Australian Royal Commission has been the world’s most thorough examination ever of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. In its breadth and depth, it surpasses all 26 other major inquiries in Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, the UK and the US. It is comprised of 17 volumes with 7,323 pages. It found that criminality against children by Catholic priests and religious was nested in a culture of destructive clericalism.”

    Read the whole article here: https://johnmenadue.com/des-cahill-and-peter-wilkinson-clericalism-celibacy-and-child-sexual-abuse-in-the-catholic-church-in-australia/
    It contains the information that when Mother (now Saint) Mary McKillop complained about sexual abuse of children, the local Bishop excommunicated her!

    I’m not saying that these studies are the last word on the matter, but there they are.

    Now it’s your turn to provide evidence to back up your unsubstantiated claims about Protestant clergy and public school teachers in the United States, and about Catholics in Australia living in a ghetto.

  • Look in the thread above. I have already supplied evidence.

    Now it’s your turn to supply credible evidence about the rate of abuse in Protestant clergy and public school teachers. Bur don’t bother about your ridiculous assertion that Australian Catholics lived in a ghetto. That nonsense is answered by this:

    “When John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a Catholic and a great-grandson of Irish immigrants, was elected president of the United States in 1960, the event was hailed by the Irish in Ireland, and by the huge number of descendants of Irish-Catholic immigrants in America, as a political apotheosis. However, decades earlier the Irish in Australia had also enjoyed great political success. In 1929 Australians, by electing the Australian Labor Party to power, brought James Scullin to the office of prime minister, both of whose parents were Irish-Catholic immigrants. In the 1930s and 1940s another three prime ministers, all of whose direct antecedents were of Irish-Catholic stock, were also elected to power: Joseph Lyons (1931–39), John Curtin (1941–45) and Ben Chifley (1945–51). None of these leaders traded much upon their Irish background, although all had supported the right of Ireland to independence, preferably within the British Empire and Commonwealth. Scullin and Lyons both visited Ireland and were thanked officially by the government of the Irish Free State for their support in the struggle for independence. Curtin, as an Australian, thought the claims of his Irish ancestry bogus, but as a socialist he certainly defended Ireland’s right to independence.” http://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/irish_in_australia/irish_in_australia
    (nb This information comes from the National Museum of Australia.)

    It would appear that Catholics may have been faring better in Australia than the United States during the 1930s and 1940s, even despite the sectarian bigotry of the time in both countries.

  • No, what you provided was the same thing that I looked at in going through the Commission’s material.

    It consisted of beliefs/opinions expressed by various persons with viewpoints.

    It’s really nothing more than a gussied up poll, an opinion survey, the combined impressions of a large number of people.

    It is akin to “we all know Italians are hot-blooded” or “we all know Germans are methodical” except in this case it’s “we all know that celibacy causes perversion”.

    As I read the material I found disgruntled individuals with other axes to grind, often former priests and leaders of dissenting organizations with Catholic ties, providing completely unsupported personal opinions about celibacy.

    Facts:

    https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/12/15/its-not-about-celibacy-blaming-wrong-thing-sexual-abuse-church

    Opinon (aka bigotry):

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/sep/13/catholic-sexual-abuse-partly-caused-by-celibacy-and-secrecy-report-finds

    The Commission in the final analysis was a classic political ploy to assuage the masses without actually doing anything.

    We have the same thing from time to time:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerner_Commission

    Although this Commission’s report led to fifty years of misguided laws and programs, it is now clear that it was wrong in almost every conclusion it reached both as to causes and cures.

    No, celibacy is not a cause of sexual abuse.

    No, no government of a free people should intrude into the doctrinal positions of a religion. And, yes, the Royal Commission was a part of the government.

  • Bob,

    You haven’t answered my questions. No evidence that Protestant clergy had greater rates of sexual abuse than Catholics. No evidence about public school teachers and their morals. No evidence, of course, that Australian Catholics lived in a ghetto.

    So let’s look at the website that you said was “fact”
    https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/12/15/its-not-about-celibacy-blaming-wrong-thing-sexual-abuse-church
    (It’s a Jesuit magazine, so no question of anti-clerical bias.)

    1″[I]Improper screening of candidates for seminaries led to some psychologically sick men being ordained as priests.”

    2 “When some bishops received reports of sexual abuse, the reports were tragically downplayed, dismissed or ignored.”

    3 “[T]he crimes of sexual abuse often went unreported to civil authorities, out of a misguided concern among church officials for “avoiding scandal,” the fear of litigation, or an unwillingness to confront the abusive priest.”

    4 “[G]rossly misunderstanding the severity of the effects of abuse.”

    5 “[P]rivileging the concerns of priests over the pastoral care for victims”

    6 “[S]ome bishops moved abusive priests from one parish to another where they repeatedly offended.

    That’s a pretty damaging litany of faults, Bob.

    Now let’s look at the source you said was opinion (aka bigotry). It was a report on …. ” the findings from Cahill and his theologian co-author, Dr Peter Wilkinson, were released in a report, Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: An Interpretive Review of the Literature and Public Inquiry Reports, published by the Centre for Global Research at RMIT University.
    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/sep/13/catholic-sexual-abuse-partly-caused-by-celibacy-and-secrecy-report-finds

    Here are two of the things it says:

    “The report estimated about 7% of clergy had abused children between about 1950 and 2000.” (Sounds like an explanation for point 1 above.

    “[P]opes and bishops created a culture of secrecy, leading to a series of gross failures in transparency, accountability, openness and trust.” (Sounds a lot like points 2 and 3 and 5 that the Jesuit magazine made above.)

    Yes, this report blames celibacy for contributing this tragedy, but celibacy doesn’t explain or excuse why pedophile priests were moved from parish to parish, as happened.

    This is more than a tragic misunderstanding. In retrospect it looks like criminal neglect, Bob.

  • I have no intention whatsoever of going any further unless and until you provide the evidence that the Royal Commission used to support its attack on clerical celibacy.

    Again you cherry picked the facts, including the litany – again – of unsupported opinion, avoiding the research which included:

    “And, as Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea, a psychologist and expert on child sexual abuse, and Virginia Goldner, also a psychologist, noted in a hard-hitting book entitled Predatory Priests, Silenced Victims, the sexual abuse of children has also occurred among Protestant ministers, Jewish rabbis, Islamic clerics, Buddhist monks and Hare Krishna officials.”

    and spun the bigotry:

    “The report estimated about 7% of clergy had abused children between about 1950 and 2000.”

    after you were already informed that substantiated cases were about half that in our larger examination of the same type of data.

    Basically you can’t distinguish a fact from an opinion, and so as an Anglican in Australia you’re as happy as a clam that the Church of Australia skated and those pesky Catholics got their comeuppance.

    Opinions are opinions. Large quantities of opinions categorized, tabulated, and summarized in a report remain opinions.

    Of course the other fact that you simply wish to avoid so that you can continue the Pecksniffian pose as utter “criminal neglect” is that in no civilized country where religious rights mean anything does a government, by law, by commission, or by hand puppet intrude into the doctrinal positions of a church to which a significant part of its populace belongs.

  • Bob,

    You have failed to substantiate your claim that Australian Catholics lived in a ghetto. That’s a failure to distinguish between opinion and fact.

    You have failed to substantiate your claims about public school teachers and Protestant minister being worse than priests and religious That’s also a failure to distinguish between your opinion and a verifiable fact.

    I don’t have to find the evidence that the Royal Commission used to make their recommendation about clerical celibacy. Their recommendation is a matter of fact. However, I have drawn your attention to another study that came to the same conclusion. If that does not satisfy you, too bad.

    I quote the document I cite and you accuse me of cherry picking. As you don’t even bother to quote a source for most of your claims it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    Now let’s look at the passage that you accuse me of cherry picking. I’ll quote it in full:

    “Many factors underlie the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. Here is an extremely brief (and therefore incomplete) summary. First, improper screening of candidates for seminaries led to some psychologically sick men being ordained as priests. When some bishops received reports of sexual abuse, the reports were tragically downplayed, dismissed or ignored. Second, the crimes of sexual abuse often went unreported to civil authorities, out of a misguided concern among church officials for “avoiding scandal,” the fear of litigation, or an unwillingness to confront the abusive priest. Third, grossly misunderstanding the severity of the effects of abuse, overly relying on advice from psychologists regarding rehabilitation, and privileging the concerns of priests over the pastoral care for victims, some bishops moved abusive priests from one parish to another where they repeatedly offended.

    That is an enormous simplification that leaves out many important causes. In general, though, that is a fair summary of some underlying reasons for these crimes. (Note that I say “reasons” and not “excuses.” There are no excuses for these crimes.)”
    https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/12/15/its-not-about-celibacy-blaming-wrong-thing-sexual-abuse-church

    On another tack, I also accept that child abuse happened in other churches and community groups, with similar devastating effects. These were also documented by the Royal Commission. They also found that there was more sexual abuse in Catholic Church institutions. See https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/dec/15/child-sexual-abuse-royal-commission-recommendations-and-statistics-at-a-glance

  • Unless and until you provide the support justifying the two “recommendations” I objected to, there is really nothing to talk about.

    “They also found that there was more sexual abuse in Catholic Church institutions.” illustrates the problem.

    That’s the summation opinion of opinions obtained.

    It is a poll. It is not a fact. It is not substantiated. A report of the entire population of arrests and convictions, for example, for sexual abuse would be a fact.

    From yours beginning “Many factors underlie ….”:

    “First, improper screening of candidates for seminaries led to some psychologically sick men being ordained as priests.”

    True of every profession, including MPs and police.

    “When some bishops received reports of sexual abuse, the reports were tragically downplayed, dismissed or ignored.”

    Also true here, and true of school systems, mosques, police, synagogues, you name it.

    “Second, the crimes of sexual abuse often went unreported to civil authorities, out of a misguided concern among church officials for ‘avoiding scandal,’ the fear of litigation, or an unwillingness to confront the abusive priest.”

    Also true here, and true of school systems, mosques, police, synagogues, you name it.

    “… some bishops moved abusive priests from one parish to another where they repeatedly offended.”

    Also true here, and true of school systems, mosques, police, synagogues, you name it.

    Missing altogether: celibacy, any facts supporting the conclusion that the Catholic Church differed from the general Australian population in any objectively discernible way.

    I am reminded of the old saying “Let’s give’em a fair trial before we hang’em.”

    But you’re happy, so smile and be happy. Those of us looking for something a bit more substantial, fair play, facts, and so on will look elsewhere.

  • Hello Bob,

    Well done, Jesuits!

    The Jesuits have admitted that some priests and religious have been kiddie fiddling, and that some bishops have been covering up the evidence. Some bishops also moved offending priests to other parishes where they continued their activities on a new bunch of victims. You can now accept these crimes as facts because the Jesuits have admitted it was so.

    Of course, the suggestion that clerical celibacy might have something to do with the problem is controversial, as is the Royal Commission’s recommendation on the confessional. Let’s just leave it at that.

    You also contend that priests and religious were more inclined to interfere with children than others. This is your opinion. Fair enough. However, the Royal Commission found that there was a greater proportion of offences against children, especially in some Catholic institutions and dioceses. No offence, Bob, but in this instance I would give greater credibility to the Royal Commission’s findings than to your opinion.

    I do question your contention that Australian Catholics lived in a ghetto, and that the incidence of child abuse in America is greater in public school teachers and other religious bodies. However, if you have any evidence, please produce it.

  • Bob,

    You have failed to provide any evidence that Australian Catholics lived in a ghetto.

    You have failed to provide any evidence that non-Catholic clergy are more or less likely to molest children than Catholic priests and religious.

    You have failed to provide any evidence about the morals of US public school teachers.

    You are good at the ad hominem, but bad when it comes to providing evidence. That is why I don’t believe what you say.

    I might be gullible enough to take seriously a Royal Commission.

    I might be gullible enough to take seriously the searing condemnation provided by the Jesuits.

    But I’m not gullible enough to believe you. You see, time and again when you put fingers to your keyboard, what you state is:

    Unsupported by any evidence whatsoever;

    Unsupported by the link you provide

    Contradicted by the link you provide

    Bigoted

    Intolerant of the views of others

    You appear to have all the characteristics of a troll.

    But have a nice day, anyway.

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