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The Church's Cardinal G responds to the commission's findings - misconduct is rife everywhere

Unlawful Conduct Runs Rife Everywhere

SLEDGING our political and public leaders is a favourite Australian pastime, but in recent years mistrust of government, political parties, corporate Australia and yes, even sections of The Church has hit an all-time high.

Whether it be allegations of misbehaviour in the Commonwealth Bank or the NSW Liberal Party, which ­resulted in 10 MPs resigning from the party, or in our sports bodies, improper and sometimes criminal conduct seems to be everywhere.

The politicisation of tribunals and royal commissions only serves to ­reinforce this public sentiment, particularly in relation to the Church. Partly that's  because  a small number of individuals have done the wrong thing, but equally its because of the way a powerful investigative tribunal was used to pursue a clearly anti-Church agenda.

I suspect if you set up an investigation into any part of our society, you might find some examples of outrageous and terrible behaviour. Imagine what you might find in a Royal Commission into political parties, the finance sector or property development.

All of us, the Church included are tired of seeing those in power trampling on communities through improper and unlawful conduct. That is why we need a ­permanent independent national body to investigate allegations of misbehaviour across the board, wherever it hides. Learning from the experiences of the NSW ICAC, a national independent body with the power to examine allegations of wrongdoing in our political, business, religious and ­social institutions and sporting codes will restore our faith in the governance of those institutions.

If we had a strong independent national misbehaviour watchdog which was empowered to investigate sporting bodies we may not have seen some of the scandals we have in recent times.

This approach stands in contrast to that of the former government, which was to target organisations opposed to them while turning a blind eye to those who support them. Using a tribunal to interrogate one church in particular did not address the need for high-quality governance in all of our institutions; it merely provided a vehicle for those who stand against us to undermine us.

The investigation was announced amid promises of improving outcomes for all Australians, but ­instead became a political witch-hunt focussed on the Church.      After its initial period of operation it was granted an extension of two years.  And it was headed by an Atheist, a known supporter of the Greens, whose staff accepted an invitation to be guest speaker at a Greens party fundraiser. Big red flag.

I’m appalled by the behaviour of rogue individuals in some parishes, just as I’m appalled at the ­allegations to come out of the banking sector and in the NSW Liberal Party. But with extensive resources including dedicated investigators, access to all the records, hundreds of witnesses, extensive budgets and looking at a ­period of over 30 years, the inquiry uncovered only relatively few individuals. 

The Church recognises that in any part of society there is potential for misconduct, but using taxpayer funds to ­attack one section of the community does not address the need to stamp out misconduct across all institutions, without bias.

The Church is an institution without equal in Australia. We are there with Australians at every stage of their lives, from births and baptisms, weddings right through to funerals.   Our Military Chaplains were among the first ashore at Gallipoli and remain on active service in the Middle East.   We are open to constructive criticism, but it's not constructive to single one institution out when misconduct is everywhere.

From the ashes of a biased and politically motivated process, we may be able to salvage something and even deliver some sensible reform where it's needed.

The question for this government is whether it can put the political approach of its predecessors behind it and take a wider view of the need to stamp out unlawful conduct across the board, rather than simply targeting The Church.

A test of its ability to do so will be its willingness to embrace a permanent independent misconduct commission.

Cardinal G is the Head of The Church in Australia 


Reckon The Church would get away with an OpEd piece like that run in a major daily newspaper without a massive backlash?

Then how did Dave Oliver and the ACTU?