Intervention Anyone? Imagine If The Catholic Church Were An Aboriginal Community


The response of some leaders to the jailing of George Pell and the rampant paedophilia inside the Catholic Church leads John Passant to wonder why the Australian Army hasn’t yet been sent in.

George Pell has been sentenced to six years’ jail for sexually abusing two choirboys in the 1990s. The non-parole period is 3 years and 8 months.

I want to start off with the statement of the victim who is still alive. After Pell was sentenced, he said, among other things, through his lawyer Viv Waller:

I respect what the judge said. It was meticulous and it was considered. It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment.

It is hard for me, for the time being, to take comfort in this outcome. I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child. However, there is no rest for me. Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal.

To all the victims of child sex abuse we believe you. We care. We are sorry.

In expressing sorrow, how can we ensure this never happens again?

One question must be, is the Catholic Church a paedophile ring, or maybe the protector of paedophile rings? I use the phrase paedophile rings deliberately. It was the lie on which the Northern Territory Emergency Response was based. Chris Graham has set out the lies of politicians and media here.

All the then Aboriginal Affairs Minister in 2006, Mal Brough, had to say was ‘paedophile rings’ to justify a year later sending troops into Northern Territory Aboriginal communities. The ABC joined in the lie, kicking it off with a promotion on PM and then a story on Lateline with an interview of an ‘anonymous’ youth worker who backed the Minister.

Lateline’s fake ‘anonymous youth worker’, Gregory Andrews.

It just so happened the youth worker was in fact ‘Gregory Andrews, who was the assistant secretary in the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, advising the then Indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough’.

There was no evidence at all there were paedophile rings operating in Aboriginal communities. The Australian Crime Commission debunked the lie in 2009. Yet the end result was not only the Army occupying Aboriginal communities (contrary to the Little Children Are Sacred Report, which recommended cooperation, not confrontation). It saw the imposition of the basics card and control over spending. Winning white support by imposing the basics card on Aboriginal people is a simple racist strategy. Lo and behold sooner or later it will be (and has been) imposed on poor white households too.

A screencap from John Pilger’s film Utopia, showing soldiers at the first meeting of the intervention taskforce in the remote community of Mutitjulu.

On top of that, communities lost their township leases for five years, the permit system under which Aboriginal communities controlled who was on their land was revoked, the successful Community Development Employment Program project was abolished, forcing the unemployed onto the dole. Welfare payments were linked to school attendance, compulsory health checks were enforced on children. Dr Hilary Tyler, an Alice Springs based doctor, told John Pilger’s Utopia documentary that out of more than 12,000 health checks, only one matter not already known was discovered, and it wasn’t related to sexual abuse.

Imagine if the State did the same thing in response to much more justified fears that the Catholic Church is a paedophile ring, or at least harbors and protects paedophiles. Imagine, based on the Intervention experience to ‘save the children’, Australian troops occupying churches, taking over the Church’s property, controlling the Church’s spending, implementing a basics card for Catholic priests and other clergy, politicians and the media denouncing the organisation as a paedophile ring etc.

Disgraced paedophile, Cardinal George Pell.

After all, if it was good enough for Aboriginal people, based on a lie, why is the Church, with its number one Australian representative and others in jail for paedophilia and many stories of cover ups of widespread abuse, exempt from similar action? The case for an intervention into the Catholic Church is much, much stronger than that for the Northern Territory.

By and large white Australia remained silent on the intervention. It fell for the lies about protecting the kids.

It is one thing for the oppressors to attack the oppressed. But when one of the institutions of oppression, the Catholic Church, is exposed as being the home of paedophile priest, what do we find? Former Prime Minister John Howard wrote a glowing character reference for Pell. Tony Abbott supported him. And the right-wing media offered various excuses and cover for convicted paedophile George Pell.

Their message seems clear. When it is indigenous people who are the targets of lies about paedophilia, the state rushes in to deepen the oppression of Aboriginal people. When it is one of their own, the 1% protect them.

The failure to challenge the structure of paedophilia that is the Catholic Church but send the troops into the Northern Territory on the basis of lies exposes the racism of the Australian ruling class and the exercise of its power to protect its own.

John Passant is a PhD student in the School of Politics and International Relations at the ANU and a member of the small revolutionary socialist group Solidarity.