Tangled

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June 4, 2018 by lucieromarin

There is some talk on social media at the moment about the value of the Consultation Draft of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards. My experience tells me that it hardly matters. A published promise does not need to be kept. It only needs to look like it has been kept. It certainly does not reflect the real priorities of its publishers. I can explain.

Forgive me for once more banging the drum of my own story. It is the drum I know best. Also, I realise that the narrative would flow better if I just used everybody’s names. That, however would make the narrative about the persons rather than the principles, so the storytelling must remain clunky for the time being.

My former-priest’s new manager gave my malpractice report to the Director of the Office of Safeguarding and Ministerial Integrity. I took this as a sign of commitment to a swift and just resolution. Rather than risking the material being mishandled by someone without experience, she was giving it to the most experienced person possible, right? However, no acknowledgment of receipt, or any other information, followed. I emailed the Safeguarding Director after a month’s wait; she replied to say that she was still considering who the right staff member was to action my material.

I took this for a standard business lie. What office dedicated to investigating claims of clergy abuse doesn’t have a staff-member appointed to investigate a claim of clergy abuse? No, my material was weird and troublesome, and she had simply been hoping never to have to action it. Two weeks later, she emailed me to let me know that she was still deciding. I never heard from her again. This confused me, until I realised that her previous and and only recently-left role had been that now occupied by the manager who sent her my file. That is, she had only just left the agency which had hired my director, and she and his manager were friends – or were on good terms at least. It seemed that my file had gone to her, not to ensure that it was actioned, but to ensure that it wasn’t.

Could there have been a motive (other than sloth) for suppressing it? I began to think there was. This conviction deepened once my director’s manager admitted that they had hired him without any knowledge of his former workplace. Who creates a job for a man without knowing his past history, except on the orders of someone superior and beyond question?

I knew that my director had an ‘in’ with the hierarchy. His supporter and good friend, the assistant priest at Parish X, was on good terms with (Arch)bishop X. The parish priest himself was also on good terms with said hierarch, having been appointed Vocations Director of that hierarch’s former diocese. That is, in my director’s new parish were two priests on good terms with the bishop, and one of those priests was his friend, supporter, and wedding-celebrant (who had also pulled strings in a third Diocese to have him dispensed from a church wedding.)

Was there anything to connect these priests to the agency that created my director’s job, other than their acquaintance with the Bishop who headed the agency’s Board? There was. When I researched the agency, I discovered that the wife of its CEO had also been employed in the aforementioned parish. In other words, my director’s parish priest had reason to be on friendly terms not only with the bishop who oversaw the agency, but also with its CEO – a man with enough power to create a job for a bishop’s friend, to tell his subordinates to look the other way, and to expect his actions to be protected. Thus I could see not only how my director got his job, but why the shonky decision-making had to be covered over.

Well, it made sense as a theory, but was there any evidence at all that these people actually knew each other as anything other than names on a staff telephone list?

I did find something. It was a titbit – but a crumb, of its nature, only falls off a more substantial cake. In 2015, the Director of the Office of Safeguarding and Ministerial Integrity participated in the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival. (If you’re curious, her time was 05:27:11). Two colleagues donated to her run and left gushing messages of support on her page. One was my director’s manager. The other was the CEO.

If one falls, they all fall together. They had to protect each other. Whether or not the CEO was really involved, I see that things went as they did because my director had the friendship of figures in the hierarchy, and I did not. Professional practice is thus distilled, and justice doesn’t come into it. Published standards are irrelevant.

 

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