Papists under the bed

popish plotIt is always good to know a little background about those who profess to be bearers of unbiased truth. While their ardour and sincerity may well be genuine, how otherwise is the listener to know if a subjective perspective might be colouring the tidings? There is a good example in today’s Age, where opinion-page contributor Judy Courtin demands a probe of Victoria Police for failing to authenticate in a subsequent investigation a report by one of its detectives that the sexual abuse of children by priests in Ballarat has prompted 43 adult suicides. A shocking claim, it received much attention at the time and helped prompt two ongoing inquiries, one state and the other federal

Last month, The Australian reported an internal VicPol review had cast grave doubt on such a large, abuse-related death toll. That review can be read here or via the link at the foot of this post. Dubbed Operation Plangere, which is Latin for ‘lament’, the report lived up to its name in finding much to regret about  the initial investigation, noting that “it was not possible to identify 18 of the 43 people”. Further, while alluding to studies linking childhood sexual abuse with problems in latter life, the review observed that of the 25 know deaths “in only one death was the child sexual assault by a member of the Catholic clergy identified as a contributing factor in the motivations of the person for their death by suicide.”

What readers might have found interesting, and what an honest newspaper would have included in the author’s thumbnail biography at the foot of the article, is the fact that Ms Courtin is rather more than

“a doctoral researcher at Monash University’s law faculty, doing research into sexual assault and the Catholic Church”

The first thing worthy of attention would have been Ms Courtin’s ardent advocacy of the atheist cause, most particularly her 2013 keynote address to the annual general meeting of the Progressive Atheists.

The Age might also have included a pointer to a long Q&A, which it had earlier published, in which Courtin expressed the view that the shadowy fingers of papist intrigue were manipulating Australian politics at the highest levels.

Then there are the many pieces she has penned for The Conversation detailing the odium of Rome’s operatives in Australia. Of particular interest in gauging Ms Courtin’s viewpoint, this memoir of her unhappy stint as a pupil in a Catholic boarding school, where she reports being obliged to sleep with arms crossed on her chest as a protection against impure thoughts. It must have been quite a challenge because memories of nasty nuns and “the unfriendly ‘stomp stomp’ of their chunky, black, lace-up shoes” haunt her to this very day.

All very interesting and, one would think, certainly worth mentioning. But of greater interest might have been the information she imparted during an adulatory Q&A  with Fairfax interviewer Michael Short:

Without hesitation, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is manage the grief associated with the loss of my only child to adoption.

And why did she give up her child? In case you can’t guess, because she was single “and still very Catholic.”

A decent newspaper might have shared at least some of this background with its readers. Alas, it is a long time since the Age has matched that description. No doubt those Vatican schemers had something to do with its fall from grace.

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