Written by Kathy Clubb


It has been obvious for some time that the truth is being undermined at all levels of Australian society, from the startling epidemic of gender dysphoria to the ubiquitous phenomenon of fake news. Even those purporting to be committed to objective truth are oftentimes themselves the victims of relativism, handed on by generations of the ill-informed or malicious. There is only one place in which the fulness of the truth resides, and that is in the Church – at least, within her Magisterial teaching, even if it is not always present among her members.

Outside of this ultimate Truth, lies abound, and even institutions once dedicated to upholding the truth are breaking down. One of those institutions in the forefront of the minds of Catholics at this time is the legal system. Where once our citizens could be confident that they would be assumed innocent until proven guilty, our judicial process has come to be more like a game of Russian Roulette.

For example, the burden of proof required by apparent victims of abuse has been lowered to the point where it is now very easy to have innocent people convicted of the most heinous crimes, most especially when the accused is a Catholic priest.

Nowhere has this been more evident in recent months than in the case of George Cardinal Pell, whose shameful treatment has brought cries of condemnation from all parts of the globe. Every stage of his legal battle has been marked by lack of evidence, flawed logic, media hype and a concerted campaign to see the man behind bars, with little regard for the truth.

Yet, aside from the multiple, obvious flaws in his case – flaws which have been drawn out in minute detail in the concluding remarks of Appeals Court dissenting Justice Weinberg – it is well-known that innocent priests have been and are being convicted and imprisoned.

Only last year, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide was exonerated after winning his appeal against a conviction for concealing child abuse. He had served four months in home detention, but the media was strangely quiet about his release. In fact, news articles about his release numbered only a quarter of the articles published worldwide about his conviction.[1] Such a report didn’t serve the media’s ends of making every priest appear to be an abuser or at least, an enabler of abuse. Malicious journalists suppressed the truth about a case which was based on falsehoods.


Persecution in the arts

Discrimination against Christians, in the form of blasphemy and sacrilege, has become quite common, especially in the realm of the arts. Modern art has been offending the sensibilities of all those with common decency for decades, but has especially targeted Catholics through its crass representations and outright desecration. In the name of art, the ‘P*** Christ’ and other works have become famous, rather than infamous, symbols of a post-Christian age.

Just this month Griffith University displayed an outrageous sculpture, based on Michelangelo’s Pieta, which sacrilegiously depicted the Blessed Mother holding giant genitalia. The artwork drew criticism from many quarters – Catholics, non Catholics and agnostics alike – who agreed that it was universally offensive to both men and women, and without any artistic merit whatsoever. There is little doubt that a sacrilegious sculpture representing a different faith would not have been allowed on university grounds. Depicting Buddha or Mohammed engaging in an immoral act would be off-limits for the art world which unfortunately has no problem with disrespecting Christianity, especially Catholic Christianity.

Additionally, in the world of design, there is a trend towards integrating Catholic symbolism into both  the profane and the mundane. In a climate where imaginations have become jaded through constant exposure to the image, marketers are turning to blasphemy and the occult in order to draw the attention of consumers. Taboo and shocking imagery is being incorporated into marketing campaigns, with one company suggesting that “an organization can capitalize on the familiarity of religion while simultaneously appearing edgy.”[2]

Blasphemous paraphernalia can range from relatively tame crucifix-shaped flash drives to furniture shaped from giant crosses and impregnated with barbed wire, reminiscent of the Crown of Thorns. Pornographic sacrilegious photography abounds with calendars of ‘sensual priests’ (apparently Vatican-endorsed) and provocatively-dressed ‘nuns’, while statues of Mary and the saints painted to resemble super-heroes are marketed as kitschy home decor.

There has also been a proliferation in overtly satanic jewellery and tattoos and creepy photoshoots which often, and disturbingly, feature young children. A niche industry has developed among photographers, catering for pagans, witches and others who want eerie custom artwork for display in their homes. Death, abortion, goats heads and spell-casting rituals are common themes, while Catholic symbols such as crosses, candles and ecclesial fittings are the backdrops for these photographs, in a perverted nod to a religious upbringing or as an overtly satanic accessory.


Persecution in the life of the Church

Not only are truth and beauty being undermined or ignored: the good is also coming under direct assault. For Catholics, this means the sacraments: the most blessed gifts that Christ left for His people. They nourish us, wash us clean from sin and provide graces to make us holy enough to one day reach heaven.

But now both Victoria and Tasmania have enacted legislation that requires priests to break the seal of the confessional whenever child sexual abuse is revealed. Despite the many claims that this move will have no impact on curbing child abuse, the authorities have voted to mandate these shocking laws. In Tasmania, the maximum penalty for failing to report child abuse revealed in confession is 21 years in prison. In Victoria, the maximum penalty is far lower – three years – but this law has the added capacity of allowing victims to apply to the Supreme Court to have their compensation payments topped up. Thus victims can return for exponentially larger payments, calculated to bleed the Church dry of funds.

As far back as 2012, when the idea of violating the integrity of the confessional was first being seriously suggested in Australia, critics of such a move clearly saw the impact it would have on the Church. Professor Greg Craven, Vice-Chancellor of Australian Catholic University, expressed the situation,  “ … a law to break the seal of the confessional would be a law for the prohibition of Catholic priests and a law for the prohibition of Catholics.”[3]

This violation of the confessional seal fails to protect the one place on earth where man can bear his soul with confidence that nothing will be repeated. It is a place of intimate contact between creature and Creator, a place where a human being can see himself for what he really is. And in that same moment, he sees God for what He really is: merciful and loving. Violating the seal threatens this encounter and fundamentally threatens the spiritual life of every Catholic.


Who will stand up to this assault?

Scan the newspaper lately, or listen to the news and an unsettling reality jumps out from the pages. Where once, although it may have been unpopular, Catholicism was associated with formal worship, morality, and large families, the Church has now become synonymous with corruption and child abuse.

She has lost the high moral ground, and in every part of the country, anti-life laws flourish. The occasional bishops’ statements on euthanasia or abortion are swept away by currents demanding choice and rights, currents which insist that total personal autonomy is necessary if humans are to pursue their goals of materialism and pleasure.

And although Her voice is softer than it once was, and Her shepherds meeker than their office demands, the Catholic Church is nevertheless the rock around which such currents of modernity eddy, the only obstacle in a sea of compromise.

So is it any wonder that the Catholic Church seems headed for even greater persecution?

It is in times like these, when Her leadership has for the most part failed, that God raises up the most unlikely opponents of the prevailing culture, people like you and me who feel totally unprepared for battle. It is the destiny and the privilege of faithful Catholics to stem this tide of immorality by holding fast to our doctrine and practise.

“It was through the Apostles, some of whom were chosen from the poor fisherfolk of Galilee, that Jesus triumphed over paganism and converted the world to the Gospel, at the very moment when Israel in great part proved itself unfaithful. God can choose whomsoever he will without injustice to anyone.”[4]

Father John Harden SJ once famously said, “Only courageous Catholic families will survive!” God has placed us here in this age of a new persecution for His own reasons. We must trust His Divine Will and seek to serve Him with all our hearts and minds and souls.

[1] https://www.mercatornet.com/above/view/an-innocent-bishop-acquitted.-did-anyone-notice/22027
[2] https://www.trendhunter.com/trends/celebrating-the-cross-lounger
[3] http://www.abc.net.au/sundaynights/stories/s3635413.htm
[4] Fr. Reginald Garrirou-Lagrange, OP, Providence

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