Royal Commission deserves neither blind faith nor sanctified mistrust


Could a practising Catholic do a good, honest job of chairing the Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care and Faith-based Institutions?


To disqualify chairman Sir Anand Satyanand simply on the basis of his own faith, rather than any deeds, would be to indulge intolerance.

The church has far too often been a place of abuse and scandalously sustained cover-ups of it. But we are not entitled to assume that corruption is so profound, so inherent, that no Catholic could be relied upon to confront it.

Of course Catholicism or religion aren’t the only sort of faith that is relevant here.

It matters hugely that abuse survivors have faith as well – faith that in stepping forward with their so-often harrowing accounts of betrayal and denial, they will be given a decent hearing.

Yet we go too far if we decide that to be able to accept this inquiry is being conducted with integrity, it’s best to assume that Sir Anand doesn’t have any.

These are painful times when most of the nation is acutely aware of the harm that can be done making generalised assumptions carelessly linking people of any faith to the worst behaviours of those who profess to share that religion, but in truth debase it.

It has emerged that when his Catholicism became an issue Sir Anand, who is a former Governor General and before that a judge, tendered his resignation from the commission.

But Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin didn’t accept it. She has a fair point that when he was appointed, the inquiry was to focus only on state care. He was the one who recommended it be widened also to include faith-based institutions.

While this was hardly a bolt-from-the-blue idea that hadn’t occurred to anyone else, it was a good, necessary extension.

Martin gets a little point-scorey when she adds, rhetorically, that any atheist on the commission could be said to be compromised too – presumably on the assumption that they would be biased in the other direction and have it in for the churches.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that she resisted the fatuous line that since the inquiry also deals with abuses of those under state care, there could hardly be a more compromised chairman than the man who as Governor General personally represented our head of state, the Queen. Continue reading

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