A Close Look at Anglican Primate Phillip Aspinall (Or: Teflon Wears Off Eventually)


Image: Christa and Phillip Aspinall and Phillip and Merle Newell (Photo: Rene Marcel, Diocese of Brisbane; http://www.tasmaniananglican.com/ta200512-23/)

Phillip Aspinall, head of the Anglican Church in Australia, is very much smarter than his Catholic counterpart, George Pell. For a start, Aspinall has a string of degrees from computer science to theology to a Masters in Business Administration and a PhD. in education. More importantly, he is much cleverer in his handling of his church’s poor record in handling its abusers.

He does have the advantage of having fewer natural enemies than the Catholic Church, because of a more liberal approach to many social issues. He is married, to a medical practioner, and has children. He has ordained female clergy and does not oppose gays and lesbians. He adopts a pro-boat people position, etc. This gives him a lot of free air when it comes to his poor response to child sexual abuse by his clergy, and associated cover-ups. The left largely leaves him alone, while the right supports his establishment credentials.

His church has had its share of abusers and cover-ups, including allegations against Aspinall himself, but the “Teflon Primate” had has little adverse publicity (see previous postings). This is because, partly, that he is infinitely more aware of public relations principles than is George. While George rants and rails, Phil drools syrup.

The good Primate also does not skimp on legal advice. His principal church lawyer advising him is none other than the Chief Justice of Queensland’s Supreme Court.

Aspinall is the master of having a bet both ways. He will appear to give support to marriage equality by saying it is not a threat to his church, while still opposing it in his church. He will say there is probably nothing wrong about the boy who wanted to take another boy to the school formal at Brisbane’s leading Anglican Boys’ school (of which he is chairman), while still banning him doing so.

He will oppose moves to have his church abolish the statue of limitations clauses in the law for reporting child abuse, but say that it is because this would let the baddie insurance companies off the hook for responsibility, somehow.

He says that priests should probably report abuse revealed in the confessional, but goes on to say that his priests rarely hear confessions, abusers do not confess, and he is not yet sure what his own response would be to hearing such a confession.

He sells his church residence in the prime suburb of Ascot, Bishopsbourne (for a record price for a Brisbane property), to upgrade to a more modern residence, involving a $2.6 million renovation (see previous posting) but gets applause because the difference in price is to be spent on “good works” by the church.

He opposed the Howard government’s “workchoices” program in the Health Service’s Union newsletter, on the basis of protecting workers against unfair dismissal. However, there is currently a case before the courts, involving the former Director of Anglican Education, Peta Smith, which accuses Aspinall of workplace bullying. It involved assertions that Ms. Smith was in a lesbian relationship. Aspinall unsuccessfully applied to have the case not heard by the courts. The court ruling was that Ms. Smith’s complaints were “about sexual harassment and discrimination, discrimination on the basis of sexuality and victimization.”

He thus is proficient at appearing to be all things to all people.

Those who have claims against the Anglican Church should be aware that having the Royal Commission make findings against Aspinall’s church does not necessarily mean that Aspinall will not be able to weasel his way out of responsibility. He will just go on about how useful the Royal Commission findings were in helping his existing program to rid his poor church of the scourge of child abuse and so on.

The only way to counter Teflon is to scratch it away so that things will indeed stick. Aspinall will need a lot of scratching, but it is possible, eventually, to reveal the base metal beneath.

Read more here:

TOMORROW: Aspinall’s underlings

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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