Image: “Tommy” Campion
Allan Kitchingman (see previous posting), still fondly known by some as “Kitch”, was to be the focus of the third “case study” by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Kitchingman, 81, remains an ordained priest, although relieved of parish duties, despite being convicted for offences against children at the North Coast Children’s Home (see previous posting) in the New South Wales town of Lismore.
It was all going to look very bad for the Anglican Church, known elsewhere as the Episcopalian Church or the Church of England, for the cover-ups associated with his case. When Kitch was first convicted, in 1968, of a “child sex matter” (as the church referred to paedophilia) in Newcastle, his Bishop, James Housden, immediately transferred him to Grafton.
Housden organized the transfer because he was ‘‘anxious to help him [Kitchingman] in every way possible whatever the result of the trial’’. He wrote that Kitchingman had ‘‘a real flair for work among young people”, so he ended up as “chaplain” at the children’s home. There he committed the crimes, in 1975, for which he was convicted many years later.
The cover-up by Bishop Housden was so complete, that the court was not aware of the 1968 conviction, when it heard the case concerning the 1975 offences.
Now, this case alone should have convinced anybody that the Anglican Church was in the same basket as the Catholic Church when it came to cover-ups. It will also be revealed later in the present hearings that it acts the same when considering compensation and support for victims as well.
The Anglican Church has about an equal market share in the religious industry in Australia, of about 25%, as the Catholic Church. As any marketing person will point out, in a situation like this it is important to have a clear “product differentiation” factor.
The “men of god” angle, for the Catholic Church, is all of its “good works” with the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged. For the Anglicans, it is its “liberal” approach to social issues such as abortion, divorce, gay rights and, last but not least, women’s equality. In the past, it has ordained both gay and female priests.
Former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, once quipped that, when being pursued by the “dogs of the media” it was effective to “throw sausages in the other direction.” He was a master of deflection. Mr. Keating would have been proud, in a professional sense, at how effectively the Anglican Church has followed his lead. It was a master-stroke by Archbishop Aspinall (see previous posting) which would have done any political media advisor proud.
So what did Aspinall do?
Why, he had his underling announce, on the eve of the hearings, that the Anglican Church had appointed the first female Bishop in Australian history. Aspinall’s new bishop, Sarah Macneil, played the “look what we’re doing for women” role to the hilt, by declaring that she had “broken through the stained-glass ceiling”. One must assume that bishop Macneil thought of this herself, and was not just repeating something Aspinall’s public relations consultants came up with.
Better still, Macneil would replace Keith Slater (see previous posting), who had to resign earlier in the year over his handling of the North Coast Children’s Home case. Clearly, things will surely be O.K. in the future, now that a woman is in charge.
The media lapped it up, especially the political-correctness people at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Reportage on this event eclipsed that on the Children’s Home abuse. Even Google news, under a single heading, carried more stories on Macneil than on victim witness, “Tommy” Campion (see previous posting. Tommy has his own web-site at http://www.tommycampion.com/)
Of course, Ms. Macneil deflected the occasional probe by the occasional journalist, about the timing of the announcement. Asked whether the announcement was “stage –managed”, Macneil said the selection and vetting process meant that her appointment was finalized only last week. She said the Anglican Church had been in a “real bind” about the “confluence of events”.
“Life is like that, celebrating one event cannot be done in splendid isolation from the harsh realities,” she philosophized. “Life gets messy. We could have delayed it, but it would have leaked out.”
Somebody at some PR firm, somewhere, is in for a large bonus this Christmas.
[Postscript: Anglican Primate of Australia, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, will now appear before the Royal Commission during this hearing. Some politicians may want the phone number of his PR firm.]
Read more here:
TOMORROW: What Tommy said
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)