Image source: myniceprofile.com
Anglican Church officials, and their lawyers, have a lot to smile about. The third “case study” hearings of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse have gone their way a lot. It began with the stage-managed “resignation” of ex-bishop Slater after “counseling” by Archbishop Aspinall (see yesterday’s extra posting) earlier in the year, and went on to the “surprise” announcement of Australia’s first female bishop on the eve of the hearings.
Yesterday, church lawyer, Philip Roland, had to be cautioned, twice, by Counsel Assisting the Commission, Simeon Beckett, for smiling a lot during evidence. Today’s witness, disgraced ex-bishop of Grafton, Keith Slater, pre-empted Mr. Beckett by declaring that he, also, would be smiling a lot while giving evidence. He said he made the comment “because Mr. Roland had been criticized for smiling while giving evidence.”
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The evidence would include a “sincere” apology for all the terrible things he did to the many victims who approached him about the abuses they suffered at his dioceses North Coast Children’s Home. He would be smiling, not because of disrespect for the victims and the enquiry, but because it was just his “personality” and he should not be “judged” for it.
Mr. Slater had smiled at inappropriate times during his first day of evidence on Monday, so on the second day, he began by indicating he would be doing even more smiling. He told the enquiry that “I was aware, after the session yesterday that I had been smiling at various points. I recognize the gravity and seriousness of the matters that are before us…. But smiling is very much a part of the interaction with the person with whom I am speaking. I apologize in advance if I may seem to smile at times which are not appropriate.”
At the end of his evidence he gave another apology. It went like this: “I can’t make a public apology on behalf of the Diocese of Grafton because I’m no longer the Bishop of the Diocese.” [smile] “So I want to express my deep sorrow to those who were abused.” [smile] “I fell short, very short, in my oversight of the protocol and processes that were required.” [smile] “I am personally totally humiliated in myself.” [smile]
“I want to express my deepest and most profound apologies to any persons upon whom this has impacted.” [smile, smile, smile]
Speaking outside the commission hearing, victim “Tommy” Campion (see previous posting) said he remained unimpressed by the bishop’s apology, which “should have been done years ago. What sort of emotion did he have in his voice? He just rattled it off like it was written for him,” said Mr Campion, not smiling.
[Postscript: A survey of over 1000 people, by The Australian Communities Report, found that more than three-quarters of respondents said church abuse was a “massive” or “significant” negative influence on their attitudes towards Christianity and church. No smiling matter.]
Read more here:
TOMORROW: Slater and Ezzy
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)