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John Passant

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November 2012



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Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

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Power, police and paedophile priests

Roberto Laudisio Curti died when a large group of police tried to subdue him after he stole a packet of biscuits. He was high on a third of a tab of LSD and was psychotic.

A large number of police chased and caught Curti. He was tasered 14 times and sprayed with more than two cans of capsicum spray.

The coroner, Mary Jerram, said that the actions of the police had been thuggish, out of control and excessive and that they had acted ‘like schoolboys in the Lord of the Flies.’ She said that it was ‘impossible to believe that he would have died, but for the actions of police.’

The coroner recommended police disciplinary action against five of the officers involved. The family have called for criminal charges to be laid against some of the police, one of whom has been promoted to Inspector since Curti’s death.

Of that man the Coroner said ‘His failure to maintain any objectivity or sensible leadership, quite apart from the unreliability of his evidence, is abhorrent.’ Obviously just the sort of person you want as an Inspector.

The response of police has to be seen in context. Police are effectively a law unto themselves. They enforce the law.

Their role in capitalist society is in part to keep the working class under control and make sure workers are fit to turn up to work and do turn up to work.

That means for example stopping them stealing, or taking recreational drugs that might affect their regular attendance and output at work. It means protecting the private property of the rich.

And it means, sometimes, chasing after the event the physical attacks, rapes and murders that occur under the deeply alienated society we live in. As many rape victims would know the victim becomes the guilty party, an expression of the system and its police of the deep sexism embedded in it and them.

This social control role police exercise gives them powers that ordinary citizens do not have. They seemingly have a higher place in society than the rest of us, caught as we workers are in the powerlessness that is capitalist society.

The use of that power, and the ideas of superiority, and the infrequent prosecution of police, makes them seem invincible and untouchable. They are a state within a state.

The fact that they are divorced from the west of society alienates them from the alienated.

We are their enemy. Police abuse – Aborigines and drunken or drug taking young men come to mind – is an expression of both their sense of superiority, their position as above the law and their alienation from the rest of us.

Curti’s death wasn’t an accident. It was an expression of a system which elevates a section of society to be above the law.

The same is true of the Catholic Church. It is a powerful institution under capitalism.

Prompted by revelations in a Victorian Inquiry and a proposed Hunter region one in New South Wales of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and others in the Church, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a royal commission into child sexual abuse. This is something victim groups have been campaigning for for some time, although some are concerned that the wide nature of the enquiry, rather than just focusing on the Catholic Church, might reduce the scrutiny of the Church.

It s not sectarianism that puts the Catholic Church at the forefront of any investigation. As father Kevin Dillon from St Mary’s Parish in Geelong told the 7.30 Report:

Certainly there’s no doubt that this goes across different organisations and different denominations and within the wider community. But there’s also no denying that we’re the clubhouse leaders by far and that pains me to say that, but we can’t run away from that. That’s the facts of the case and some of the details of events that are emerging, say within the Victorian parliamentary inquiry, are – they’re more than disturbing, they’re horrific.

Detective inspector Peter Fox is a New South Wales policeman who has investigated abuse by priests for years. He has claimed that the Catholic Church ‘… covers up, silences victims, hinders police investigations, alerts offenders, destroys evidence and moves priests to protect the good name of the Church.’

So Gillard has moved and called the Royal Commission; its full terms of reference are as yet not decided upon.

According to the latest census figures almost 25% of Australians profess to be Catholic, although the number who practise is much lower.

The Church in Australian society has traditionally been the outsider. The Irish Catholic heritage and its implantation in the working class made it a natural enemy of the almost exclusively Protestant ruling class.

This found political expression in part in the unions and the Labor Party. But together with sometimes impressive radical political activity went the most conservative social views of society.

Over time Catholics became more intertwined with the ruling class as exploiters of labour rather than like trade unions as the retailers of labour power and the political expression of that intermediate class position in the ALP.

Today for example Tony Abbott is leader of the Liberal Oppositon and Joe Hockey shadow Treasurer.

Abbott in the past might have been in the Catholic wing of the ALP, or the breakaway Democratic Labor Party, although his New South Wales background might have kept him in Labor.

Indeed his admiration for Bob Santamaria whose extirpation of capitalism was only surpassed by his fear of Stalinism, makes Abbott, I would have thought, a rather interesting experiment as Liberal leader. Abbott for example was the only cabinet member to oppose Howard’s Work Choices. Maybe the ghosts of Santamaria have been exorcised. We shall see.

During the period of the Church as ruling class outsider, coupled with its unnatural ideas of celibacy and guilt ridden original sin, the closeness of the congregation and its empowerment of the priestly order gave real power to those in the priesthood.

Like the monarchy, they are powerful because ordinary people invest them with power. This can make them untouchable within their own community. So some might exercise that power by abusing children and believing their role and position protect them from investigation.

As the Church became more integrated into and accepted within the ruling class that feeling of power only increased. Not only was it the case that they felt immune within their own communities they felt immune within wider society.

In Ireland – and yes I know Australia is not Ireland but there are similarities – an inquiry into the abuses by the Catholic Church found that rape and sexual molestation were endemic in Catholic industrial schools and orphanages.

As the Ryan report says ‘Corporal punishment in girls’ schools was pervasive, severe, arbitrary and unpredictable and this led to a climate of fear amongst the children.’

The report condemned the Church for moving on abusers from one parish to another. The safety of children was not a consideration. 

In other words the abuse and violence was systemic. The institutions were a state within a state, above the law.

The problems are systemic and require systemic solutions, not band-aids. All capitalism can give us, given the importance of the police and religion to the system and the power they have, is band-aids and Royal Commissions.

Until the privileged position and power of the police and priests is overthrown there will be more deaths and injuries at the hands of police and ongoing abuse of children by priests and others.



Comment from Mary
Time November 15, 2012 at 1:47 am

I have no confidence in an inquiry where the PM has the say in who shall be on such a committee. The PM is surrounded by toto many Catholics. This dreadful crime has been going on for years yet no government has addressed it. The RC church refuses to look at the causes because they promote celebacy which is an unnatural state for a man. How can a priest advice couples when they lack experience? It is a relion based on fear and fear has been used on children. Are we such as sick society and why is that so? These are the things that should be researched otherwise this will continue until it is detected in future.

Comment from Ewen
Time November 15, 2012 at 12:32 pm

The abuse of children in the care of religious institutions is totally unforgivable. These poor children go in as innocents and emerge with fractured minds and a ruined future. I believe both celibacy and power to be the root cause of the abuse. The deprivation of the clergy to live normal lives with a loving partner must be a key factor in their unforgivable behaviour. Rosa Luxemburg explains the reasons for celibacy very well in her writings; “Socialism and the Churches”, where celibacy was formulated into law to keep accumulated wealth within the church and not be dispersed into the hands of their patrimony. I agree, the churches are protected by the wealthy class, they are in bed with each other and protected by the police.

Comment from ross
Time November 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm

They have to get the police out of their ROBO Cop uniforms and make them seem more human to the public.

Of course society is going to fall apart when the masses get screwed by tax,debt and fewer job propects.

Notice how attention is being shifted to home grown terrorism.Howard’s sedition laws are just like Bush’s Parriot Act.They negate Habious Corpus.If you get defined as being a terrorist you have no rights.

A few months ago I was at a local Hotel with my family.8 police showed up with 2 sniffer dogs.A couple of people bolted for the toilets.It was like watching a Gestapo movie.

My son just a week ago witnessed 6 police and two Bus inspectors giving bus passengers a hard time.Is it all about making us fearful of authority?

The real criminals have all the guns and do regular driveby shootings but there is no money in arresting criminals.Much better to screw the masses for minor offences.

Comment from Kay
Time November 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm

The behaviour of the police leading to the death of young Roberto Curti was appalling. Equally appalling that one of the the officers involved that night should be promoted. But this does not represent the behaviour of ALL police.

You are going a bit far when you claim that “Their role in capitalist society is in part to keep the working class under control and make sure workers are fit to turn up to work and do turn up to work.” News to me! I didn’t think not turning up to work, or not being fit to turn up to work, was a criminal offense!!

As for their role in “protecting the private property of the rich.” I thought they protected the private property of the workers as well. After, most such crime occurs in ordinary working class suburbs, and the preferred objects of theft are computers, electronics, money – anything that can be easily sold on at the local pub etc. “The rich” probably have better security systems, making their homes much more secure. I would imagine “the rich” are less bothered by petty crime than are ordinary workers.

And as for your extravagant claim that “We are their enemy.”- who are “we”? Are you a law-breaker? I have certainly appreciated the help of the police when our home was twice burgled – old TVs, CDs, jewellery of no great monetary value but great sentimental value, a crappy computer etc..

But I am glad you acknowledge the efforts of Detective Inspector Peter Fox in highlighting the pattern of abuses by priests, and of the Catholic Church’s appalling pattern of lies, obfuscation and cover-ups.

I do tend to agree with both Mary and Ewen that celibacy is an unnatural way of living. That, combined with the clergy’s unchallenged access to children because of the trust given to them by the Church’s followers, has no doubt combined to create many of these problems.

It is about time the whole subject was exposed to the light of day. A good move by Julia Gillard. Certainly, the Catholic Church is by far the worse offender in this regard.

Comment from Gypsy
Time November 18, 2012 at 11:28 am

When I was a young child, approximately 9 years of age, I was taken before the children’s court, declared a ward of the state and was placed in an institution (Turana Boys Home). Prior to being placed in a boys home which I add was not for committing any crime/s I lived in a loving family home with my mother and siblings. Our father worked as a cook in the Merchant Navy thus he was away from the family for long periods

The children court deemed it was too hard for mum to raise 5 young children on her own and unfortunately I was the only one taken.

Up until the point of being taken from the family I was an innocent child like many other children but all that changed the day I was taken and put in boy’s homes.

From Turana boys home I was transferred to the Salvation Army boys home number 2 at the Basin in Victoria.

On my first night at the Salvation Army boys home I was raped by Envoy Collins a Salvation Army officer employed to care for the children at the home, this occurred regularly until the next lot of children arrived.

When my family visited I told them the pain and suffering I experienced at the hands off Envoy Collins when being raped regularly. Unfortunately my family did not believe me as they considered a religious officer would not or could not do such a deed.

At the termination of the visit mum mentioned to Major Francis, the officer in charge of the home what I had told her and was told by Major Francis that the children often made up stories and lied, mum believed his explanation.
After all the visitors had left the premises I was severely punished and belted by Major Francis, Envoy Collins and Captain Erickson and the other children at the home were told all their privileges had been revoked because of me so the other children began bashing and abusing me.

My life of innocence had come to an end and a new life began which was a life of fear of authorities and I was afraid to not comply with any instructions they ordered me to do.

Upon being released from Salvation Army Boys home I became an easy target for Police who would arrest me and order me to sign statements admitting to crimes which I had not done or had knowledge of. I would appear before childrens courts and be returned to institutions, which in fact were really schools of crime.

I learned criminal activities in those homes and each time upon being released would meet up with other children I had met in those institutions, who had also been released and commit crimes with them. This pattern in my life continued up until late 1989 when I successfully rehabilitated myself. I am now 63 years of age. Rehabilitation has not been an easy task and at times the Police try and intimidate me in the hope they can clean up their books of unsolved crimes.

One of peoples greatest hurdles in life is discrimination which is used against all of us in one form or another.

I have discovered that our governments and the media work in together to divide and conquer the people and the police and courts are used as tools to enable this to occur.

Understanding this has enabled my understanding and achievement in self rehabilitation.

Most of my free time is constructively used in research, learning and understanding. I know I cannot change the past but I can be instrumental in the future.

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