The Royal Commission Into Child Sexual Abuse


Julia Gillard’s greatest triumph (her only one), The Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse published its 17-volume report today. As is usual with such reports there are a million recommendations written in the turgid style expected of such institutions.

The report will be noted, implemented and ignored as usual and the recommendations likewise.

One of the things I noted in the process was the arrogance and the contempt of the commissioners towards religious leaders from all denominations. Naturally this attitude comes out in the recommendations. Yes I read them all- I have no intention of reading the 17 volumes of the report, though.

So here are the notable recommendations relating to religious institutions:

Recommendation 7.3
State and territory governments should amend laws concerning mandatory reporting to child protection authorities to achieve national consistency in reporter groups. At a minimum, state and territory governments should also include the following groups of individuals as mandatory
reporters in every jurisdiction:
a. out-of-home care workers (excluding foster and kinship/relative carers)
b. youth justice workers
c. early childhood workers
d. registered psychologists and school counsellors
e. people in religious ministry.
Recommendation 7.4
Laws concerning mandatory reporting to child protection authorities should not exempt persons in religious ministry from being required to report knowledge or suspicions formed, in whole or in part, on the basis of information disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession.

Recommendation 16.9
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference should request the Holy See to amend the 1983 Code of Canon Law to create a new canon or series of canons specifically relating to child sexual abuse, as follows:
a. All delicts relating to child sexual abuse should be articulated as canonical crimes
against the child, not as moral failings or as breaches of the ‘special obligation’ of
clerics and religious to observe celibacy.
b. All delicts relating to child sexual abuse should apply to any person holding a ‘dignity, office or responsibility in the Church’ regardless of whether they are ordained or not ordained.
c. In relation to the acquisition, possession, or distribution of pornographic images, the delict (currently contained in Article 6 §2 1° of the revised 2010 norms attached to the motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela) should be amended to refer to minors under the age of 18, not minors under the age of 14.

Recommendation 16.18
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference should request the Holy See to consider introducing voluntary celibacy for diocesan clergy

Recommendation 16.44
Consistent with Child Safe Standard 5, each religious institution should ensure that all people in religious or pastoral ministry, including religious leaders, are subject to effective management and oversight and undertake annual performance appraisals.

Recommendation 16.48
Religious institutions which have a rite of religious confession for children should implement a policy that requires the rite only be conducted in an open space within the clear line of sight of another adult. The policy should specify that, if another adult is not available, the rite of religious confession for the child should not be performed.

In a democracy, the State is required to be separate from the Church (and other religious institutions). The State does not have the ability to tell religious groups what to do, or believe.

The Royal Commission thinks that it can tell the Conference of Bishops to tell the Vatican to change Canon Law. The Royal Commission thinks that it should tell churches how to conduct confessions. The Royal Commission thinks that it has the right to overturn centuries of Catholic practice to require priests to reveal what they are told in confidence in the confessional, despite the history of priests going to prison or even death rather than reveal a confession.

The Royal Commission thinks that it has the right to tell the Vatican that celibacy is a bad thing, despite the evidence that sexual violence is about abuse of power not about sexual frustration, and that the primary indicator of potential for abuse is unsupervised access to children.

The Royal Commission thinks lots of people should be “mandatory reporters”, including clergy, but not the one group which has the most access to children and often the most trust of children, teachers.

All these recommendations are all very well but in the end they won’t do much for the protection of children. You can have all the rules in the world and the truly evil person will get around them. You can tell priests that they can only hold confessions in the sight of another person, but the priest who is determined will make sure that the supervising adult is someone who supports his evil ways.

The best thing to come from the Royal Commission is the realisation that churches and other institutions that relate to children cannot cover up abuse or ignore it. Everything else is likely going to be just the usual bureaucratic bulldust requiring people to have policies and procedures documented.


“Messy Seniors”

Messy Church was started as a format for families and children, but really it’s for everyone.

‘Messy Seniors’ brings church to the people

The Rev. Heather Liddell shares the story of “Messy Seniors” at the Messy Church Canada Conference October 27 at Wycliffe College in Toronto. Photo: Joelle Kidd

Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Edmonton, Alta., thought Messy Church would be a perfect fit. The largest church in its diocese, Holy Trinity runs large children’s and youth programs and has an active congregation.

It seemed like a good idea. The all-ages monthly service centred around craft activities, storytelling and sharing a meal; kids and grown-ups enjoyed the biblical learning activities. “We built blanket forts in the sanctuary, we packed lunches for our trip with the three Magi,” recalled the Rev. Heather Liddell, associate curate at Holy Trinity, during a workshop she led October 27 at the Messy Church Canada Conference at Wycliffe College in Toronto, Ont.

While kids and families were a target audience of Messy Church, Liddell and her team tried intentionally to include single people, childless adults and seniors in the ministry.

Eventually, they noticed, these groups were far more interested in attending the Messy Church than the young families were. “We realized a traditional Messy wasn’t the best fit for our context when we admitted that every session was a struggle,” Liddell wrote in an email to the Anglican Journal. It was difficult to get volunteers, attendance was low and it was not uncommon for Liddell to be “up until the wee hours prepping crafts, alone…or cleaning up, alone.”

The team at Holy Trinity realized they had launched the program without thinking about who was in their community and who it was designed to serve.

To find out who actually lived in their community, Liddell said, the team pulled census data for the area. They were surprised to find that almost no kids lived nearby. “What we found was a lot of really lonely seniors,” Liddell told conference attendees.

The area is populated with retiree and assisted living homes. “We started asking the question, ‘What would Messy Church look like with them?’ ”

The answer to that question became Canada’s first Messy Church ministry directed toward senior citizens. (“Messy Vintage,” a U.K. initiative, offers something similar.)

“Messy Seniors” is held in a high-needs home for seniors with advanced cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Liddell hopes that other Messy Churches can be started in other seniors’ homes in their community.

Bringing the church into the care home was an exercise in contextualizing. Using the core values of Messy Church—Christ-centred, for all ages, creativity, hospitality and celebration—Liddell and her team adapted the program for a new setting.

The context had its challenges; care home rules prevent bringing in outside food, for example, meaning they were unable to follow the typical Messy Church model of eating a hot meal together. With so many attendees struggling with arthritis or failing eyesight, crafts that require dexterity or heavy reading were not ideal. However, because of Messy Church’s “free-flowing structure,” Liddell says, it was easy to adapt for different needs. What’s more, she says, it brought together children and seniors. “It is precisely that intergenerational piece that is so important and so often missing from our church’s [across the Communion] approaches to care for seniors.”

In fact, at the “Messy Seniors” Church, children lead the service as “trained volunteers.” Empowering children to lead the church activities “gives them the opportunity to interact with someone they wouldn’t have a chance to in their regular lives.”

“Is there any better picture of the kingdom of heaven than a little girl helping a wheelchair-bound man in his 90s—whose family is faraway and too busy to visit very often—tie knots (that his fingers are too arthritic to make) in a simple star mobile while talking about God’s promise to make Abraham’s descendants more numerous than the stars?”

One young girl who wasn’t sure she wanted to come because “old people are gross and smell funny,” “left walking on air and asking when she can come back,” Liddell said. “She is by far our best recruiter for volunteers.”

Our society, Liddell says, has “sequestered the aging process,” and children don’t get much chance to spend time with the elderly. “It is mostly a fear of the unknown—once kids start interacting with the elderly, they realize not only how fun they can be, but that they’re people, too.”

The Messy Church model, with its emphasis on hands-on activities and storytelling, is “fun, silly and familiar without being infantilizing,” says Liddell. With many residents in the care home struggling with memory and eyesight loss, hearing a familiar story, lovingly told, is precious.

“Life is messy, and getting older is difficult. It changes our perspectives any time we step out of our comfort zones and encounter a new aspect of life. It’s the same if you’re 6, 10, 25 or 90.”

The Same Sex Marriage Vote


We had our say, and the nation overwhelmingly voted “Yes” to same sex marriage. I am disappointed but not surprised.

What should Christians make of this?

Firstly, it should be a wake up call for anyone who maintains that Australia is a “Christian country.” It is not, and 60% of the population showed that they are not in favour of a strictly Christian society. Interestingly, the electorates where there was a majority “No” vote were those with a larger than average immigrant population- both Middle East and Asian.

Secondly, it should be a sign to the church that we need to be more intentional in missions. That is, we must take the message of Christ to the streets, to the workplace, to our neighbourhoods. There will be a temptation to withdraw from the public square, to sit in our comfortably padded pews and hope that nobody notices. Instead we need to get out and win hearts, minds and souls to the kingdom.

Thirdly we need to prepare for persecution for our beliefs. By that I don’t mean that Christians will be thrown into prison for being Christians. No it will be much more subtle than that. Human Rights Tribunals and other quasi-judicial bodies will prosecute individuals and groups who oppose the dominant narrative. If you dare to state that marriage should be between a man and a woman in any context other than a place of worship you may soon be liable to a complaint. If you think that is unlikely, consider the Bishop of Tasmania who was forced to appear before that state’s tribunal for publishing a booklet explaining the church’s position on marriage and supporting the current legal definition of marriage.

Finally we need to pray as never before. We must pray for our friends and neighbours to receive the gospel. People have been rejecting God for a couple of generations now and that trend is not showing any signs of being reversed. We live in a society that is increasingly narcissistic, because it is made up of people who think they are gods. We must repent of our own self-centredness and give ourselves anew to serving God and God alone.


Mike Willesee: A premonition, plane crash and testing miracles

From the ABC:

Mike Willesee: A premonition, plane crash and testing miracles


Veteran journalist Mike Willesee has revealed how miraculously surviving a plane crash changed his life forever, kick-starting a journey back to his Catholic faith.

It is this faith, and the support of his family, that has sustained Willesee through his current battle with throat cancer and a debilitating course of radiation therapy that ended only recently.

The legendary current affairs presenter and reporter was too unwell to attend his induction into the Australian Media Hall of Fame on Friday in Sydney.

In a pre-recorded acceptance speech he said: “To be a journalist, for me, has been a gift that just keeps on giving.”

If it wasn’t for an extraordinary twist of fate 20 years ago, Willesee’s career could have been cut short well before now.

In 1997 he and his cameraman Greg Low were about to board a twin-engine Cessna plane in Nairobi, Kenya, bound for Southern Sudan to film a documentary.

But before they took off, Willesee said he had a premonition the aircraft would crash.

“I couldn’t understand it. I had this fight in my own head before I got on the plane. How do I tell Greg that it’s going to crash?

“I don’t believe in premonitions. Did I believe it was going to crash? Absolutely.”

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

VIDEO: Everyone aboard the Cessna aircraft was unharmed. (ABC News)

The plane took off in a tropical downpour and shortly after began experiencing problems.

For Willesee, the experience was surreal.

“When it stalled, and it stopped for this one excruciating second and then started to spiral and go down, the only thought I could get out of my head was, ‘I was right’, which is pretty freaky.

“I said my first prayer to a God who I didn’t understand and whose existence I was quite unsure of.”

That wasn’t the end of the drama. When the aircraft finally settled, the pilot and the other two passengers got out as fast as they could, leaving Willesee and Low in their seats.

“Greg’s seat buckle was jammed because he had his camera on his lap and we thought the plane would explode and burn because of the noise and incredible amount of smoke.

“So I ran back into the plane and Greg freed himself as I got in and we got out.”

The plane crash was the start of a long journey back to the Catholic faith of his childhood.

“The plane crash changed me a lot,” Willesee said.

“It still took me I think maybe two years, for me to actually say there is a God.”

Read the full story here

Adam Piggott: The Art of Consistency and The Riot Act

Adam Piggott is not a christian, but here he nails the key to the christian life- consistency. Our growth generally does not come in big events (although we might get a high that helps to propel us forward), but in the daily plod of life, work, worship, quiet times, prayer, cell group. That might seem boring to many, but it’s being consistent day after day that grows in us the kingdom of God.

Adam Piggott writes:

The art of consistency and the riot act.

I am sure that my learned readers are familiar with Aesop’s fable of The Tortoise and the Hare. The hare is spectacularly advantaged over his opponent but it is the tortoise’s consistency which gets him over the line. To put it bluntly, the hare goofs off. To put it even more bluntly, the tortoise knew that the hare would good off which was why he challenged him to the race to begin with. Always know your opponent better than he does.

There are lots of lessons in that little fable but the one that I want to elaborate on today is the art of consistency. Consistency is to success in life what confidence is to success with women.

Right now I’m having the best results in the gym that I have ever had over the course of 30 years of lifting the weights. The program that I’m following is undoubtedly a big part of that, as is the fact that I am being so careful with my technique. But what has really nailed it for me is my consistency. The program states that I have to go three days a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and by God I’m going three days a week. Consistently.

The biggest gains that I’ve had, (moar gainz!), have been in the past four months, and it is no coincidence that this has coincided with my rigorous consistency. I followed this same program for almost a year in Australia but I was less consistent. Three days one week, then two days the next, then maybe back to three or it might have been just a single day. You get the idea. I didn’t see any of the gains that I’m getting now. Same program, same technique – less gains.

It’s the consistency, baby.

Back when I was teaching English in Italy, my greatest success story was a barber from a little mountain town with no real education to speak of. He decided to come along to a course and he didn’t have the imagination to second guess what I was teaching. He followed my directions to the literal letter. After six months I told him that he didn’t need my services any more. He wasn’t particularly intelligent but he was entirely consistent.

If I look back over my life, my greatest achievements have one common element to them – consistency. Whether it was learning the guitar, becoming a rafting guide, opening my own bar, learning Italian, publishing my first book, or any other goal or pursuit in which I excelled, being consistent was the difference between success and failure. Equally, if I consider where I failed then it was my lack of consistency that let me down.

This blog has become a success due to my consistency.

Last weekend I had occasion to discuss consistency with someone. This young guy has spent 2017 turning his life around. At the start of the year he was a dope smoking loser with a girlfriend that sponged off him and he was close to getting fired from his job due to his lack of commitment, an outcome that would not have been unfamiliar to him. Nine months later and he has jettisoned the girlfriend, completely abandoned the drugs, is killing it at the same job, and is tearing it up on the football field.

His consistency has been a big part of his success but yesterday I needed to remind him of that. Because there was talk of him maybe needing to go traveling, to lie in the sun somewhere; after all, he “deserved” it.

It’s all too easy to wander off track when you’re on the mundane journey known as adult life. After all, what could the harm be? The little voice in your head convinces you that you’re wasting your time anyway. Surely it would be better to be off somewhere having fun. The trouble is, this guy spent the past ten years doing exactly that. But now that he’s finally seeing some success for the first time in his adult life, he wants to slip back into the past behaviors. It’s all too easy to do.

But we had a good talk and I got him back on track. Sometimes that’s what you need; a reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing. The thing is, I wonder where I’d be now if I’d had an older guy to talk things over with and help me stay on track when I needed it. To read me the riot act when I needed to hear it.

Because that’s what we need sometimes; the riot act. No soft words or subtle anecdotes carefully interspersed so as to not cause offense. Cause offense, for God’s sake. Give them a verbal slap around the ears.

One of the things that young guys need to understand is consistency. You’re jealous of the guy with lots of money and nice toys? Most of the time it comes down to hard work, not taking no for an answer, and consistency. Twenty years of that and you’re looking at a solid base. A fortress of solitude. If I had my time over again I would be more consistent.

But who I am kidding? I’ve got loads of opportunity to be consistent right now. Learning Dutch, finishing my next book, finding the right house in the right part of Holland, setting up a new business; it’s all going to come down to consistent effort.

And another cup of coffee.

Messy Church

An awesome time at New Life this morning as we ran our first- ever Messy Church service.

The service was based on The Parable of the Wedding Feast, or in my version, Wedding Guests Behaving Badly. See Matthew 22:1-14. We had activities for all ages including craft, colouring, drama, food preparation, a wedding quiz and a reflection station.

Everyone had a great time and experienced the power of this parable in a different way than just the normal worship format.

You can find more pictures at Google Photos

Evil in Las Vegas


In Las Vegas yesterday, 22000 people went to a country music concert, and 58 of them died in an awful shooting incident. One man in the space of minutes ended the lives of 58 ordinary people, and injured hundreds of others.

In another part of the United States, singer and songwriter Tom Petty died unexpectedly, possibly of a heart attack.

Did any of these people expect to die at this time? They were just going about every day life, not expecting that “every day life” was about to stop.

None of us knows when our time on earth is about to end.

The decisions we make now determine our destiny in eternity. Only those who sincerely follow Jesus will be allowed into God’s kingdom.

In 2 Corinthians 6:2 Paul says, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” 

We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we can reach out to God today and receive His salvation. If you have never asked Jesus to forgive your sins do that today.  Then ask Him for the grace to live His way, and join a church where people will be able to help you grow in Him.