Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant the accuracy of closed captions. These are derived automatically from the broadcaster's signal.
Big Ideas -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) (Laughs) And that's the hall! It's open-air. All the shearers were in town, and we
couldn't find a hotel to stay in. We had to sleep in the place we
played - we had to sleep in the hall.

So Victor decided he'd buy a caravan. Look at Ron - he's dust and crap
all over his face. (Laughs) There's the Hudson. He's bought a bloody caravan! We all refused to stay in it, anyway. It was too bloody hot! He had to sleep in it on his own. (Laughs)

Ah, God. Crash!

Apparently one of those big
willy-willies blew up and these guys
couldn't see each other.

And there's a local cop.
'How you going, fellas?'

'Geez, you guys must play
the rock and roll, eh? I've heard about youse blokes.'

That's the bulldust - it gets in
your hair, in your ears, in all your clothes. That's the whole trip.

Ah, so now it's getting green again.
Thank God we've hit the coast!

We lived at Ellis Beach
for the next three days. Nobody would sleep in the caravan,
except Victor.

So I had to go up every morning
to get a coconut for breakfast.

It was a tough life! (Laughs)

Closed Captions by CSI

This Program is Captioned Live

# Theme music

Hi. Welcome to Big Ideas.
I'm Waleed Aly.

Where now for the Catholic Church?

We've just begun national hearings
into abuse

within institutions
like the Catholic Church. The daily and weekly reports
from these hearings paint a bleak picture of cruelty
and extraordinary denial. Couple that with the recently
published Quarterly Essay by David Marr titled, The Prince:
Faith, Abuse and George Pell and you'd be left wondering
how this institution that is
the Australian Catholic Church might recover and rebuild
after decades of child sexual abuse and decades of protection
of the abusers. In the session - Papal Bull:
Where Now for the Catholic Church - Irish writer Colm Toibin,
writer and commentator Morag Fraser and academic Peter Horsfield talk to Age journalist Barney Zwartz about whether reform is possible
within the Church following the global crisis
of sexual abuse and where the new Pope
might be headed. We recorded this session at
the Melbourne Writers Festival. We want to talk about the role and
future of the Catholic Church today. So, I would like to open with
a question to the panel about the central role
that the Church has taken in the cultural life of the west, obviously for
centuries and centuries. As we now enter what many are
calling a post-Christian age what cultural role
does the Church still have and what role should it have? And, I'll open with you, Colm,
if I might. I think we've got to be careful
in talking about the Church in case we connect the Church
to spirituality and say that in our differences
with the Church we are having an argument also
with the nature of spirituality, or with the elements of spirituality. I'm saying this today
with a sort of - with a sort of odd need and urgency because it was announced yesterday - And when I use the phrase,
it's a hard phrase to use when it means something,
but it means something now - I think with profound sadness of
the death of Seamus Heaney in Ireland and the enormous shock
in the society. And when I say this, I don't
just mean people who love poetry, I mean the entire island of Ireland. He stood for something very special. He didn't make many public speeches, he didn't have great utterances
on affairs of the day, he really stuck to his art. He cared about poetry and he understood that poetry could
matter in a place like Ireland and in the world. And in what he proposed
to do with language, to be scrupulous,
to be tactful and then to be brave. To offer a vision of the world
where - as he said himself - he would end up
crediting the miraculous. He would allow in - especially
in middle age - into his work the idea that anything could happen. Because anything could happen
in the imagination. That language could
lead you anywhere. And therefore our time in the world is not merely our time
in a material space, it is a time in which
just the idea of language, the idea of love, the idea of memory, and just the idea of
honourably managing in the world, that those things lead you
inwards as much as outwards and the inwardness can lead to very
strange and interesting moments. And that in his work he offered - not in any clear opposition
to the Catholic Church because he would have
shrugged about the idea of being a sort of lay priest - but somehow or other
that body of work - and not only that
but the life lived in making it - offer a sort of example to everyone about if you're getting involved in an argument with, say,
the Catholic Church, be very, very careful that you yourself are not betraying
things that matter to you enormously such as your own
particular spirituality. So, you just have to be very careful
in the terms you use and in the anger you have and in how that's directed and to make sure that
it doesn't do immense damage to you and that you don't make the terms
of the argument so simple that you end up missing out
on what really matters. Morag.

Gosh.

It's hard to... ..to talk. I'm still thinking about what
Colm was saying about Seamus Heaney and about the way art
has been permeated by Western Judeo-Christianity and the way it has operated
in reverse too.

It's so hard to escape.

Let me personalise this

and say much of my life
has been directed by works of art that came out of, I would say,
largely a Christian but also a Judeo-Christian
tradition. And they've been
shaping elements for me, as I'm sure they have been
for hundreds of thous- millions - of people. I was very well taught at school
by nuns but also by an inspired
English teacher who introduced me to
Geoffrey Chaucer. Now we don't think of Chaucer
primarily as a 'Christian writer' but of course he was soaked,
absolutely soaked, in Christianity. But what I derived from that, and I think what many derived from
reading him - reading Shakespeare indeed although he's a different
and more complex case - morally more complex case - from Chaucer was a sense that
it's a mistake ever to try and end-stop human beings, to write about them as though
you understand them completely. There's something always there - in Christian terms you'd say there were redemptive
possibilities in all humans or you might just say people are
too mysterious to actually understand and that is so strong
in that wonderful, wonderful poetry - that sense that there's
just another step. And he was such an artist that
he could actually - he could give you the shimmer
of that other step, that bit of the other human that
you just don't understand so you therefore cannot make
definitive judgments about. And there's so much in art
that works like that - it's questioning. Great music - if you listen to
Mozart, listen to Cosi Fan Tutte, that's an opera that
constantly asks questions. They're musical questions but they're also questions
about humanity. So you asked us about
Western culture, Barney, and Christianity,
and I'd say Judeo-Christianity - Too large a question to answer. We can come down to very specific
things about the Catholic Church, but I just wanted to give
a general sense of how important that tradition
has been to so many of us and particularly to me. But also, to echo what Colm's saying about being very careful
to make a distinction between an institutional church
which is profoundly troubled, quite clearly, and is at a stage where
it must change or it will die. It's at an evolutionary stage, and I would say probably at
one of those moments of opportunity when you've got a crisis
and things really do have to change. Our whole attitude to sexuality
and to male celibacy - all of those sorts of things. But it's important to hold onto the exploratory aspects of
that Christian tradition that have led us to think of other
human beings as both sacred but also impossible to
understand and to finally judge. It is a big question. Catholicism and Christianity has been basically intermeshed
with Western culture to the extent that you really can't
look at any aspect of Western culture without finding Catholicism
and Christianity there - whether it's art, music, education,
national laws. But I think it's an ambiguous legacy. You really had no option except to identify the artistic works
you did with Catholicism. It wasn't necessarily the hierarchy, it was people who had no option
but to be Catholic who produced the artworks
and the architecture, and things like that. So it is an ambiguous connection. I think the other
interesting thing is that it's - we can look at what Catholicism
has produced that isn't Catholicism to also get an idea of the legacy. One - It was largely in reaction to the political manipulation
and domination of the Catholic and also
Protestant churches in the modern era that produced the whole movement
of secularisation and the Western Enlightenment. So it was the domination of religion that led people to try to find
an alternative way to think and to organise themselves to get away
from the destructiveness of it. So I think it's a mixed
and ambiguous legacy.

Some of that comes out in your book,
The Testament of Mary, Colm - the ambiguous nature of religion
and the religious impulse. I've just finished it,
it's a powerful and compelling book. But as I read it, I asked myself -
what led you to write this? What impelled you to want
to give Mary a voice in this way? I'm very interested - there's a translation
of the gospels by EV Rieu and I've such a dull and boring life
now that I found myself one evening
not only reading this, but reading the introduction to it. And a sentence in it jumped at me,
where he said Saint John had possibly
read Aeschylus. So I got rid of 'had possibly'
and 'read' and I imagined Saint John
in a Greek theatre - and he certainly was in Greece - and seeing Medea, seeing Electra,
seeing...um, Antigone, and realising the extraordinary
force with which those women operated arising from pain and grief
and powerlessness that the power came into their voice, And I realised if - that he had in fact grafted that on
in the images he made in his gospel to the story of New Testament, to placing -
as Matthew, Mark and Luke didn't - he placed the mother of Jesus
at the foot of the cross as a pleading figure. And that act actually changed
everything - certainly for Catholics it did. And certainly if you were
a Renaissance painter,

if you were a Titian,
if you loved painting robes,

if you loved the Assumption
and angels,

this image of the pleading figure
who became -

the powerless, pleading figure
who became queen of heaven

really did fill people's imagination.

And what interested me, however,
was the idea of that voice -

of that uncompromising,
pain-laden voice

where things that had occurred
years earlier -

in the case, say, of Electra -

had remained unresolved and traumatic
and emerged in a staccato tone. And then once I got the tone,

my job was to hold it and wield it
and take it wherever it would go. I didn't begin with a preconceived
version of the story, I took it wherever it went,
just so that -

trying to shape it and form it.

And... so it doesn't arise from
conviction or lack of conviction. It arises from the attempt to create
a tone for somebody who had -

I mean, I'm using the word somebody

because, of course,
those images fill my imagination

as much as they do any other person
brought up as Catholic.

And the Hail, Holy Queen,
the Salve Regina, the Memorare -

'Remember, o most gracious
Virgin Mary that never was it known

that anyone who employed thy aid
or sought thy intercession

was left unaided.'

The statues, the apparitions,

the sense that she was the one
if you were in trouble.

And this mattered enormously
to older generations of my family

and of my community -

that you would pray to her,
rather than to Jesus

because she had been human,
she had been lost,

she had been powerless and
she understood pain in perhaps a way

that someone who was God,
or the son of God, might not.

And so therefore she was in my blood.

And I can do anything I like -

I can decide I'm the biggest atheist
in Christendom and I can go anywhere I like,

but that early experience of being in
a household or in a community where,

as TS Eliot said,
'Prayer has been valid'

has mattered to me -

and probably mattered to me much more
than I thought when I began the book

and affected the book
much more than I expected it to. So it was a strange experience
for me.

It was not one that I... It's not
a book I ever thought I would write.

But um... and as I say,
it doesn't arise

from any set of arguments
I want to have with anyone

except with the sentences I made.

Is it a book only a Catholic
could have written?

Ah yeah, yeah - oh yeah, yeah yeah.
(Audience laughs) The account of the crucifixion in it
is almost unbearable.

I sort of had to read that with eyes
averted, if you know what I mean.

Yeah there was a section for me
that I really didn't expect

which is another Saint John -
Saint John was a real novelist,

I mean he would have, he would have,
I wish he was around because...

Whoever he was. (Laughs)

..he was great,
like the beloved disciple.

But Lazarus, I mean the idea that
he was four days in the earth, dead - and that his sisters wanted this
and then they got it.

I mean walking on water is one
thing - we have surfers nowadays,

you know it's not as though,
you know...

You can make soup from dust
by just pouring hot water on it. Some of those miracles
are all very well in their own way.

I mean, I wouldn't like
to denigrate them,

but bringing someone back
from the dead

and then having someone in the world
who had knowledge -

who had the knowledge, who knew
something that no-one else knew -

and I didn't intend to work
with this,

I just wanted a glancing reference
to it in passing,

and I found days going by
where I was filled with it,

and so the big discovery for me

was not the cruelty of the
crucifixion, say, which I just -

like any writing,

you're just trying to imagine it
as though it's happening,

and you're almost writing violence,
just violence,

but the idea of trying to render
the Lazarus story

where you had to sort of allow in
the mystery

and also make it credible -

that, for me, was the one
that I was surprised by,

and almost frightened by.

You've stopped believing
quite a long time ago,

you have written.

To what extent is your writing
informed by your Catholicism? You know, it's obviously influenced
you, as you've just acknowledged.

Believing - I mean, I need a noun
at the end of believing.

From faith in the free Church.

Yes, I'm having a running argument

with the English historian
Eamon Duffy

who's a big historian
of Christianity and Catholicism

and he thinks I'm much closer to
holy mother Church than I think I am,

and every so often he says,

'You know, you just need to make
one more step and you're back in,'

and I say,
'Eamon, I will come very close to you

if you can promise me one thing.'

He said, 'Oh!' And he got quite
excited. 'What would it be?'

'I would really like to see
my Auntie Kathleen again.

And if you could guarantee me -
MORAG: She's dead?

Yeah - oh, sorry, she's dead.

And, I mean, I really loved her
and I was really sorry when she died.

I just - those days were hard,
you know, thinking -

and I thought,
'If I could have that back,

and she's just one example,

I'd go with you quite far, Eamon.'

And he said, 'No, we can't.

We can't tell you anymore

that Paradise will be filled
with all your family and friends

and they will greet you on arrival.'

I said, 'Eamon, what is it then -

this thing that you believe in, then,
what is it?' And he almost couldn't say.

And of course,
I thought it was delicious.

Oh, so, what? We're going to die

and then bits of us survive
in some strange place

like that Julian Assange,
we're in the Ecuadorian embassy,

sitting there like -
and we can't go out much.

And, you know, what is it
going to be?

And so, you know, I'm not sure, when
you question theologians deeply now,

that they believe very much either.

You know, in other words,
if you ask them about the sheer -

are you sure of the sheer divinity
of Jesus?

You'll find people actually looking
at you, saying, 'Well...'

You think, 'Hold on a minute!'
I mean, either he was or he wasn't.

And so, therefore, I'm probably,
as Eamon Duffy says, much closer,

but he blesses himself before meals,

which I sort of love the idea of,
but I don't.

Do you?
I say grace.

Alright.
Is that the same thing?

Yeah, pretty well.
OK.

Bringing us back to the Church,
perhaps. Morag -
Why were you looking at me, Barney?

Because you mentioned earlier
about the Church having to change.

You said we were on a point
of evolution.

That things cannot continue
as they are.

One of the obvious things which
we should look at straight away,

is the sexual abuse crisis,
the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

It's been a game-changer
for the Church.

Some have called it the biggest
crisis since the Reformation,

some have called it the biggest
crisis ever for the Church,

even bigger than the Reformation.

What's your view on that?

How damaging is it, and is there
any way forward from here?

It's immensely damaging,

but it's not the only crisis
that any church,

particularly the Catholic Church,
has faced. When I said it offers
an opportunity, I think it does.

We're at a point where authority
is so profoundly challenged,

structures, all of the institutional
structures of the Church,

the power structures, the gender
division of power in the Church,

are all up for question.

The opportunity that Vatican II,
in the middle of the last century, offered for change and renewal
in the Church,

which was so quickly closed down.

The opportunities for women,
particularly for religious orders,

but for Catholic women
that were offered then

that were cut off so quickly,

all of those things
are back in the mix, I think.

(Sighs)

Just listening to Colm there
talking about Mary -

Catholicism regards itself
as an incarnational religion,

a religion that conceives of God
as made flesh. I think that's terribly important
to most Catholics,

certainly very important to me,
it has been.

You find divinity
in other human beings

and that's the only way
I can continue to be Catholic

or construe being Catholic,

and I was thinking when you were
talking about The Testament of Mary.

is that you have
a scarred and passionate and fallible and angry woman,

not the veiled image that -
well, I didn't quite grow up with

because the nuns I grew up with
were not veiled images,

they were real - real people.

But while you were talking I was thinking about someone
we do know existed, Hildegard of Bingen,
a 12th century nun, and a letter that she wrote
to a young woman in her order,

who was doing a lot of fasting
and self-mortification. I mean, Hildegard wrote letters
to everyone,

she wrote letters to popes,
she wrote letters to kings,

telling them
they were doing the wrong thing

and she was a very -
she would be good to have around now,

just as a lot of
the institutional voices

coming from religious women
in America at the moment

are good to have around.

But she wrote to this young woman
and said, 'Look...' (Sighs)

I can't remember the exact words,
but,

'You've got to value your human self
and your own human flesh. Don't push it too far.

Don't be like the men that are
hanging around Jesus in your work.

I mean, treasure that.

Consider it sacred somehow,
don't push it too far, don't try and resurrect Lazarus.

Don't do those things.'

And that's - it's a time now,
I think,

for voices like that voice,
that voice of -

very, very strange woman, Hildegard,
mystic, inspired,

God knows what experience made her
write the words she wrote or the glorious music that she wrote,

but that voice which -

it's an actual letter, we've got it -

there, from someone absolutely
steeped in a particular spirituality, a particular religion,

just being human and understanding
what human beings need. And I think I understand -

I've spent so many years
working with Jesuits -

the impulse to extremity

that particularly appeals
to young men, I think.

I've never understood
why anyone would want to be a martyr,

but obviously young men
of various religious traditions do,

so I suppose we have to find some way

for people to want to
push themselves,

but it's that voice of Hildegard
coming back,

it's sort of like a mother's voice,
although she was never a mother,

saying, 'Just find the sacred
in the human and look after it.' Yeah.

Well, I'm a married man
with a daughter,

I don't have to go far for women
to tell me what I'm doing wrong.

(Laughs) Probably very good for you,
Barney.

It certainly is very good for me.

Peter?

Well, thinking about the impact
of the sexual abuse crisis,

I want to preface what I say

by saying that I don't think
it will make much difference at all to the Roman Catholic Church. I think the Roman Catholic Church is
the world's largest corporation. It is the longest continuous
corporation in the world. They've obviously worked out
a political strategy

which has enabled them

to see themselves through a range
of strategies - of crises,

and I don't think this
is going to make much of a dint. So I preface it with that. because they're very secure knowing that they've been going
for 2,000 years, they have enough resources
to close down every Church and keep going for another 400 years without actually raising
any more money. So it's really not an issue,
in a way. I think - I preface it
with that bigger picture. I think what has happened in this
is that - and I think it's damnable, actually, in case you haven't actually
picked up my tone yet. I think it's damnable, the way
this has been handled and dealt with. I think it's -
Currently, or over time? Over time.
Over time. And most recently. I mean, sexual abuse by religious
leaders goes way, way back. There are canons from Catholic
Church councils in the 4th century condemning the behaviour
and prohibiting it, and saying what the penalty
should be. So it's been going for a long time. More recently, it - I think it's revealed a couple
of things for people. I think one thing is it's created a very significant loss
of moral authority for the institution. And moral authority is -
in one sense, doesn't matter. But in another sense, it's crucial, because that's the basis
on which you recruit, that's the basis on which you get
people to sacrifice themselves for - and you get the labour benefit,
the money benefit, of people who say,
'I don't need to be paid a lot, because I feel I'm working
for a moral organisation.' I think they have
severely damaged that. I'd go even further. I think it's revealed -
and people are beginning to see the - and we're speaking about
the Catholic Church here, I think it applies
in other religions - I think they're seeing the Catholic
hierarchy actually as moral cowards. That they recognise that
this is a serious issue and instead of accepting
responsibility for it - which is what we expect
of a moral person - you do something wrong,
you accept responsibility. In fact,
Catholic theology embodies that. You do something wrong,
there is a process you do, there are structures set up
to do that. The hierarchy has totally rejected
their own theology. They have totally rejected
responding morally as well as a sin, and they have used their power to actually avoid
accepting responsibility. And people are beginning to see that when an institution like that
then comes out politically and argues against abortion and argues against women
being in leadership positions and argues against homosexuality and all the other things
that they argue against, I think broadly
the society is beginning to say, 'We don't believe you and you have no credibility
in making pronouncements about what we should do.' And I think once that happens it places an organisation like that in a quite different relationship
to society. I want to talk a bit more
about the legal but I'll leave it at that
for the moment. I think we need to explore
some of the legal - Barney, can I just ask - when you
talk about the hierarchy, Peter, there are very strong voices criticising the hierarchy. So, you haven't got a concerted -
Where are they published? Where are they published?
Yeah. Some of them in the papers.
Right. Some of them in the daily press. I think the petition
that was circulated by bishops like Bishop Pat Power
actually made it into - Barney, you would know this - made it into the secular press. I don't know that you could say that Bishop Geoffrey Robinson
and Bishop Pat Power have had strong support from
the Bishops Conference though. Oh, no. Absolutely not. But we're talking about - I'm just saying that
it's not a concerted - the hierarchy is not just one voice and there are bishops who very strongly disagree
with the positions put - And in Ireland we're watching this
very, very carefully because the Archbishop of Dublin,
Diarmuid Martin, has not been made a cardinal and everyone understands
he's not been made a cardinal because he went over
to the side of the victims and he said too much and he did too much and he cared too much. He was a civil servant
in the Vatican. He was an operator.
He was a pragmatist. He was sent to be
Archbishop of Dublin to sort of clean up the diocese. Instead, when he arrived,
what he found was a cesspit. And he found the pain
that had been inflicted. 30 years later he found victims who
were still suffering in every way and he realised, 'Something
very wrong has gone on here. And I want to be
very clear about it. We did it. It was done by my predecessors,
it was done by people I know, it was done by people
in this building. And not only will it have to stop and we'll have to be
full of atonement, but there will have to be
a full recognition that as a Church not to side with the victims,
to side with ourselves, has been so wrong and a change of heart
on a daily basis must occur.' And it has been
absolutely clear now. I mean, his predecessor,
who was a cardinal, HIS predecessor was a cardinal. And it is absolutely clear
in the way that these messages go out that he will not be made a cardinal
because he has actually moved - he has gone off side
on a message of self-protection and of not looking at things
from the point of view of the Church. In other words, that these were,
often, very religious families who could not believe that a priest
could do anything like this. And could much more easily
be preyed upon. These were the very flock
that the Church depends upon who were damaged in this way. And damaged in a number of ways. I mean, not only were they damaged -
the victims - for life in ways which are unspeakable, but the families themselves
and the wider community could not go near a church
without getting sick. And they watched Diarmuid Martin - we watch this very carefully
all the time - and this new Pope can be
as Jesuit as he likes and as sweet as he likes and he can go to Lampedusa
whenever he likes. Make Diarmuid Martin a cardinal,
Francis, and then we'll start believing you. And until you do then we'll watch you
in your Vatican palace protecting your people. So, you know, there is a sense,
still, among other Irish bishops that they still
haven't got the message. I'll just say one more thing. I was in St Peters College
in Wexford, so the Ferns Report,
which is the big Irish report, really centred on this school
and seminary that I was in. One priest who was -
It's a complex story. He was a brilliant physics teacher. He could get an idiot - I mean he could never get me to -
I was too stupid - but he could get really stupid boys
through the exams in physics. He would work really hard with them. People really respected him
as a teacher. A few years before I arrived he had been caught abusing boys
in the school. What do you do in Ireland
in the late 1960s when this happens? You send them to England. They didn't tell the English bishop
what he had done They just said,
'Oh, we have a gift for you. You're short of priests, here is one,
he'll work for a few years for you.' He worked in England.
What did they do then? He came back. I'm not making this next bit up. The school -
it was a boarding school - decided, 'We should teach the boys
photography.' So they build two darkrooms and who do they put in charge
of the darkrooms? This priest. They later on built a swimming pool. Who did they put in charge
of the swimming pool? This priest. And he was on file for what
he had done in about '67 or '68. It was on file. Then they needed a principal
for the school. Who do they appoint principal
of the school? This priest. So that there was a sense that they thought it was
very close to, say, a priest... ..say, he had fallen in love with a
married woman who was a parishioner. And if you could just
get him away from her that he could forget about her. They completely misunderstood it. But when the report came out the bishop said that
he was to be kept away - from the dormitories
so he couldn't sneak in at night, into the dormitory. Therefore his rooms were further away
than any other priests' rooms. he wasn't on a long corridor
of other priests who could watch him
and see what was going on, he was in an isolated place
where he could do whatever liked. So, you're talking about
a sort of stupidity. A sort of lack of
any urgency in this. And then when it all became clear they still didn't fully cooperate
with the civil authorities because in Ireland -
and in many other countries - the Catholic Church came
to see itself as a State, as a form of government with its own
systems of crime and punishment. And therefore they didn't -
the idea of calling the police was not something that
came naturally to them. And perhaps still doesn't. But there still is a battle going on. And, I mean, I don't want to
personalise it too much but in Ireland which still remains - you could call it still,
to some extent, a Catholic country, and trusting him as
the Archbishop of Dublin and realising that
he has been marginalised.

Peter, would you like to
just quickly come in

with those legal aspects?

You mentioned you'd like to
talk about legal aspects.

Well, I -

The other thing that bothers me is... I think that religion has a very important part to play
in modern society. I have a secular view of government but I have
a secular view of government which says that religion, um, is one
of the participants in democracies, religious institutions. As with all voluntary organisations it is crucial that we get freedom
of expression from all bodies. So, I think,
I think religious organisations do have a significant thing
to contribute to society. The thing that bothers me is the preferential treatment that
is given to religious organisations. Which, it terms of tax advantages,
in terms of, ah - religious organisations are the
biggest property owners in Australia and they pay no property taxes,
for example. And they pay no capital gains tax. So, if a property is sold they don't
pay capital gains on the property, it just becomes available
for the organisation. I know the technicalities of how the Catholic Church has
organised its affairs in Australia so that it is not legally accountable
for the damage that is done. It cannot be sued even though it is its employees
who are doing the damage, known by those who supervise them,
who are the ones in the organisation. Because of technicalities,
well, they're not really employees and they are not employed
by the Catholic Church. And the Catholic Church holds
all of its wealth in a separate trust

which is arm's length
from the actual practice.

I know the technicalities.

I cannot believe
that in a modern society

that sort of, um, practice
can be held unaccountable. I will cut you there

because although that's
a huge area of debate

it is slightly tangential
to where we're going today.

And I'm also pretty sure that
it's not going to survive -

that state of affairs
that you describe -

is not going to survive

the Victorian Parliamentary inquiry
in this state

and it's certainly not going to
survive the Royal Commission.

I mean,
you allude to a real problem.

It may survive
a Catholic Prime Minister.

(Crowd chuckles)

(Applause) Alright.

If there's time
I'll come back to that.

(Chuckles) OK.

I might be the only person
in the room

who has actually met the new Pope.

I had an audience with him,
one on one...

..and 5,000 other journalists
in Rome

at the time of his election.

And I think that we've all watched
him with a great deal of interest.

There is no question that
the Church in the West

was undergoing a crisis of morale

as well as, perhaps, of morals.

And this Pope it seems to me,
as I wrote recently,

'While changing nothing
has changed everything.'

There certainly seems to be
a new spirit abroad

of confidence and hope
that this man is different.

And you, Colm,
have referred to that as well,

you're watching with great interest

as to whether he actually
makes Martin a cardinal.

I'm prepared to give him the benefit
of the doubt at this point. I think he looks
extremely promising

and I think he has given
the Church a new energy.

But my opinion isn't the one
that matters here.

What do you three think?

Morag, we'll start with you.

I have no idea.

I mean, I keep on being told
by people who've met him.

I will wait and see.

One thing I would say though -

if we have to wait for the
personality of this particular Pope to change things

then we are reverting to belief

in exactly the same
hierarchical system

and the things that are
not changed in that system

will go on being as they are,

the position of women
will go on being as it is.

And I say that because listening to
Colm talking about islands and listening to all of this -

I mean, I was born at a time when rape was considered
a perfectly legitimate spoil of war. That's what men did to women
in Berlin,

that's what men did - they still do.

The abuse of children -

I'm not even going to try and do
moral equivalences.

Of course it's appalling. But... the abuse of a whole gender
has just been something

that the world has taken for granted
for millennia

and a male hierarchical system
that doesn't actually acknowledge

that there are women there
with voices and with power

will just help perpetuate that

so I'd just like to
broaden things out a little

and about this Pope
I will wait and see.

He has indicated that he might
ordain women deacons, which will be a step forward.

That would be a step forward

and I'll wait and see what they do
about collegiality

and the devolution of power
in the church

so that local bishops
have some sort of authority

and some of those bishops
might actually be women.

He has an enormous battle
on his hands in Europe

and just to take somewhere
like Spain.

In Spain, the Church sided with
the Fascists in the Civil War. It did.

And the Church and the State
in the 40 years of dictatorship

moved hand in glove.

And the Church never recovered
from that.

So at the moment
the Catholic Church in Spain

is a right-wing political party

to the right of the most
right-wing party,

not only on matters that the Church
talks about a great deal,

such as, for example,
gay marriage or abortion but actually on economic matters

the Church is to the right
of the most right-wing.

And the Church is in the grip
of Opus Dei in Spain.

Now therefore, the bringing in
of a Jesuit to be pope

I would think sent shivers

around various parts of Navarra
and Pamplona.

where Opus Dei has its headquarters.

The thing - they're more frightened
by the Jesuits, Opus Dei, than they are by the Devil.

(Laughter)

For very good reason.
For very good reasons.

And there is a deep opposition
between the Jesuits and Opus Dei. And Opus Dei has been insidious,
politically,

in countries where there has been
sort of room for them made -

they run universities,

they enter into the spiritual lives
of young people and take them over

and that has enormous political
implications for the young people

because they bring them
always to the right.

They want to take over the State

as much as they want to take over
the Church.

And in other countries, if,
for example -

countries like Slovenia, Slovakia,
Lithuania,

you know, there's an opening
for them now.

So that he does have the power,

or as far as we understand,
he has the power to appoint bishops.

John Paul II used that power
with extraordinary brilliance,

in that he put his people in,
everywhere.

How he did this was
he found academics,

so he could read all of what they'd
written, so he knew them well.

People with no pastoral experience,
generally,

because that causes trouble
and complexity and difficulty.

If you've got pastoral experience,
you get to know about things.

Get them out of the universities,
where they really know nothing much, read some books,
bit of Thomas Aquinas,

and make them head of a diocese,
where they behave like animals.

I mean, where they just have
no pity on anyone.

And they have -
they stick to the letter of the law. John Paul II did this
all over the world.

So it will be very interesting
to see the first group of bishops, or the second,

or how Francis will attempt
to wrest power within the Vatican

into an organisation
he makes for himself.

Again, the Jesuits are usually
pretty good at this,

moving slowly, deliberately,
intelligently, towards a single goal.

And that single goal, like -

oddly enough, the Church's
single goal has often been power.

And one presumes that Benedict,
like his predecessors, wants power.

And it will be very interesting
to see him attempting to get it.

I mean, power - temporal power.

Power over things
that happen in the world.

Peter?

What was interesting for me
in the papal election,

from a communication point of view,

was how, um, perceptive
the College of Cardinals are

in risk management.

Or in crisis communication.

It's interesting
that the real problem

that's being perceived
all around the world,

and the clergy abuse scandal
has a bit to do with it,

is that we've got an image problem. So a pope is chosen
to address the image problem, very carefully, it seems to me.

This is somebody who's humble,

who cooks his own meals
and carries his own luggage,

what the rest of us do
as a matter of course. This makes a wonderful pope.

(Laughter)

And I think it's rather interesting

that a pope was chosen
with a different image

to address the image issue.

In terms of making a big difference,
I remain skeptical.

My knowledge of any organisation is

you do not unpack the thing
that gives you the power.

We've gone slightly longer
than I intended before we ask -

open it up for questions.

I'm sorry, you haven't got very long
for questions,

but let's grab the opportunity
while you do have it.

A lady in the middle
with the purple top.

And if you find somebody else,
we'll take two at a time.

Can I just ask you to speak a bit
about what infallibility means, because how are they going -
I mean, not what it means,

but how are they going to
effect changes when, in effect,

to overturn some of the things
that some of us might like to see,

they're going to have to say
other popes were not infallible.

So how do we get around that?

Good question.

Maybe you do it the way you do,
actually, finally,

quietly allowing that Galileo
got it right.

I mean, let it slide through.

Infallibility is a nonsense,
absolute nonsense.

Colm?

No, that's good enough. I mean,
infallibility is a great idea.

Yeah, we all love it.

You sit on your own throne and say,
'I is infallible.'

'No, no, you ARE.
You got the grammar wrong.'

'No, I want the word changed to is
from now on.

That is an infall - '
No... You can't win
by declaring yourself infallible.

You just can't. I mean, it's a
really, really foolish thing to do, to be infallible. I wonder whether any religious woman

has ever believed
in the infallibility of a pope.

(Laughter)
David?

It is a very conserving measure,
very resistant to change. Goes back to about the 4th century,
actually,

where they had to deal with the fact

that they were dealing with fallible
humans and so they created a -

an abstract concept of -
it was originally, 'All of the bishops meeting together
cannot make a mistake.'

And it's refined itself into,

'The Pope, who is the overarching
prime bishop, can't make a mistake.'

I mean, it may be possible to have
some sort of - follow the legal practice
of precedent breaking, where you actually have
a very definite declaration that -

re-looking at the whole thing

the circumstances have changed
and this is now the situation.

But it is a very significant
deterrent to any sort of change,

which is why I remain skeptical.

It was handed to the Pope in 1870
as a formal doctrine, as sort of a prize for giving up the
papal states, as I understand it.

Anyway, the gentleman in the -

Can I ask about the sexual abuse
scandal?

As I understand it, in Ireland,
a major impetus for change

was the outrage of the Irish
community, generally,

including the secular society,

assuming there is such a thing
in Ireland.

I mean, the Prime Minister stood up
in the parliament

and attacked the Church,

supported by that civil society's
outrage.

Do you think in Australia that a
similar source of reform might come,

not from within the Church, which around the world
has demonstrated its incapacity,

but from secular societies standing
up and saying,

'Enough is enough.
We've seen the facts.

We've seen the Church fail
over and over to reform itself,

you do something or we'll walk away

and we will change
your tax advantages.

We will appropriate your property
to compensate victims,

we will deal with you
in terms of your claims to power in arenas where you don't deserve
such power.'

So in a sense, is the solution,
as in Ireland, also in Australia,

outside of the Church,
not within it?

I just want to clarify one matter
about Ireland.

First of all,
there is a secular society,

and secondly,

when the Prime Minister spoke
in Parliament in that way,

he spoke as a Catholic.

He made absolutely clear,
and everyone knew this was the case,

that he is a practising Catholic
himself.

He did not speak from outside
the Church, but almost from within,

and I think that made
a very big difference

to the way his speech was received,

that it wasn't coming from somebody

who'd had a lifetime
of attacking the Church.

It came from hurt and pain

at watching his own Church
going in that direction.

But anyway, the Australian thing
is obviously not for me to discuss.

The only answer I'd give to that
is derived from publications coming out of Catholic bodies
that I know.

I'm thinking of an article
by Jesuit priest Michael Kelly,

saying that he thinks

that the change is going
to have to come from lay Catholics -

and extend that out
to secular society, if you like -

but that's one of the things
very much being talked about

within the Church itself.

As so many other initiatives
within the Church,

when I say inside or outside
of the Church

it's as though the hierarchy
is the Church and Catholics think of themselves

as being, in our phrase,
the people of God.

That's not to say that there aren't
other people of God,

but there's a body within -

the body of lay people
within the Church

who have the same sorts
of authorities

and the same wish to see change,

and you will have people
within the hierarchy

who will also insist on change.

I don't think it's any responsibility
of the society to change the Catholic Church.

I think it's the responsibility
of society

to ensure that all bodies
that operate within Australia operate according to the law
and are held accountable.

What implications that has
for religious bodies is for religious bodies to decide.

But the concern I have is more
with the fact that our legal system,

as it is set up,

does not allow accountability

for criminal behaviour that occurs
in religious organisations to be properly challenged.

And also for due accountability
to be made of public money

that is spent supporting a whole
range of religious activities.

You're correct.

I'm a barrister.
I can tell you you're correct.

But the reforms
that we therefore require

will be reforms enacted through
the parliament by politicians. Including by, perhaps,
the next prime minister.

Now, those reforms will not occur

unless society at large
demands them,

speaks to their local member
and says, 'You deal with this.'

Thank you. I think that we have time
for one last question. Hello. I just wanted to touch on -
you mentioned earlier, regarding changes
in the Catholic Church,

you briefly mentioned
we'd come to a point of change, and you noted male celibacy. I was wondering what role you think
that has to play in it, and how that is going to come out
going forward, as an issue? Just let me personalise it and say I see a whole society,
a religious society, of very, very lonely men. And I think it's probably time
for a change there. (Sighs) I'll give you an example. A recent biography
of Archbishop Daniel Mannix, who we know was a hugely influential
leader in the Catholic Church in the early parts of this century. Towards the end of his life, he was so disinclined to be touched
by any other human being that he used to cut his own hair. And I found that just immensely sad. I think circumstances, particularly, and I'm thinking in Australia, where there are a lot of men
isolated in their presbyteries, on their own - that's just our circumstance here - leads anyone with any sense
of humanity to wish that they could live
in different ways. And celibacy is - it's not one of the great moral
challenges for the Catholic Church, it's something
that could be changed. I've only met, I think, about two or three really gifted
celibates, male celibates, in my life. For the rest of the men it's difficult,
I think, if they're honest, and I don't really see
the necessity for it. I don't know who will change it
but I think the need is so manifest. I don't know what other people think
about that? Yeah, I mean, I think that
it's a really important issue because it really affected the abuse
and how it was received. This idea that if you don't
experience it or seem to even know about it, that a lot of people spend 20 years
of their lives, sometimes 25 years, making sure that their children
are safe. You know, checking they're in bed, checking their blanket
hasn't fallen off, if they're sick,
taking them to a doctor, making sure that they're happy, making sure that they're not
being bullied. The day-in, day-out-ness of it is a fundamental part
of so many people's lives. And if you have a group of people
who have control over children, who don't know this part,
don't experience it, don't have it, and are all together at a table
being served, often, their food, not even going into a kitchen
in their lives, not even washing up in their lives, and, I mean,
forgetting about all the other - the hypochondria then starts, that they've suddenly got
little pains, you know, the strange twitchiness
of them. The Church of Ireland, I mean,
the Protestant Church in Ireland, tore itself asunder
over the other issue, over women,
over the ministry of women. And it won out, the liberal side, and now we have women
who operate within their - with full equality
within the Church of Ireland. And there's something wonderful
about them. When you see them anywhere,
in their work... They're better at looking after - ..they have an extraordinary
sort of spiritual aura from them. And it's made a very big difference
to the Church of Ireland, it hasn't - it doesn't just mean
it's come into the modern world, it's actually gone even better. It's exuding a spirituality which has elements of the medieval -
medieval beauty about it, as well as being modern. And so it wouldn't take much,
but it would take a great deal. And what we know from Francis
in Argentina is that he's not brave and he won't do anything unusual. You know, no-one spoke out
among the hierarchy against the disappearances. He didn't either, he stayed in, and on this issue - I mean, when he said that remark,
'This issue is closed,' the answer is,
'Who says it's closed, Francis?' In other words,
that this is again something that I think lay people
within the Church should and must get involved with, just a constant saying, 'Give it up.
Please don't go on with this, because it's ruining things
for many people - if you continue with celibacy or if you don't let women
become priests that it's actually not tolerable
anymore.' And that - so that if
the Church's mind is closed, I think it can be still opened and I think it remains
an open question, pace the Pope.

We've uploaded that session
to our website,

where you'll also find a swag
of other sessions that we recorded

at this year's Melbourne Writers
Festival as well.

Colm Toibin is currently teaching
in the English Department

at Columbia University in New York.

You might want to read
his new collection of essays,

New Ways to Kill Your Mother:
Writers and Their Families.

That's it for this edition
of Big Ideas.

I'm Waleed Aly.
We'll see you next time.

# Theme music Captions by CSI Australia

Welcome to the midday national news on ABC. I'm Ros Childs.

A moment of bipartisan goodwill as the PM and Opposition Leader thank Australian troops in Afghanistan.I am tremendously honoured to be in your presence. I am in awe of your professionalism.I concur completely with the remarks that the Prime Minister made. You make us proud to be Australian.Please explain. Spain joins a growing list of countries anger ed over US spying claims. Eight people killed as ferocious storms tear across southern Britain. And the ANZ posts another record