Updated: May 12, 2022
Brigid Delaney, The Guardian, 17 March, 2020
Father Vincent Ryan, convicted child sexual abuser
ABC’s documentary about convicted paedophile priests is difficult to watch, but perhaps it’s necessary to bear witness
Despite an extensive royal commission, scores of criminal trials and excellent books such as Louise Milligan’s Cardinal and David Marr’s The Prince, there are still some unanswered questions about child sexual abuse in the now-tattered narrative of the Catholic church in Australia.
These include: why did these priests do such horrible things? How did they justify their crimes to themselves and to God? What kind of conversations may they have had with, say, their archbishop or monsignor, once they were rumbled by a parent or teacher or victim?
Accounts from the paedophiles themselves that may go some way towards answering those questions are also missing from this narrative. Perhaps this is because paedophiles do not want to talk due to shame or due to the media’s preference for – in some cases – giving victims airtime and denying a platform to abusers. And then there’s us, the audience. Do we really want to hear from them?
There are arguments for listening to perpetrators explain themselves. You can better understand the crime if you understand the criminal. And the Catholic church has for a long time been so opaque on matters of sexual abuse that any interview, no matter how painful to watch, is illuminating.
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