Walking in step with the vulnerable

Walking in step with the vulnerable

SINCE my ordination to the priesthood 12 years ago, the millstone of sexual abuse revelations has weighed heavily. Indeed, such is the extent of the crisis that in some circles "priest" and "paedophile" have become interchangeable words. It is as if we have moved from an unhealthy "A priest would never do that", to a just as unhealthy "He's a priest, so he probably did do that." While a royal commission is not everyone's cup of tea, I welcome a comprehensive response that sits outside the church.

I hope this process will inspire the institution to look deeply and humbly within itself to deal with the culture that allowed such criminality. Focusing on the perpetrators is, in some ways, the easier task. But a dirty culture overseen by good men, well, that's not so easy to call to account. It is a profound responsibility - to humbly and gently walk alongside others, especially the most vulnerable.

Father Peter Day, Queanbeyan, NSW

A problem shared

THE figure of Cardinal Pell facing questions on institutional child abuse was reminiscent of Islamic leaders being grilled after the terrorist attacks in New York and London. Because of the enormity of the crimes and enduring pain, many other organisations may be grateful the focus is on the Catholic Church, but helping each other embrace reality is surely the task of everyone who seeks community healing.

There are many of us who belong to other faith and community groups that have long recognised that we share the same bathwater. I used to imagine that the problem existed only in the Anglican Church.

No doubt there are members of the Salvation Army and other denominations, scouting, educational, childcare, policing and armed services organisations that have imagined the pain confined to their own family. It is sobering to realise the extent to which vulnerable people have been failed across the board.

The retirement of a one-time governor-general over failures to adequately deal with shocking realities should be a historical reminder that the Catholic Church is far from alone in requiring investigation. A wider investigation must be applauded to secure long-overdue justice for damaged people.

Archdeacon Peter MacLeod-Miller,

Albury, NSW

Innocents alike

MY FACEBOOK friends include people with more or less partisan views on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a result, in recent days I have had many graphic colour pictures appearing on my wall, some showing bloodied Israeli civilian casualties, others showing bloodied Palestinian civilian casualties. Taken together, what all these pictures demonstrate is that the colour of the spilt blood of innocent Israelis is exactly the same as the colour of the spilt blood of innocent Palestinians.

Paul Norton, Highgate Hill, Queensland

Destructive agenda

PETER Topping (Letters, 17/11) calls the recently assassinated Hamas leader a brother, son, father etc. This he no doubt was, but he was also a man whose primary goal in life was to destroy Israel. He was also a man who arranged for thousands of rockets, mortars, bombs and bullets to be fired at Israeli civilians, so no one should complain if Israel fires back.

Ian Fraser, Cherrybrook, NSW

Acts of terror?

AS USUAL, our Prime Minister is quick to come out strongly in support of Israel, and by implication, for unilateral state assassination ("Gillard shouldn't gloss over assassination issue", The Saturday Age, 17/11). Oh, I know it's "surgical" - that is, only a few extra women, children, bystanders and relatives get killed as well - but I'd really appreciate it if she could explain exactly how it's not terrorism. Maybe if your "friends" do it, that's OK.

John Laurie, Newport

Win for Australia

IT'S wonderful to see Fawad Ahmed granted permanent residency in this great country of Australia ("Asylum seeker officially a 'local"', The Saturday Age, 17/11). Being an Australian of Pakistani origin, I am grateful to Australia for granting him rights to which every human is entitled. I am sure Fawad Ahmed will play his role in making this country an even better place.

I also feel sorry for my country of birth, Pakistan, that despite being so naturally blessed, it has been turned into a living hell people from all walks of life are fleeing. Countries such as Australia, where human rights are respected, are getting the benefit of their talents.

Malik Atif Mahmood Majoka, Dandenong

A dead end

TIM Flannery ("Dead and dying: our great mammal crisis", The Saturday Age, 17/11) highlights the plight of native species nearing extinction. He does not, however, address what I believe to be the real issue. Modern humans are moving off the land and onto a digital landscape. Young Australians are caring less about nature most would not even know of the species Flannery mentions. Schools teach other things and home life is about Facebook, apps and reality TV.

I have an acreage of native bushland in central Victoria and I belong to a small environment group. It is a constant battle to control invasive foreign species (today I'm eradicating blackberries) and in a mere 12 years, four species of frog have disappeared from my region. But only I am aware of their passing. I am saddened by the slow disappearance of our unique Australian landscape. Unfortunately, evolution is taking us elsewhere, and I fear that Tim Flannery and I, also, are a dying species.

Robert Hollingworth, Fitzroy North

Give show a leg-up

I AM also disappointed at the axing of the Marngrook Footy Show ("Cut program inspired cultural identity", Sport, 17/11). We hear and see endless news stories about indigenous Australians, most of which reinforce negative and debilitating stereotypes. The national broadcaster applauds Redfern Now and considers a second series, in the same breath axing arguably the best footy show on television a show that defies numerous stereotypes (not just racial ones). Surely a logical, ethical and exciting programming decision would be to persevere with both. Move the Marngrook Footy Show to ABC 1, give it a competitive timeslot and ramp up the marketing. As the football industry continues promoting tolerance on and off the field, the show represents an authentic alternative to the racist, sexist and anachronistic behaviour we still see on other channels and at the game.

Kirsty Baird, North Melbourne

Put a boot in it

HEAR, hear, Martin Flanagan ("Stand up to AFL noise and shout it down", Sport, 16/11). We go to the football for the atmosphere of the game. If we want to be harassed by commentary and advertisements we can stay at home and watch it on telly.

Craig Tucker, Williamstown

Ode to silence

SHANE Maloney ("Chapters in time", Life & Style, 17/11) documents his attempts to concentrate at the State Library surrounded by iPod-wearing VCE students. He must have been there before rehearsals started for Allora & Calzadilla ("An ode to absence", Life & Style, 17/11), who plonk out a loud and mangled version of Beethoven's Ode to Joy every hour on the hour right outside the huge Redmond Barry room, where more than 200 people are hoping for somewhere quiet to work. And this will go on for a couple of weeks.

Until then, I will have to take my struggling PhD elsewhere. It's like trying to work next to a cuckoo clock. I'm all for bringing art into libraries, but there's one prerequisite: it has to be quiet. Please don't let this happen again. Silence is a library's core business.

Caroline Williamson, Brunswick

Schoolies be warned

AS VICTORIAN students prepare for final exams, it is timely to remind them that bad schoolies week decisions can follow them through their adult lives. Excuses of youthful enthusiasm and exuberance will count for little if they fall foul of the law. For many students, schoolies will be their first taste of freedom as 18-year-old adults. A criminal conviction recorded as an adult can be a permanent stain on someone's record. Most schoolies week offences start with alcohol, so drink responsibly and avoid public drunkenness, drinking in public and under-age drinking, not to mention the deadly offence of drink-driving.

Police will also be on the lookout for anyone engaging in violence or holding fake IDs, both of which can result in criminal charges, as can the production or distribution of sexual photographs of a minor, or sexting.

Schoolies should enjoy themselves without letting a lapse of judgment affect the rest of their lives.

Kirstie Grigor, criminal lawyer, Melbourne

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