Is Catholicism in rude health?

Looking at the newspapers you’d think Catholicism is having a hard time with philandering priests and cover-ups of their doings being found out on a weekly basis. Dutch and German newspapers kept track for a while of the regional frequencies of new cases of sexual misconduct allegations. You might think Catholicism is getting its long-awaited come-uppance. Nothing is further from the truth however: Catholicism is in rude health.

There are now around 1.3 billion adherents making Catholicism the largest religion on the planet and the largest branch on the tree of Christianity that appears to hold about 2.1 billion adherents. Its strongholds in Latin America and Southern Africa are looking rock-solid, and conversion rates in the new centres of Asia (China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc.) are looking very healthy indeed. The Christian World Database hence proudly announced Christianity was the world’s fastest growing religion in 2006 and in terms of numbers, Catholicism is by far the biggest and probably fastest growing of the Christian faiths.

What is interesting about Catholicism is that it seems to have lost its footing in its traditional stronghold, Southern and Western Europe. The area where all the popes came from, where all the old cathedrals are, where nearly all the alternative branches of Christianity originated, is now more secular than ever. Europe now has to import monks from Latin America and Africa to fill up its most prestigious and old monasteries (such as the one in Poblet, Spain). Things are so bad for Catholicism in Europe that in April 2009, the Archbishop of Vienna proclaimed that “The time of Christianity in Europe is coming to an end”. It is of course partially this retreat of the power of the Catholic church that allows all the skeletons to emerge from the cupboard. It is striking how few scandals come to the surface in places like Brazil and Nigeria compared to the almost massive ‘coming out’ currently seen in Europe.

It is this light that one should see the choices of the Roman Catholic church regarding the marriage of priests, the use of condoms, the rights of gays, etc.: policy choices in those realms are simply no longer aimed at pleasing or controlling the faithful in Europe (including Australia), but are now aimed at keeping and expanding the appeal of the church in Africa and Asia. And it is apparently working. Whatever Germans, French, Italian, American, and Australian Catholics think about the appropriate meaning of Christianity and the celibacy rules for priests is simply not of great importance anymore because the international market for new souls is elsewhere.

It is, speaking as a pure outsider to these religious games, very interesting to see how successful the Catholic\Christian message is amongst the Chinese in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and even in China itself. Universities witness a lot of action in this regard: you can see young Chinese female converters lining up to peddle the Catholic message amongst the recent student migrants in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Reportedly, almost 40% of university graduates in Singapore are now Christian. Statistics for conversions in China are hard to get in that estimates of the current stock range from about 15 million self-identified Christians in the latest Census to 40 million in the CIA-factbook to 140 million in unsubstantiated estimates by particular Christian organisations (see Wikipedia). Yet, even the mid-stream estimate of 4% is quite a bit up from 50 years ago so it does appear that the Chinese are ripe for the taking in terms of religiosity. It certainly looks that way amongst Chinese students in Australia. And Christianity seems to be the religion-du-jour amongst that immense market. The main competitor to Christianity, Islam, seems to me to have no chance at all with the Chinese, partially because almost zero Chinese students study in Islamic countries, partially because the West is far richer and hence far more appealing than the Middle East, and finally because Christianity starts from a far stronger base within China (except with particular minorities but not amongst the main Han-Chinese population).

I personally expect China to become more Christian, as the control of the state becomes less and the uncertainty of capitalist life makes the urban middle classes receptive to the Christian promise of a loving god and an eternal life. Whether the Chinese go for Catholicism or one of the alternatives amongst the Christian pantheon is harder to know.

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57 Responses to Is Catholicism in rude health?

  1. Slim says:

    Definitely ‘rude’ in the Australian context! All the more reason for a Royal Commission to clear the decks for future reform and rejuvenation.

  2. bobr says:

    Dont condemn the whole Catholic population just because a few went wrong.

  3. Sancho says:

    The numbers are interesting.

    The trend for Catholicism in the last century has been to target uneducated populations where women have little autonomy, which suits their dogma perfectly, so a rising number of tertiary-qualified converts might change the game for the Vatican.

    I do wonder if the church is ready to handle an influx of Chinese adherents. The strong hierarchical structure of Catholicism fits nicely with Confucianism, but Chinese pragmatism may change it in ways the archbishops aren’t prepared for and may not like.

    Seeing the way Chinese Buddhism has turned into garden variety deity worship, my guess would be that Chinese Catholicism will become its own sort of mash-up (which will involve a lot of praying for cash), the same way South America has a Catholic tradition that’s barely removed from folk animism.

  4. derrida derider says:

    Yes, Sancho, their long-term marketing strategy of going for undeducated oppressed women has been a good one, but the supply of them is drying up. Opposition to contraception is, of course, one part of that strategy – it helps build market share by breeding.

    Hence their strongholds now being South America and Africa, and their ambitions for expanding some Asian franchises. But most of Asia has completed the demographic transition, South America is undergoing it and Africa may not be far behind. Paul’s right that they have to switch tack and go for educated and distinctly un-oppressed people now. Certainly European experience shows that you can’t force such people to reproduce at a rate sufficient to keep the business expanding.

    • Martin76 says:

      Derrida I don’t know what inside info you and Sancho have about the nefarious designs of the catholic church spreading its web out from the Vatican to brainwash the ill-educated masses in the under-developed world, but I certainly haven’t seen it.

      Brazil has more catholics than any country in the world and the church there isn’t run by Italians, or Americans, or Brits, but by Brazilians. The bishops are Brazilian, the priests are Brazilian, the laypeople are Brazilian, and this has long been the case.

      You can look for some kind of vatican-led conspiracy all you like, I think you’ll find there simply isn’t one. I hate to be the one to suggest it, but perhaps these people actually feel like they get something out of it. If they feel it’s worth their time and money, good luck to them.

      • derrida derider says:

        Feh. These things don’t work by fully conscious conspiracy; I am not a purveyor of “The Protocols of the Elders of the Vatican”. Its just that, as Sancho says below, “Christians will always find a way for Christianity to support their preconceptions” (the word “Christianity” there can of course be replaced by any system of dogma). The language has been much more about “supporting the poor in spirit” (ie undeucated oppressed women) but it comes to the same thing as a deliberate marketing strategy, and other words from the founder of the business would be quoted – and quoted sincerely – if the marketing strategy was different (“slaves, obey your masters” has proved a useful one in the past).

        The pope’s opposition to contraception would disappear quickly if such opposition actually reduced the church’s reach where it matters. It’s a semi-conscious calculation – the sort of thing that makes most middle aged men oppose abortion on demand (because it will never help them) while most young women support it.

  5. Paul Frijters says:

    Sancho, DD,

    interesting way of looking at it. I hadn’t really reflected on the educated/uneducated distinction but what you say sounds roughly true, i.e. that they have cornered a large part of the less-educated markets.
    If I think of it in terms of education, I don’t see an inherent problem in appealing to the educated though, as you can see from the high levels of religiosity in the States. What it in my opinion needs is an absence of a welfare state such that Catholicism (or other religions) can fill the void: without a welfare state the educated are as religious as the rest. Yet on that score Catholicism is its own enemy because its philosophy of group-based insurance and sharing (the 5 breads and fishes) gives political support for welfare states which subsequently muscle them out of the market.

  6. Sancho says:

    I’m doubtful about religion being a reliable stand-in for the welfare state.

    The US has largely adopted the “prosperity bible”, which says that being rich is god’s reward for faith, and poverty god’s punishment for indolence, while Paul Ryan advertised his Catholicism at the same time as promising to gut welfare programs.

    Christians will always find a way for Christianity to support their preconceptions, and the Chinese in particular will follow through on that.

    • Paul Frijters says:

      the US is exhibit number 1 for the welfare-crowds-out-religion hypothesis. Churches aid communities with very mobile members, offering many services that in Europe and Australia are done either by the state or by the communities (child care, job search, education, social safety net, etc.). The crucial factor in the US that is not present here and in Europe is high mobility which gives rise to greater uncertainty and the need for some easy opt-in community that offers welfare.

      Exhibit number 2 is the experience in Eastern Europe where the churches expanded when the communist system collapsed. Now that prosperity and welfare states are being expanded there once again, I understand religiosity too is once more losing its puff.

      • john r walker says:

        As best as I understand it ,In the US payments to churches -not just to public benefit charities that happen to be run by church groups- are tax deductible , not surprisingly a lot of people start up their own ‘church’, hardly a catholic church approved activity.

        I would imagine that growth in the US catholic church would be more likely to be because of the growth in Hispanic numbers and related issues of citizens that are for some not quite citizens.

    • Tel says:

      Churches of various colours have been front and center in the charity stakes for how many thousand years? And they still are, on probably more than half the Earth’s surface… but how could I possibly imagine that a church could do a better job than (clouds part, angels sing, beam of light rolls down from heaven) … government bureaucrats.

      All snark aside, there’s a fundamental issue with adaptation to local conditions. Good charity is difficult, you need to give enough, of the right things, at the right time, but not too much. Central planners just don’t cut it. The Catholics may have some weird ideas (I’m an Atheist and an evolutionist) but seriously, they have been working on this problem for a long, long time and dismissing them without understanding what you dismiss is just plain dumb.

      • john r walker says:

        In Australia donations to the costs of running a church-employing priests so on- are not tax deductible, in the US ,I am told ,they are.

      • Paul Frijters says:

        sure, charity is hard. Whilst I am merely observing here that states and religions occupy a lot of the same space, I would personally indeed often prefer to organise things via the state than engage in religious charity.
        The tax-deductibility of religions is of course also in the mix, but is not unique to the US. In many countries, such as Germany, it is actually the state that helps in collecting the payments to the church in the form of having it part of tax collection. In many ways, the separation between church and State is greater in the US than much of Europe.
        I do agree though that the growth of Catholicism in the US probably has more to do with the recent influx of Hispanics than anything else.

  7. Sancho says:

    That’s true.

    I don’t know what the facts are in developing countries, but the Catholic church has long been accused of actively working to keep people in poverty precisely so it has huddles masses to tend to.

    • Tel says:

      Now where have I heard that accusation before?

      • Sancho says:

        Secularists everywhere, ever since Catholics lost the power to burn heretics?

        • Tel says:

          Voluntary charities also promote self-reliance, but government welfare programs foster dependency. In fact, it is in the self-interest of the bureaucrats and politicians who control the welfare state to encourage dependency. After all, when a private organization moves a person off welfare, the organization has fulfilled its mission and proved its worth to donors. In contrast, when people leave government welfare programs, they have deprived federal bureaucrats of power and of a justification for a larger amount of taxpayer funding.

          By gum, it’s almost like they are “actively working to keep people in poverty” but you would never make an argument like that hey Sancho?

      • Sancho says:

        Oh, alright. Because it’s a slow day, let’s play with the unfounded partisan statement refuting hearsay I indicated may be spurious, because if there’s one thing the right loves, it’s a debate where opinions take the place of facts.

        First off, the quote is from Ron Paul, so until the apocalyptic race war commences and all money becomes worthless because it’s not based on gold, let’s treat his opinions with the gravity and respect he’s earned.

        So, what evidence is there that state welfare creates more dependency than charity, apart from Ron Paul says it?

        • john r walker says:

          Both government and charity programs do create a bit of dependency (and a tendency to prolong) amongst the people who are employed to administer these programs.

        • Sancho says:

          No doubt, but tell me it won’t be a laugh watching Tel divine the interests of the Catholic church using the handful of quotes from Ron Paul that don’t contain conspiracy theories about the new world order and white genocide.

        • john r walker says:

          True . If I could be a bit more serious a real problem with government administrated programs (as apposed to church and privately run programs) is this: most public servants these days have little or no life experience outside ‘public administration’ and the result is more and more interference by people with little knowledge of and sympathy for, what it is they are supposed to be administrating.

        • Sancho says:

          What metric are we using for that? I’d like to see the success rate for dole recipients moving into the workforce, then compare it to equivalent recipients of Catholic charity in the absence of state welfare.

        • john r walker says:

          “compare it to equivalent recipients of Catholic charity in the absence of state welfare.”
          We cant do a double blind study with the whole country.
          However I would guess that the success rate of dole and charity participants provably depends more on their socioeconomic backgrounds/community than upon any program.

          What is ‘success’ when it comes to people with brain damage/borderline mental issues or 1-7 years childhoods that were missing decent adult supervision/love, is a hard question…… a lot of church charity deals with people where there is unlikely to ever be ‘bonus’ payments to the service provider because their unemployed client got a job on his on accord.

        • Sancho says:

          That’s a category error right off the bat. The welfare services for disabled and at-risk children have much different focuses and goals than those for job seekers, so comparing the two achieves nothing.

          And did you notice that you immediately defaulted to juxtaposing an altruistic religious charity worker with a callous state employee who only gives a damn about cash bonuses?

          That’s pure narrative. Specifically, it’s the right-wing narrative in which public employees are useless, evil-eyed opportunists gorging on tax money, while charity volunteers are saintly and efficient because in their heart of hearts they really care.

          That, incidentally, is a big reason Liberal governments keep losing industrial battles to the nurses’ unions – they try to tell the public that health workers only care about money, and the public doesn’t believe it for a second.

          In fact, the bonuses-for-jobs scheme began when job seeking was privatised and entrepreneurs realised they could get money from the government for cyclically shifting their clients on and off the books.

          None of which brings us any closer to establishing whether religious charities – Catholic in particular – are more effective or efficient than state welfare.

        • john r walker says:


          You combined “dole recipients moving into the workforce” , “equivalent recipients of Catholic charity” and “state welfare.” Welfare and charity covers a lot of ground. If you are only talking about fairly common garden unemployment and training services, its provably something that is better done by governments. There are a lot of ‘welfare’ situations,regardless of who/what pays for the work, where only a person with a lot of dedication can stick it out, anybody who can cope with it deserves respect regardless of how they get paid.

          And as you almost say the ‘callus’ job service provider employee ( and ‘not much use’ would be truer than callus) is mostly out sourced , poorly paid and under pressure to efficiently process as many clients as possible.

        • Sancho says:

          This subthread is a discussion of Tel’s blanket claim that state welfare is worse than religious charity, so no argument there.

        • john r walker says:

          “establishing whether religious charities – Catholic in particular – are more effective or efficient than state welfare”.
          Given the oranges and apples nature of “welfare” , could you be more specific about what you see in your mind, when you see the word welfare on the screen ?

        • Sancho says:

          That’s a pointless question, because the welfare I mean is whatever welfare is in the context of a conversation, which in regard to the Catholic church is mostly alleviating poverty and helping people rise out of it.

          (The church runs quite a few hospitals in Australia, all of which are fully funded by taxpayers but stick to Catholic principles such as not providing or recommending condoms.)

          I would say the state (where it tries) succeeds far more at that than religion, but the hard proof of that is what this is all about.

        • Tel says:

          … tell me it won’t be a laugh watching Tel … [blah, blah, exaggerate, blah, blah, random irrelevant distractions, blah]

          So let me see, you trot out exactly the same argument Ron Paul uses, and then need to start ferociously hand waving in the hope that people will look away and not notice your stinking hypocrisy, and I’m calling you on it.

          Kids, are we having fun or what?

          Tel’s blanket claim that state welfare is worse than religious charity…

          Oh yeah and the straw man arguments come out like they always do, *yawn*.

          What part of “where have I heard that accusation before” do you find difficult to understand?

    • Sancho says:

      You made a silly and pointless quip, backed it up with a conspiracy theorist’s opinion that “government welfare programs foster dependency [because] bureaucrats and politicians who control the welfare state [want] power and…justification for a larger amount of taxpayer funding”, but “a private organization moves a person off welfare” because that’s how “the organization has fulfilled its mission and proved its worth to donors”.

      There’s nothing there to misunderstand or misrepresent. If you don’t actually believe that state welfare agencies try to keep people in poverty while charities try to lift them out, why did you go to the trouble of posting a quote saying precisely that?

      Here’s my bet: instead of taking the opportunity to clear up the confusion by making a plain statement about charities and state welfare, your next post will be a histrionic complaint riffing on how upset you are and how evil it is to disagree with your vague and poorly-defined opinions.

      • john r walker says:

        The 40 year history of the remote communities, since they were shifted from charitable paternalistic church based care to government care is not exactly a shinning example of government welfare being much better at lifting people out of desperate straits. And god knows some people have got a lot of money for managing the disaster for decades.

        • Julie Thomas says:

          Peter Dutton explains this in his book; “The Politics of Suffering”. The book was an eye opener for me. It is worth reading.

      • Tel says:

        If you don’t actually believe that state welfare agencies try to keep people in poverty while charities try to lift them out, why did you go to the trouble of posting a quote saying precisely that?

        Errr, probably because of the striking similarity between Ron Paul’s argument against public welfare, and your own argument against the Catholic church. Here’s your statement (copied down from above):

        … the Catholic church has long been accused of actively working to keep people in poverty precisely so it has huddles masses to tend to.

        Here is Ron Paul’s statement:

        In fact, it is in the self-interest of the bureaucrats and politicians who control the welfare state to encourage dependency.

        A primary school student would have sufficient logic to recognize the similarity between those two arguments. Are you seriously going to tell the world that you have difficulty comprehending this?

        My personal opinion on what makes effective welfare is completely irrelevant to the hypocrisy of you slanging off at Ron Paul for being a “conspiracy theorist” right after cooking up a remarkably similar conspiracy theory of your own regarding Catholics fostering dependency. How much do you want to squirm on this?

  8. Alphonse says:

    “the Christian pantheon” love it!

  9. henry says:

    LOL at the suggestion that the Catholic church appeals to the uneducated and at the same time Chinese uni students in Australia are joining in record numbers. Try reading Newman and tell me the Church is only for the uneducated.

    • derrida derider says:

      No, no-one said the Church is only for the uneducated. After all education is notoriously no barrier to believing silly things – as evidenced by Newman himself, with his gullibility on miracles.

      They said its best prospects for growth in the last century have been among the uneducated – not the same thing at all.

  10. David Walker says:

    Interesting question, Paul, but possibly the wrong day to ask it …

  11. Douglas Hynd says:

    Pentecostal/evangelicals are the other main strand of Christianity taking root in China – probably outnumber the Catholics.

    On a global basis David Martin the distinguished sociologist of religion, reckons that Catholicism and Pentecostalism in its myriad diversity, including the African Independent churches are the two major strands of Christianity to watch on a global basis.

  12. Pedro says:

    My 12 years of catholic school in the 60s and 70s certainly didn’t leave me thinking that the catholic system wants to encourage ignorance. I can believe that religious belief is easier to foster in the uneducated, but I’ve never seen anything to support the claim that the RCC encourages it.

    • Patrick says:

      Well said. I had always had the impression that the Catholics were very into education, see eg the Jesuits, the Catholic representation at the bar, etc. The current CJ (and three puisne justices!) of the United States Supreme Court is a Catholic, and he certainly isn’t stupid.

      The Church might be a mightily fucked up institution in many ways, and one which has for far too long benefited from far too much secrecy, but some of the suggestions on this thread are ridiculous.

    • Sancho says:

      See also the earnest Christians burned at the stake for the crime of reading the bible in English.

      The Catholic church doesn’t exactly have a history of empowering the powerless, and the fact of someone’s Catholicism doesn’t mean the church gave them a hand up, so make sure you’re not confusing things the church does to help others with the things it does to earn toleration in post-Enlightenment societies.

      And when you say the Catholic church is a “mightily fucked up institution in many ways”, let’s be clear that you’re talking about the fact that while Pedro was studying in earnest, a shocking number of his peers were being raped by Catholic priests, with the full and carefully-managed complicity of their superiors in the church, all of which was part of a co-ordinated strategy to protect a network of paedophiles.

      A list of successful Catholic individuals doesn’t make up for the crimes and self-serving narcissism of the Vatican.

    • Pedro says:

      Sancho, I think we can move past the 16th century when discussing RCC policy on education. Serious issues with kiddie fiddling are irrelevant to the question about attitudes to education unless you want to say that the RCC only runs schools to get access to kids for sex.

      • Sancho says:

        That’s an interesting defence, Pedro, because it’s exactly what the bishops are saying about the sexual abuse of children: it’s all in the past and grossly unfair to hold the church to account for it now.

        The Vatican has been dragged through history kicking and screaming, and acts more like a mediaeval mafia that grudgingly holds back on the inquisitions and trials by drowning, than an enlightened, forward-looking institution..

        The Catholic church can shrug off references to the 16th century as soon as it stops acting like it doesn’t miss those good old days.

      • Julie Thomas says:

        Has the catholic church changed it’s attitude to the education of girls – and the role of women – since the C16?

        Although, a few decades ago there was a not evil pope; a pope who spoke out against the problematic aspects of capitalism, and tried to move the church into the C20?

        Nuns got to get rid of their ‘habits’ and wear nice polyester uniforms. That has lasted, but the pope and his new fangled ideas didn’t.

    • Pedro says:

      Sancho, I’ve no brief for the RCC, and I think their protection of criminals was(is?) real and is disgusting. I’ve seen it with my eyes and it is one of the reasons I think the RCC sucks. One of the brothers at my high school was obviously a violent criminal and, as an adult, it is clear to me that the Principal ought to have dragged the fuckwit to the local cop shop and handed him over.

      But this thread included the claim that the RCC has a policy of fostering ignorance to increase the pool of potential suckers and I merely point out that claim seems like bunk on its face.

      • Sancho says:

        That’s reasonable, but I don’t think anyone suggested the church is going all out to increase ignorance and poverty; just that it makes a self-interested effort to avoid decreasing it.

        • Patrick says:

          This is just absolute bollocks, Catholic schools around the world provide affordable and decent quality education.

          In what way do they ‘avoid’ decreasing poverty and ignorance? Put another way, what would you have them do differently, bearing in mind their faith?

        • Sancho says:

          An example from Christopher Hitchens is here:

          His argument is that the Catholic church is keen to invest money in new convents and churches, but not in alleviating two key causes of poverty – the disempowerment of women and lack of effective family planning.

          For my part, I don’t accept the quality of Catholic schools in wealthy nations as any indicator of the Vatican’s goodliness or social commitment.

          The church fought every inch of progress toward the Enlightenment and attacked everything that came from it. There is no aspect of social development or scientific enquiry that the bishops didn’t crack down on the moment it showed any potential to diminish the authority of the church, so I have no admiration whatever for the Vatican’s attempts to use tax-funded-yet-fee-charging schools to impress its agenda on children in nations where it’s now too weak to simply keep them in line through violence alone.

          It isn’t enough to point to nuns teaching basic literacy in the developing world when they’re also teaching that evolution is a lie, condoms don’t work, and grinding poverty is a blessing from god.

          Even when it was reduced to soft-pedaling its activities through schools instead of thumbscrews, the Vatican managed to run a finely-tuned child abuse operation through its educational programs around the world, and this is an organisation we’re asked to regard as benign and charitable?

          Charles Manson is 78 and in prison. Apart from some minor infractions, he is by all accounts an orderly inmate confined to a restricted environment in which he doesn’t have the leverage or capacity to cause harm.

          By the logic deployed in this thread in defence of the Catholic church, Manson should be a perfect candidate to work in childcare. It’s been so long, after all, since he caused any harm, and he’s actually quite productive in the workshops.

        • Patrick says:

          You do realise that the various Catholic orders run schools throughout the third world don’t you?

          And you also realise that not everyone in the first world is rich? In fact, as I had thought was widely known, there is a crisis in poverty reduction due to the fact that so much poverty is now found in richer countries rather than being a ‘poor country’ problem.

          If I was focused on how an organisation actively ‘didn’t reduce’ poverty/ignorance, I’d think I would have to deal with the role of Catholic schools in educating boys and girls in rich and poor countries, providing greater access to scholarships and lower base fees than almost any other private alternative, with or without government funding, so quickly. Deal with by means other than ‘just dismiss’.

  13. john r walker says:

    When I was a teenager I had a mate who was sent to Marist brothers Hurstville, a school that it turns out had one of the worst sexual sadist teachers of all. As best as I know my mate was never sexually assaulted. However he was hit a lot and one day he was hit so hard on the head that he needed seven stitches (and his clothes were covered in blood) the thing is when he went home that day his parents, decent hard working people, did not seem to think that there was anything all that wrong with what had happened to their son.

    It is not that long ago that pretty brutal discipline of children (particularly the children of the poor) was more tolerated than it is now and it provably explains part of the reason why sexual sadists were able to operate so easily.

    And then there is the eternal way that corruption of policing works, once you turn a blind eye to a relatively minor piece of misbehavior (for example selling SP bets) , the offender has the upper hand on you the policeman. This is how ‘dolly Dunn’ worked it for years-police who in exchange for a bit of money turned a blind eye to his selling a bit of drugs found them selves unable to act upon the information Mum Shirl gave the about Dunn the serial sexual abuser.

    • Pedro says:

      That sounds like Brother Oswald at my school in brisbane in the 70s, though I don’t know if he was at Hurstville. He ended up in jail. As an adult I realised that Oswald was a criminal and that the School management should have shopped him. Their toleration of his violence was appalling.

      • john r walker says:

        Can’t remember the mans name , but he ended up topping himself.
        At my school Sydney Boys there was a sexual sadist that was able to operate with apparent impunity for years -eventually topped himself in the mid nineties .

        If the inquiry really does its job well the potential for damages claims looks very incalculable. And given that most of the perpetrators are not rich and/or dead, the institutional, public , private and charitable education /welfare service frame works will provably need extra funding above operating budgets to pay the ‘negligence’ damages that are likely eventuate

        • john r walker says:

          “The following article appeared in the Herald on 28/03/2000, concerning the apparent suicide of the once Classics teacher and Fencing Master Mr William Lucan-Roberts. The charges against him are quite devastating, and although they have not been “proven”, they still remain.”

          The original article was at


        • Pedro says:

          It’s an interesting thought, what is the potential damages claim and what happens to the actually good things the RCC does. I suspect a truth and reconcilliation approach would be best, and not a little ironic. Also, there are other institutions that might not look too good with scrutiny, including the Commonwealth.

        • Patrick says:

          What usually happens is that the actual archioceses are quickly bankrupted, long before the payouts have even begun to be counted.

  14. TN says:

    Looks like the Catholic Church is just following the lead set by the tobacco companies, peddling their product to the third world when the first world started wising up to the health risks.

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