I feel I should be in the middle of this uproar about the pedophile Magnus Murray who stalked the parish and school of my childhood preying on the young and vulnerable, breaching the trust given without hesitation to any man who donned the robes of Roman Catholicism priesthood. Those accepted as having a direct connection with God, with the divine authority to forgive sins on Christ’s behalf. It went on around me while never touching me. I knew the priest Magnus Murray ( I refrain from now referring to him as ‘father Murray’). He was our family parish priest during my high school years and took the latin class that I was in. ‘Amo, amas, amat, I love, you love, he loves’; the chanting we did in class now has such a sinister sound. But instead of feeling part of the story, I feel oddly outside looking in at it all.
Magnus Murray never molested me, but I was vaguely aware of a bit of murmur about a creep factor in him and you might hear the odd snigger when he would get a bit touchy in class. Pedophilia back then seemed to have a weird sort of unspoken denial. I recall in the early 1970’s when I had returned from Australia and met up with an old schoolmate who also lived in our parish. He mentioned, with a bit of a knowing smirk, that Magnus Murray had been sent away from the parish to Mosgiel for getting up to a bit of you know, nudge nudge. It turns out that the schoolmate’s brother was one of Murray’s worst effected victims and has suffered dreadfully his whole life. So while I am personally unscarred, I am also obligated to now reflect on this for it happened around me, by and to people I knew and yet I was essentially oblivious to the evil and emotional damage that I walked amongst.
He is only one of many Roman Catholic priests and brothers guilty of pedophilia. Why so many sexual deviants would be in one institution is not, in hindsight, unexpected. I don’t know, and will not venture to speculate on, the cause of pedophilia in our wider community. But to examine why so many pedophiles have been found in Roman catholic religious orders, we need to examine the structure of the catholic church of Rome. Catholics of Europe and Ireland tended to have large families, as was encouraged by their church. These families were expected to offer one of their children to the service of the church. Understandably when giving up one of your children you might, as a parent, discount those who you consider good breeding stock to produce future generations to look after you in your old age. But if one child was a bit different, a bit of an odd character, the runt of the litter, or one who may have been traumatised themselves by a childhood experience, then it was very likely that would be the one you gift to the service of the church.
And so it came to pass. A collection of family rejects for one reason or another brought together in a celibate environment under strict authoritarian rule and denied any normality or freedom in their life. And while all the focus currently is on male pedophiles, the girls from the catholic girls’ school also have disturbing recollections of the behaviour of some of the nuns who taught them.
Whatever their personal aspirations in life may have been, these were denied to them. Whatever their talents may have been were left to wither, unless they related to functions within the church’s scope of business. Whatever their emotional troubles might be, they were hidden, or protected, by the institution they were adopted into. Church secrets that even the police were reluctant to challenge. After all, the priests had the ear of God and no one wanted to risk going to hell for getting offside with God’s own priests.
Not that I am excusing pedophilia. I am as far from that position as it is possible to be. No matter what shitty card life might deal you, there is absolutely no mitigation for pedophilia. My point is that the hierarchy of the Church of Rome is also directly guilty of tacitly allowing pedophiles to prey on the children of their congregations. Apart from Magnus Murray, who did not overly surprise me in hindsight, a number of other teachers at my school have since been accused of sexual assaults on pupils. I now recall a story a friend of my brother told me at Mike’s funeral. He recalled how Mike phoned him one Friday afternoon and invited him for a drink. With inhibitions suitably dulled Mike told him they were off to a school reunion, and so they went. At the door they were asked for their tickets and the doorkeeper was brushed aside as Mike stormed into the hall, raised a $50 note above his head and called out “$50 for the guy who points out brother x to me.” The $50 was claimed in a heartbeat and brother x, a former teacher of Mike’s, found himself cowering under the outrage and public judgement of a grown man that he had last seen when he was just a vulnerable little boy.
Mike told him exactly what he thought of him as a man and a human who had ruined his life. The teacher was left a gibbering mess as Mike and his friend turned and left the hall to pin-drop silence and the teacher had to face his reunion. I doubt anyone in the hall had any doubt of the legitimacy of Mike’s accusations. He need do no more. He had personally, eye to eye, reclaimed his self esteem. He had completely overcome his tormentor and they both knew it. One would sleep well that night, the other would not sleep well again.
Magnus Murray got a couple of years in jail after some of his victims decided to go the police to accuse him. His guilt became undeniable, he was duly exposed and eventually tried and convicted. Out of sight out of mind and when released was confined to the security of a catholic home for the old and bewildered. And the world moved on, justice done. All a bit of an anticlimax in the end that probably did not entirely satisfy the victims. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. He was undeniably guilty of planned, calculating and cruel actions against trusting and vulnerable children and had offended for many years despite being challenged, warned and given chances to reform.
I think in the court system there should be three categories of crime: minor, major and shameful. And pedophilia is firmly in the shameful category. And the shameful should not get to hide away from society, even in jail. For the breach of trust went beyond the actual victim to the whole of the society that trusted those wearing the robes of Christ’s representative. Shame needs to be on public display. In medieval times they put criminals in stocks on public display. I do not know why that practice was abandoned, but maybe they should bring them back for shameful crimes against humanity. Put pedophiles like Murray on public display, a placard hanging off their neck proclaiming their shameful act. Liberals will call it cruel and humiliating. And so it should be. Let victims of pedophiles see that the community supports them and shames their tormentors. I understand that my old school where Magnus Murray taught has removed any photos of him. Don’t do that. Put up a large photo of him in a public place and caption it ‘Pedophile’; write a condemnation of his actions. Lest we forget. Lest the evil rises from its slumber as soon as we relax our vigilance. One of the victims actually suggested this very idea to the school but was told that ‘was not in the spirit of Christian charity.’ I am speechless. If the Roman catholic church believe unrepentant pedophiles are worthy of our charitable thoughts, why on earth did they invent hell?
So, are you enraged about the evil of pedophiles? About the unfairness of the length of time it takes our justice system to discover the truth and eventually bring some sort of justice? About how difficult it can be to bring justice when it becomes a case of one person’s word against another’s? About the unfairness of the sentences that the guilty pedophiles are given relative to the effect that their crimes have had on their victims? Are you now sufficiently frustrated and determined to make this a better world where, in the interests of speeding up justice, the police and courts are allowed instant access to really know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? To effectively have full, constant access to everyone’s most intimate privacy?
That stopped you in your tracks didn’t it? So how do you stand on the digital intrusion of elected governments into the private lives of its citizens? Planting cameras, tapping phones and seizing computers to search hard drives for evidence of pedophilia activity. Are you comfortable with that? Since such planting, tapping and seizing requires sufficient evidence to gain a Court order to do so, most are possibly quite ok with that. You may not have been so compliant had you been asked that question ten years ago, but times change. If we have the technology to catch these criminals then we must use it; as long as there are controls in place to protect the innocent. But you also know that by the time it has reached the stage of acquiring sufficient evidence to authorise such planting, tapping and seizing, the offender has probably been engaged in this shameful activity for years. Irreparable damage to innocent children already done. It becomes too little too late, as the age and even intervening death of these pedophiles makes the bringing of justice too little, too late.
Actually the government can and does, even now, put cameras anywhere they want in public places, so what would you feel about the government bringing in a law that allowed them to constantly access all data going to all computers and phones in a 24/7 search for pedophile activity in order to prevent it rather than to solve it? Well Google are doing it anyway with their cookies and what nots, and we have nothing to hide, so if it stops pedophiles then……..maybe………
It would be a brave political party to try to sell that at election time, but lets imagine it did go through. The next stage, in a few short years, is that cyber pedophiles will be always finding ways to firewall cyber police (you do know I am bluffing my way through this cyber jargon don’t you). So all we have is two sets of online gamers doing in cyber space what cops and crims used to do on the street. Win some, lose some. But when you think about it, the brain is just a super computer hidden inside our heads and the cyber criminals have the same brain as all of us? So what if the government develop a way to scan our brain wirelessly just as they can scan a computer’s brain? Did I really say that out loud? Even for someone like me that is scarily no longer in the sci fi realm
So what about that? In, say, ten years time would we be sufficiently conditioned to buy into this idea of actually catching pedophiles while the intent is forming in their evil mind by scanning their brains as they walk through a shopping mall, or sit in a cafe? This will make the world predator free they will promise. Well, you think, if thats what it takes…..and we have the technology…… Really????? The ‘Thought Police’ then are no longer just a clever little exaggerated insult to politically correct pains in the arse? It is real? We are there?
As I write I know I should feel abhorrence about the concept that my every thought is being scanned and analysed by a super computer and that any red flag thoughts are being sent to some bureaucrat to assess and decide whether to send some men in black to pick me up for questioning and possible ‘re-education’. But the little idealist niggling inside is wondering if such openness is in fact the answer to world peace and happiness. A world of no secrets because secrets are the cloak of invisibility for evil. Without secrets the world will be truly beautiful, man. One world race of inter bred, coffee coloured, culturally homogenous people. One world government.
Oh no, am I really here? Or am I still in the middle of an acid trip from the seventies? But if we want a system comprising of police, lawyers, judges, psychiatrists and prison warders to deal with our pedophiles on our behalf then we are probably on the train ride to the state of thought police. The technology will be waiting at the station to meet us but it will be machines that asses the red flag and drones in black coming to collect us. The robots will rule the world. Wow, I think someone has been passing out bad red rope liquorice.
The alternative is to storm into a public gathering waving a $50 note in the air.