Australia forms commission to investigate church sex abuse

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced a national inquiry into the Catholic church’s responses to child sex abuse after a series of scandals involving paedophile priests.

Gillard made the announcement on Monday in the wake of claims by a senior policeman that a Catholic Church in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales destroyed evidence and silenced investigations.

“There have been too many revelations of adults who have averted their eyes from this evil,” Gillard said. “I believe in these circumstances that it is appropriate for there to be a national response through a royal commission…”

Gillard had been under growing pressure to establish a national inquiry after the recent allegations but she said the probe would be broader than just the Catholic Church.

This is not a royal commission targeting any one church,” Gillard said…

In early November, a senior police investigator…alleged that the church had covered up sexual abuse of children in the Hunter Valley, just north of Sydney, to protect paedophiles and its own reputation.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox said it was his experience that the church not just covered up, but silenced victims, hindered police, alerted offenders, destroyed evidence and moved priests to protect the church…

Gillard said the more recent allegations were heartbreaking.

“These are insidious, evil acts to which no child should be subject,” she told reporters in Canberra.

Gillard said she did not yet know how far back the commission would investigate. She commended victims for speaking out.

Overdue. Long justified. Something you cannot count on churches to do on their own.

But, then, self-policing usually concerns itself more with “self” than “policing”.

Protest in Morocco grows against rape/marriage law


Amina’s mother and sister at her grave

Several hundred women’s rights activists have demonstrated outside Morocco’s parliament to demand the repeal of a law on sexual violence. Morocco’s penal code allows a rapist to marry his victim if she is a minor as a way of avoiding prosecution.

A 16-year-old girl, Amina Filali, killed herself a week ago after being severely beaten during a forced marriage to her rapist…

The parents of Amina Filali were at the protest, says the BBC’s Nora Fakim, in the Moroccan capital, Rabat. They say their daughter was pressured by a local court into marrying her rapist, who then abused her.

She died after swallowing rat poison on 10 March.

Her case has shocked many in Morocco. Women’s rights groups have started an online campaign to have the law – article 475 – repealed…

The protest is an attempt to change attitudes concerning sex before marriage, especially in cases of rape, where the woman can sometimes be regarded as the criminal rather than the victim in order to preserve the family’s honour…

The demonstrators want women’s rights to be respected, not violated, and they want to help poor women such as Ms Filali to be able to stand up for themselves…

In poor, conservative rural areas such as this, it is unacceptable for a woman to lose her virginity before marriage – and the dishonour is hers and her family’s even if she is raped…

Ms Filali’s father said that when he reported the rape of his daughter, he was advised of the option to marry by court officials. “The prosecutor advised my daughter to marry. He said, ‘Go and make the marriage contract’,” Lahcen Filali told an online newspaper, goud.ma.

Campaigners are also calling for the judge who allowed the marriage and the rapist to be jailed.

This is one of those threads common to so much of fundamentalist religion — passed off as imperative to common law. Whether it’s Shari’a or Santorum doesn’t make much of a difference. Holy men make rules for women – even if the women in question have been attacked and assaulted by men.

Hypocrisy, a lack of respect for the rights of all human beings continues as characteristic of superstition, traditional custom maintained by fear-filled little minds afraid, unable, unwilling to confront a modern world.

Grumpy parents take out anger over invalid Groupon offer on Xmas Grotto staff


Grotto staff Ellie Rushton, Robert Briggs, Donna Parks and Jazzmin Ullah

Foul-mouthed parents verbally abused Santa’s elves and fairies at a Christmas grotto when they heard their Groupon deal promising a magical Christmas train ride was invalid…

Penny Ward, who organised the grotto, was shocked when almost 2,000 families turned up with vouchers from the discount website Groupon, which had mistakenly sent an email to customers saying that there would be a train ride around the winter wonderland.

When parents discovered there was no train ride, and the queues to the grotto became so long that their children couldn’t get in, some parents began swearing at staff, who were dressed as elves, fairies and a Christmas tree.

Penny said: “One man even verbally threatened the lady who is dressed as a Christmas tree.

One of the elves was so upset that she has resigned. It was a complete nightmare. Children were crying and upset.”

Organiser Penny said most of the abusive parents had come down to the grotto in York with their vouchers from Newcastle during last weekend’s St Nicholas Fayre, a popular Christmas market in the picturesque city…

Penny had agreed to use Groupon’s services to publicise the grotto but maintains that she never said there would be a train ride…

A Groupon spokesman said: “Owing to a technical error, we apologise that the picture and wording used in this promotion may have indicated that a train ride was available at York Winter Wonderland when this wasn’t the case. We regret any disappointment this may have caused.

Of course, that did a lot of good – especially for the Grotto staff who had to put up with deranged parents and wailing weans.