Handling Conflicts of Interest

Institutional Members and Survivors.

How do we as group members handle ourselves when Conflicts of Interest arise?

The friendship networks and professional networks of connection, often mean that when confronting the Royal Commission we have our social networks, old friendships and professional relationships challenged. The evidence that confronts us means that we look at people’s shadow sides.

Members of the Hierarchy are often part of Institutional members friendship lists.

The magic of the new world of connectivity allows our social networks to combine in ever increasing myriad ways but when we find ourselves confronted with the searing eye of the Royal Commission and the huge waves of online public opinion towards people we know either as colleagues, friends, or casual Facebook acquaintances, who do we chose?

Given the Social networks, I always thought that a model such as this was doomed to failure. No survivors would trust enough to share, and Institutional members would also have huge issues.

However, given the lack of clergy education into the Royal Commission and the culture of denial, I believed that this model could still work in beginning to break that culture.

For Perth Diocese it has been a huge time of shock as social networks are frayed. For Ballina,  Grafton Diocese and Newcastle Diocese, the same shock is reverberating.

I have been on this journey for twenty years. For some of you, this group may have been the first time you have actively engaged with serious long-term deep discussion and reflections on the Royal Commission.

What I ask of all of our members is no matter the “friends” list, no matter how we connect, this issue is above individuals.

This is a systemic issue.

If one of your friends is mentioned adversely, remember it is a systemic problem we are confronting: we are advocating for transparency and massive change.

Most survivors are not into retributive justice: we require to be heard and acknowledged.

We now must be central to all decisions and share a seat at the Conference table and in the “ Board “rooms”  Councils and Tribunals walking with the Leadership teams together.

Power and Control lead to abuse. Joint communication listening and confronting together the past is vital.

So when your friends are mentioned, and you would rather walk away from the shadows revealed in the searing testimonies, please stop a moment. This is not about respondent  X or Y or Z… this is about acknowledgement, reformation and rebuilding.

All of our Institutional members bring to this group a remarkable set of skills. If your Social Networks collide with the revelations and evidential pathways that you are reading, please also remember this: we want to see Justice we want to see the Institutions acknowledge the past.

If one of your facebook friends faces adverse findings and even the possibility of severe state charges, please rest assured that Survivors want only to see the history acknowledged.

I made this group knowing that this situation was inevitable. What I ask of all of you now is that you keep open minds and know that it is the systemic issues that we are confronting.

For survivors and friends

When I say, “Survivors are not usually into retributive justice” I mean this:

A power broker once said to me “ you cannot require the Institution to do anything “. This seared in my memory.

  • Survivors require the Justice system to work.
  • Require absolute acknowledgement with no denial or minimisation
  • We do not want offenders or those complicit in cover up to suicide;
  • Require an acknowledgement of the harm done redress and restoration.
  • Require that the crimes of the past will not be repeated.
  • The vast majority of Survivors require full State trials of Offenders and those complicit in Cover up.
  • The vast majority of Survivors require the full deposition from “Holy Orders” of all Offenders and those complicit in cover up.
  • Forgiveness without Justice is a cheap grace ( Bonhoeffer Letters and Papers from Prison) No survivor should be required to forgive as every survivor’s path is different. Theological pressure for forgiveness is ‘re abusive.
  • Survivors require institutions to take on board and be proactive in all recomendations and Issues papers from the Royal Commission and to apply all Final Findings expediently.

We acknowledge that “ cover up” is tantamount to abuse and that allowing offenders to continue to offend makes those that had the chance to prevent the cycle of offending criminally responsible for the damage done to victims.

Historical arguments about the “culture of the time’  are arguments that current researchers across the disciplines put less weight on than the actual dynamic of awareness of the particular situation.

We have to break the culture of denial. those in the hierarchy who are now facing the consequences of adverse findings of “Cover Up” should in some way find pathways that allow for Justice.

I believe a magnificent gesture and a small step in reformation and renewal is those in the hierarchy with adverse findings voluntarily handing back their religious and secular orders and or positions and acknowledging the harm done genuinely.

This voluntary handing back could be done, not before Findings from the Royal Commission or before Internal Board Hearings, but after the case is decided.

Such actions in mitigation would show genuine contrition.

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