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The confessional: The very cause of the problem is reaffirmed

An illusion of specialness

The Andrews government is to be commended for removing exemptions for religious leaders to report child sexual abuse. As a Christian, I have long been sceptical of the confessional. Like all aspects of church life, it is a human construct, not a divine one. It has been said that “forgiveness is easier than permission”. The confessional provides perpetrators of the darkest human behaviours with a perverse validation even before and during the crime itself. How many acts of child sexual abuse could have been averted if the perpetrator recognised that the confessional would be unavailable to them afterwards for fear of being reported?

The sanctity of the confessional arises from the same flawed thinking that has long entrapped Catholicism and Christianity in general, namely prioritising the church over God. The infallibility of the Pope, the exclusivity of the Eucharist, mandatory attendance at Mass and the holiness of conclave all represent elevation of human ideas to sacred status. This illusion of specialness is seemingly invisible to many inside the Catholic Church but painfully obvious to the rest of us.

Rob Sutherland, Blackburn South

A convoluted response

So Archbishop Peter Comensoli upholds “mandatory reporting and the seal of confession” because the confession “has a different reality to it”. A fine example of the moral and intellectual gymnastics required to be a modern-day Catholic. Interestingly, he claims that “the sacramental seal is indispensable and no human may have power over it” and yet confession is, in fact, a human construct that became canon law in 1215 under the Fourth Lateran Council. Certainly it has nothing to do with any pronouncement in the Bible. And so I believe it is reasonable to ask why the church would fight so hard to ensure that a priest not be held accountable for withholding any information that may protect a child in danger?

Julian Guy, Mount Eliza

Little has changed for the victims

Why am I not surprised the Catholic Church will not break the seal of the confessional in relation to child abuse. They didn’t report abuse when such revelations were disclosed outside the confessional. Nothing has changed. I really don’t understand their morality. Wish the boy’s club would grow up and become men who show responsibility in relation to what is happening now and not rely on some mystical day of judgment.

John Rome, Mount Lawley

Delivering a clear double message

For decades the Catholic Church covered up crimes against children. Now the law states that priests must report child abuse mentioned in confession. But who is to know and how will this new law be enforced if the only other person who knows besides the perpetrator does not report it? The church says “thou shalt not lie” and the government says thou shalt not protect child abusers. A clear message both ways.

Cathy Wheel, Castlemaine

FORUM

Failure on population

It took a while but the federal government has finally recognised that packing more people into our built-up areas and encouraging low-density sprawl on the fringes are unworkable solutions to housing a growing population. But to believe reducing immigration will have a meaningful impact is another naive, knee-jerk reaction (“Migrant cuts loom to ease gridlock”, 14/8).

The proliferation of environmentally unsustainable low-density precinct structure plans in the outer suburbs shows that government has not worked out that congestion is inevitable without adequate public transport.

A modest (relative to new freeway costs) investment in a comprehensive network of bus services would help get commuter cars off the road.

Governments continue to trumpet unbridled growth as a good thing. The cost to the community of lost time through road congestion is just one symptom of a complete failure to manage where and how we house our growing national population.

Jim Holdsworth, Middle Park

Falling way behind

The Australian economy has been living on wealth created by immigration. Instead of building infrastructure, the income was spent on pork-barrelling and tax cuts. Now we need more income (immigration) to fund dire infrastructure needs, at a time when congestion has forced a population increase rethink. How will we afford to catch up?

John Marks, Werribee

Our climate hypocrisy

So, our embarrassingly shrunken aid budget is to be largely redirected towards emergency measures in the Pacific islands in a futile gesture to counter the impacts of climate change on their shores (“Pacific gets $500m foreign aid injection”, 13/8).

Meanwhile, Australia will sail along as one of the world’s highest per-capita carbon polluters and a major exporter of coal so that other nations can be more like us.

The islander leaders are expressing their fears and distress at their situation, but their real message is that Australia has become callously hypocritical and uncaring about our contribution to the climate crisis. One day we will get exactly what we deserve.

Peter McCarthy, Mentone

What about China?

The small Pacific nations should look at the big picture regarding pollution. China pollutes the world at twice the rate of the next five biggest combined and that ratio is growing. Australia is on track to meet its Paris targets and is well down the list of volume size of pollution-emitting countries. The small Pacific nations have been falling over themselves and fawning to China to supply them with development cash with no conditions about what China’s pollution record will do to the environment. A touch of reality about who is causing what damage to the environment is needed in the corridors of power in the Pacific nations.

Roger Wolfe, Balwyn

Maintain independence

There is considerable irony in US Admiral Scott Swift noting “China is embracing the international rules-based system when they think it advantages them and rejecting it when they think it disadvantages them” (“Australia saluted for China debate”, 12/8). The US is currently a master of this, with President Donald Trump withdrawing from the Paris agreement, the INF treaty, the Iran nuclear deal and Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), to name a few.

The US National Rifle Association regards the ATT as “global gun control”, and spent $US30.3 million on Mr Trump’s election campaign. President Trump announced US withdrawal from the treaty at an NRA rally in April this year.

Similarly when it comes to foreign bases, we are right to be concerned about China building new bases. But the US has more than 800 military bases in over 70countries. Tony Walker is right (“China debate needs caution”, Comment, 12/8). We clearly need an independent foreign policy that serves Australian interests, not those of other countries striving for dominance.

Dr Margaret Beavis, Medical Association for Prevention of War, Carlton

The worst of the ‘-isms’

The threat of exponential communistic expansion throughout the greater part of the 20th century dominated global politics. Communism, however, is no longer a threat. And while China continues its charade as a “communistic” society, it is in reality a bastardised version represented by an autocratic collective elite headed by a “life-appointed tsar”. It promotes a form of controlled capitalism which pays lip service to the people but, as was the case in the USSR, its interest is only in serving the aspirations of the elite.

Today the threat facing our world is the return of that most dreadful of all “-isms”, nationalism.

The election of Donald Trump has, unfortunately, heralded a movement in Western democracies (and others) that are following a simple populism, replete with the obligatory simple cures for complex problems. But we do know that simple answers never solve complex problems, yet they always sell. It remains to be seen where this simplistic approach leads us. My fear, however, is that where equal masses of stupidity collide, there are no winners – only losers.

Keith Brown, Southbank

Try taking a detour

If our Prime Minister visits Ohio (“PM may head to ‘Trump country”‘, 14/8), he should also drop in to Michigan next door and view the highly subsidised US auto industry. He can then rue the loss of thousands of direct and indirect jobs here when the Coalition government decided to abandon the car industry.

James Young, Mount Eliza

Restore the sector

Another excellent article by Ross Gittins regarding the parlous state of vocational education and training (“Students driven off course”, Comment, 14/8).

The privatisation of the VET sector over the past decade and the increased enrolments in the higher education sector have not provided the skills and training for the jobs of the future. Research, including that of the Grattan Institute, indicates that privilege is entrenched in our universities and that, for the most part, they have not met the needs of low socio-economic status students and others from disadvantaged cohorts.

The KPIs and COAG “motherhood” statements need to be supported by a genuine call for action. A considerable investment has been made in the tertiary sector and one wonders about the return on investment. And still we have a need for skilled migration – why? TAFE has great brand awareness among industry and the community, many of whom are dismayed by the wilful destruction of this important part of the sector. Hopefully it’s not too late.

Denise Stevens, Healesville

Ignore education fads

Whether it be a university degree for anyone who shows up, and abandonment of TAFE, to belated minimum scores for entry to the teaching service, to the massive imbalance in public versus private schools, we await the next political fad. Hopefully, the sound and dedicated educators will simply get on with quality teaching and learning. In education you should never chase the latest fix too hard because, like buses, there will be another one along real soon.

Geoff Warren, Anglesea

Trash v treasure

Recently while on holiday to far north Queensland via the red centre, I had an overnight “camp” at Lake Hart, a well-known free camp in South Australia.

Soon after I arrived I noticed a small sedan with a trailer in tow parked beside two large industrial waste bins provided for travellers’ waste. A middle-aged couple with manual rubbish grips were loading the boot of the car, the trailer and the back seat with any scrap that earnt a bounty. Container deposit scheme before my very eyes. One person’s waste is another person’s fortune.

Peter Forehan, Murrumbeena

Catch those scammers

As one of the many people receiving phone calls from would-be scammers, I appreciate the government warning us.

But what are they doing about it? I gave Telstra a list of phone numbers from would-be scammers but they advised that there was nothing they could do. If only the government could take some time off from looking after the interests of the lobby groups and do something for us voters.

John Meaney, Frankston South

Clayton’s cover

What is the point of any home insurance? Product disclosure brochures state you’re covered for a number of insured events, but then there are all these exclusions.

We had water escaping from a pipe under the kitchen causing the house to drop and put in a claim. I was told the drop was a result of rainwater flowing in from the side of the house, not the pipe. I received a letter denying the claim because we were also not covered for loss or damage caused by any escape of liquid “you” were aware of and failed to notify us within a reasonable period (I wasn’t aware and notified them as soon as I knew), loss or damage from a leaking/faulty shower recess or base, and loss or damage from any gradual escape of liquid. So we’re really not covered for anything.

Insurers are quick to take your money year after year, but when it comes to paying out on claims, they make it very difficult. It truly is like getting blood from a stone.

Vita Mezzatesta, Pascoe Vale

Difficult days ahead

The Sudoku may be harder, Philip Anthony (Letters, 14/8), but the cryptic crosswords remain consistent. Almost time for DA “Don’t Attempt” Friday again, followed by DS “Don’t Start” Saturday.

James Reynolds, Lake Boga

The greatest of players

I have great memories of watching Polly play at Kardinia Park when I was a kid (“Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer dies aged 84”, 14/8). It went like this: Polly would palm or handball to Goggin or Lord at the centre bounce who in turn would kick to Wade who would goal. The ball would come back to the centre and Polly set the train in motion again. Simply the best.

Phil Alexander, Eltham

AND ANOTHER THING …

The environment

Meanwhile, it’s toodle-oo to Tuvalu (“Small Pacific nations press PM on carbon”, 14/8).

Monty Arnhold, Port Melbourne

It could take surgery to open the government’s eyes to the reality of climate change.

Brian Morley, Donvale

Global politics

I can’t see this PM weeping real tears and offering sanctuary to Chinese students.

Peter Ramadge, Newport

The Chinese government and Chief Executive of Hong Kong couldn’t be less interested in the legitimate concerns of the protesters.

Phil Lipshut, Elsternwick

Are you surprised a few months after the defeat of Islamic State we have a new enemy to worry about – China?

Colin Lawn, Ringwood East

You’ve got to hand it to Donald Trump – he can spot a patsy from 16,000 kilometres away (“PM may head to ‘Trump country”‘, 14/8).

Ian Gray, Benalla

Catholic Church

Does Archbishop Peter Comensoli really believe a child abuser will self-report to police (“Church digs in to defy abuse disclosure laws”, 14/8)?

Marie Nash, Balwyn

I suspect priests who hear confessions put themselves in the same category as lawyers who hear confessions, and would not want to create another “Lawyer X” scenario.

Alan Inchley, Frankston

Other matters

Cafe chairs and milk crates: more effective against kitchen knives than against M15 assault rifles.

Niall Milton, Mount Waverley

If England hope to win the second Test, they will have to target Steve Smith’s weakness in the 140s.

Tony O’Brien, South Melbourne

Philip Anthony, thank you for your letter (14/8) about the Sudoku. Iwas starting to think I was just getting dumber.

Heather Butler, Bairnsdale

An easy, evidence-based way to reduce cortisol levels is to have a nice cup of tea (“Beat stress – without a magic tablet”, Comment, 14/8). Ahhh.

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