57 Communists: McCarthyism from The Australian

I have in my hand 57 cases of individuals who would appear to be either card-carrying members or certainly loyal to the Communist Party, but who nevertheless are still helping to shape our foreign policy.

One thing to remember in discussing the communists in our government is that we are not dealing with spies who get 30 pieces of silver to steal the blueprints of new weapons. We are dealing with a far more sinister type of activity because it permits the enemy to guide and shape our policy. ...

This brings us down to the case of one Alger Hiss, who is important not as an individual anymore but rather because he is so representative of a group in the State Department. ...

Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wisc.) Congressional Record, 81st Congress, Second Session, Vol. 96, Part 2, 1954-1957.

One month after Alger Hiss was convicted of perjury, Senator Joseph McCarthy began his now famous series of speeches on Communist infiltration of the U.S. government. He told a Wheeling, West Virginia Republican Women's Club there were 57 Communist spies in the State Department, repeating this charge in a speech to the Senate on 20 Feb 1950.

Exaggeration, hyperbole and guilt by association were among the tools used by Sen. McCarthy in achieving his political ends -- and he was also helped by the fact that there had been Communist spies in the U.S. government -- Alger Hiss being one.

My mind turned to Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism as I read a story this morning in The Australian, the largest daily newspaper in Australia and a part of the Rupert Murdoch media empire. The article entitled "Fears Anglican abuse linked to Catholics" is filled with exaggeration, hyperbole, guilt by association and the omission of key facts. But yes, there are abusers in this case -- though not 57 of them.

The news behind this article is the 10 September 2012 announcement from the Anglican bishop of the Diocese of Newcastle, Brian Farran. Acting upon the recommendation of the diocesan professionals standards board he had defrocked three clergy, suspended one priest for five years, and banned a lay employee from further employment in the church for having engaged in sexual misconduct with a teenaged boy.

Here is how The Australian reports this story:

NSW police are investigating allegations four Anglican priests, including the former dean of Newcastle, had sex or were involved in group sex sessions with a teenage boy aged as young as 14.

The establishment of the inquiry, which was referred to police by the church itself, means detectives are now involved in two separate investigations into alleged child abuse by church officials in Newcastle during the 1970s and 80s. The second, Strike Force Georgiana, is investigating the Catholic Church and has charged six priests with pedophile abuse.

While neither police investigation is looking specifically at any connection between members of the two churches allegedly involved in pedophile abuse, detectives believe such relationships may exist. One source within the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle said: "It's possible there are links. There's no strong evidence of it, but it's possible ...

"There's certainly been a strong network up here and they infiltrated the church."

It is not suggested any of the four priests currently under investigation were involved.

The article then goes into details of the abuse, quoting graphic extracts from the professional standards report. This is followed by:

Each of the four priests has previously denied the allegations against them while a previous police inquiry was suspended after the state Director of Public Prosecutions found there was insufficient evidence to lay charges. Mr Goyette could not be contacted yesterday.

And closes with a statement from the unnamed victim:

In a written statement, M said: "Making my complaint and having it heard has been a long and difficult journey. "I urge anybody else who has had similar experiences to speak out."

What is wrong with this story? Where is the exaggeration, hyperbole, guilt by association, and omission of facts? Let me start off by saying I have been following this closely for two years and have written a half dozen articles on this story. So I come to this story encumbered with a degree of knowledge.

Let us begin with the lede. It reports that police are investigating the four Anglican clergy for child abuse -- and they may be part of a clergy pedophile ring that includes six Catholic priests who are suspected abusers. And then we have an unnamed source within the Diocese of Newcastle saying that it might very well be possible that there is a clergy pedophile ring involving priests from the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Newcastle-Maitland

But then again, the third and fifth paragraphs tells us that there is no evidence of a clergy pedophile ring and the police had investigated the four Anglican clergy once already and had taken no action.

And -- the Catholic Church has nothing to do with the actions of the Anglican clergy. Does The Australian work on the principle that any abuse story by any cleric must somehow be tied into the Catholic abuse scandal? As the story states there is no link between the Anglicans and Catholics, what else is this but Catholic-bashing?

What is omitted from this story are several key facts that provide context for this story. Two of the clergy and the lay employee -- a cathedral organist -- had filed a civil suit that was heard by the New South Wales Supreme Court. They argued the professional standards board process violated natural justice and their due process rights. Supporters of the accused have brought Bishop Farran up on charges for the way he has handled this case. The diocese also halted disciplinary proceedings for over a year while this issue was taken through the civil courts and has defrocked the accused clergy now that the Supreme Court has held that it will not intervene in the church's internal disciplinary proceedings.

There is omission of the fact that the lay employee, Gregory Goyette -- the former organist of the Anglican Cathedral in Newcastle -- and the most prominent of the accused, Graeme Lawrence, the former dean of the cathedral are same-sex partners. What we have are five gay men (and Angl0-Catholics) being accused of being part of a pedophile ring by persons unknown. Is it because they are gay men and hence potential pedophiles? That is what I hear in the unnamed quotation in the lede.

By raising the spectre of a pedophile ring and omitting the legal battles and questions about probity of the professional standards board's actions, The Australian crosses a line. Whether this is a subtle form of gay bashing ("Well, we know that all Anglo-Catholics are like that don't we", wink wink) or a case of improving a story -- sexing it up -- is hard to tell. But to me this smells bad.

One of the odd things about this is that Lawrence, who served as Dean of Newcastle for 25 years until his retirement in 2008, was a member of the Anglican Church of Australia General Synod Standing Committee task force that in 2003 created the recommendations for the current professional standards proceedings.

He was a member of the 2003 Sexual Abuse Working Group that recommended that the church change the clergy disciplinary proceedings from an adversarial procedure involving a prosecution for an offense before a tribunal, to panel review process that looked at the fitness of the church worker to hold office. His complaint to the Supreme Court was that he never had an opportunity to face his accusers or dispute the charges -- and now he has been deposed by the process he helped create.

Also -- here is what I am not saying. I am not excusing or condoning the behavior described in this article.

There are evil people in this world. Some of the clergy sexual abuse stories I have covered have sickened me, while stories on the cover up of abuse have left me ashamed. Yet in the evil and sickness that I have seen, I am always mindful that the perpetrators of crimes are still human beings -- and deserve to be treated with fairness and dignity -- even if they never showed this compassion to their victims.

In writing clergy abuse articles there is a temptation to paint the abuser in the blackest of terms. Monster A is as bad as Monster B who is just short of being another Charles Manson. Yet there needs to be nuance and clarity in reporting on these cases so that the truth can be told.

The bottom line in this article is that the whole truth has not been told by The Australian. It throws in a gratuitous and unproven assertion of a pedophile ring, omits important facts that provide context to the case, takes an uncalled for swipe at the Catholic Church, and relies upon an unnamed sources to make its most important point. This is not the way to write a newspaper story. It stinks.

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