Chris Geraghty. Appropriate responses to the scandal in Newcastle

Jun 7, 2014


After Bishop Bill Wright appeared on television to register his reaction to the findings of the special enquiry into the Church’s and the Police response to the paedophile activities of two priests in the Newcastle diocese, and to express his sorrow for the whole messy scandal, there was an inter-change of emails between two ex-priests – both have had a second career in the law, each with a family of his own and an abiding memory of what it was like to have been “eternally and ontologically” changed into a special and sacred person by the ordaining hands of his Archbishop – ex-priest Geraghty and ex-priest Marr.

First email.

Dear Chris,

I jotted down some thoughts after hearing Bishop Bill Wright say sorry.

I became really angry. Kieran is not helping me. (Kieran is the author of the recently published book “Potiphar’s Wife – The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse”, a copy of which Chris sent to his friend, Peter)

What are you sorry about Bill?

Sorry about what?

Sorry for the abuse and hurt.

Sorry about the scandal and publicity.

Sorry it will happen again.

Sorry you are a part of the organization.

Sorry the good done by the organization is outweighed by the evil.

Sorry the structure of the organization protects the abuser and promotes abuse.

Sorry you think you are special and special rules apply.

Sorry you can’t criticize the Vatican.

Sorry you took an oath.

Sorry you don’t speak out.

Sorry the organization misuses imaginary power against the vulnerable, which has nothing to do with the Gospel.

Sorry no one is listening to the organizations message except the vulnerable.

Sorry the organization has lost credibility and can no longer control what happens in the privacy of the bedroom.

Sorry the organization has been shown to be just a badly run human institution.

Sorry that Jesus is crying.

Sorry the organization thinks it stands above and separate from the civil community with its own rules and peculiar standards and code of law.

Sorry that you toe the line and blame the old and the dead.

Sorry you are forced to accept a party line of secrecy now and blame the past.

Sorry that the present is the problem and there is no fundamental change.

Sorry you can’t even get the line right, ”You are right; we are wrong, I am sorry.” Simple really.

Sorry that you are nothing more than a bureaucrat in a corrupt, deceptive, manipulative organisation.


Sorry – I don’t think so.

Stand up and shout your outrage.

Do you think I should send these thoughts to Bill. Will they be helpful.


PS had to get it out.

The email in reply.

Dear Peter,

Are you demented? Unhinged, like Andrew Bolt? The older you get, the more uncontrollable you become. How does Linda cope?

Yes. Send it off. What have you to lose? You’ll feel better – and Bill will also feel good after the flagellation and humiliation. You are right, of course. In these circumstances, words can’t carry the message.

A year in sack-cloth and ashes for all the clergy, including the bishop;

Or a clergy pilgrimage on foot, fasting on bread and water, in loin-clothes, for forty days in the desert, abandoning all the parishes of the dioceses;

Or a public proclamation in the Cathedral in the presence of the assembled clergy and the victims (if willing to attend), their parents, relatives and friends, describing each of the offences, identifying each of the offenders, recording exactly what each of them did, and what was not done in response after the matter came to be known by those in charge, and recounting the damages suffered to each victim, followed by the closure of the Cathedral for a year and an invitation addressed to all Catholics of the diocese to consider abandoning their membership of the Church, or at least their financial contribution to their parish

Or proclaiming a Year of Shame for the whole Church and striking a bronze medal of

SHAME to be minted and supplied (free of charge) by the Vatican to all members of the Church throughout the world, to be worn in public at all Church services.

I hesitate, Peter, to recommend that the incumbent bishop of Newcastle should return to the good of days when the Church was significantly more pro active. In 897, at the Synoda Horrenda which was held in the Basilica Salvatoris (later to be rebuilt and known as St John Lateran’s) in Rome, Pope Steven VI disinterred the putrid corpse of his predecessor, Pope Formosus who had been dead for ten months, dressed the black body in full pontifical regalia, seated it on an episcopal chair and, in the presence of the assembled local bishops and parish priests, charged the deceased with heresy, tried him, found him guilty and excommunicated him, post mortem. The cadaver was then stripped of the pontifical robes, its two blessing fingers of the right hand were severed and, dressed in a penitential hair-shirt it was re-buried in un-consecrated ground. Not very subtle, you’ll agree – some might think a little macabre, but the message was clear and, as you would appreciate being a lawyer, justice was seen to be done.

I am reluctant to suggest that the corrupt bodies of  John Toohey or Leo Clarke (both bishops of Newcastle diocese during the relevant period, from 1956 and 1995) should be given the same treatment, if only because a week or two after the famous synod summoned by Pope Steven, a minor earthquake shook the Basilica Salvatoris to its foundations, causing destruction from the high altar all the way down to the entrance doors, or as you would understand, Peter, being a member of the old brigade, having been taught Latin as a pre-requisite to your ordination, “ab altare ad portas”.

Even though the trial of Pope Formosus might have been a touch extreme, in the name of Jesus and its faithful members, to say nothing of the victims and their families, the Church has to devise a radical, dramatic and appropriate response to the many breaches of solemn trust by members of the clergy and in response to the institutional cover-up.  As you see Peter, I’m struggling to find a language which could, however inadequately, express the outrage, the scandal, the seriousness, the pain and anger of the community as a whole, of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, those of faith and unbelievers, and especially of the ones who experienced the dirty hands and listened to the foul words of the Church’s consecrated and predatory priests. The institution cannot simply pretend that it has dealt with the problem and “ looking forward” (as they say), move on. The Church should not be allowed to conduct its business as usual, making saints, staging extravagant, Byzantine ceremonies, dressing up in fine vestments, collecting money and telling the world how to conduct itself – perhaps it won’t be for some centuries.

Send it.

Brother Geraghty.

Peter Marr, solicitor, replied by telephone to say that he knew Bishop Bill Wright and that he was a decent human being, but unable to come to terms with the depth and breadth of the catastrophe which confronts him in his diocese, to communicate to the world and to his people, the horror and diabolical treachery visited on the diocese by the criminal offenders and by those who were responsible for dealing with it. The whole sorry mess is beyond him, beyond his brother bishops and certainly beyond the imagination of the Vatican.



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