Not only the ecclesiastical world, but the world in general sits in shock that one of Cardinal George Pell’s stature has taken such a mighty fall to a Melbourne prison cell.
Yet the charges concerning paedophilia have not only caught the cardinal but many others in the churches.
We have found this scourge reach the highest places within both the Catholic and Anglican churches.
Other institutions have also been tainted, but none in the spotlight have been found to be so guilty as the church.
That spotlight is due both to the courage and investigative work of several local figures, former Inspector Peter Fox, journalist Joanne McCarthy and the Herald.
Why have the churches become so infected with this scourge of sexual abuse?
The course can be found in what all too often has become a deep-set neurosis in regard to sexuality.
The repression of something so central to our being has meant it all too often manifests itself in highly unhealthy ways.
Though Jesus himself had very little to say regarding sexuality, the church soon became obsessed with it.
Sex came to be associated with dark carnal lust which always served as temptation to draw followers from the spiritual path.
That temptation was located in women, who thus have always played a diminished role within the Christian tradition.
From the Desert Fathers with their fanatical ascetic practices, the rejection of the female leadership which had been clearly present initially in the grouping around Jesus and the earliest church, leading first to an all-male and then an exclusively celibate leadership, the church has not exhibited a healthy attitude to human sexuality.
Even the belief that Jesus needed to have a virgin birth, later extended to his mother needing to have an ‘immaculate conception’ reveals this disdain of the sexual.
Still the church seems obsessed with matters sexual.
Debates to do with gender, the place of women, and gender preference, questions of means of sexual practice still are those where the church’s voice is most heard.
It was Shakespeare who wrote, ‘thou doth protest too much’.
It seems the church’s strident voice, fed on repression, has often masked its malpractice.
Concerning human sexuality, not only must the church’s practice but its theology undergo radical change.