Catholic priest compares paedophile priests to adulterous women

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‘Part of my concern with the current royal commission on the institutional sexual abuse of minors is that we may in the end gain justice for the victims but they will be denied healing,’ the Melbourne priest’s homily says.

‘Part of my concern with the current royal commission on the institutional sexual abuse of minors is that we may in the end gain justice for the victims but they will be denied healing,’ the Melbourne priest’s homily says.

A Melbourne Catholic priest has compared paedophile priests to adulterous women and said victims of sexual abuse would be “denied healing” because the “baying crowd” of media and lawyers don’t understand mercy, in statements published in a primary school newsletter.

The Malvern East priest Father Bill Edebohls, who under Victoria’s Catholic school structure is head of schools in his parish, made the comments in a homily delivered at St Mary’s church. It was reprinted in full in the March newsletter of St Mary’s primary school in Malvern East, Fairfax Media has reported.

“Part of my concern with the current royal commission on the institutional sexual abuse of minors is that we may in the end gain justice for the victims but they will be denied healing,” the homily says. “Why? Because both the media and the lawyers, like the baying crowd of men in the gospel ready to throw stones, don’t understand the need for a justice that is drenched in mercy.”

He made the comparison to extramarital affairs after recounting the gospel story about Jesus showing mercy to an adulterous woman who was to be stoned to death by saying: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

“For our generation, where adultery is not regarded as a crime – and many have lost the moral sense of the destructive harm adultery does to family and community – and the media dish adultery up night after night as playful entertainment – we probably don’t get the power of the gospel story nor the dramatic effect on the characters in the story,” the homily says.

“Remember this was a sin, a crime that carried the death penalty – by stoning. Maybe to get the real drama and effect of the story we ought to replace the adulterous woman with a paedophile priest. Then we might begin to understand the mob eager to stone and the outrageous and profligate mercy and compassion of God ever ready to forgive.”

Shane Healy, spokesman for the Catholic archdiocese of Melbourne, defended Edebohls, telling Fairfax: “He tried to pick a contemporary example of what might have been a woman adulterer of 2,000 years ago, who would have been looked on entirely differently.”

Edebohls was dean of the Anglican church in Ballarat from 1987 to 1996 before converting to Catholicism and being ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 2003. At the time he denied the move was triggered by dissatisfaction with the Anglican church’s decision to welcome gay and women clergy, saying: “My journey into the Catholic church has been a lifetime pilgrimage and is not associated with simplistic one-off issue.”

The Catholic church in Ballarat has been the centre of one of the largest investigations in the royal commission, which last month saw Australia’s highest-ranked Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, questioned for four nights in Rome.

Ronald Mulkearns, who was the Catholic bishop of Ballarat between 1971 and 1997 and was accused before the commission of covering up some of the worst cases of sex abuse in the region, died aged 86 this month and was buried in a common grave, in recognition of the controversy surrounding his time as bishop.

Before his death he told the commission he regretted that he didn’t “deal differently with paedophilia”, adding: “We had no idea, or I had no idea, of the effects of the incidents that took place.”

Guardian Australia has contacted Edebohls and the school’s acting principal for comment.

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