Letting Catholic priests into Australia was a mistake
Centuries of failed migration policy must not be repeated

Catholic holy men practicing the “rite of ordination” in Sydney recently. Source

Warning: you are now entering a politically incorrect zone. Australia is in the middle of an honest discussion, fuelled by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Previously, Australia’s immigration policy has been based on a complex, rather muddled process where immigrants from all over the world joined the so-called “most successful and harmonious multicultural nation in the world”.

But that’s a phrase our prime minister hasn’t used it for some time now. Things change. Our nation is not counting its immigration successes, but its immigration failures. Chief among those is the introduction of Lebanese Muslims. Mr Dutton says that allowing them to flee the Lebanese Civil War to our shores was a “mistake”. And what better way to quantify that mistake than crime statistics. In question time, Dutton pointed out that, of 33 recent terrorism charges, 22 were against people of Lebanese Muslim background.

How refreshing. No dithering about community cohesion, just the cold calculus of raw stats. And such vision – seeing all the way from 40-year-old policy decisions to the ethnic crime of now and the future. The belly-ache brigade is already making contrived comparisons to sci-fi action movie Minority Report, but it’s just common sense.

Obviously, this new migration “pre-crime” framework will take some time to codify. Weeding out groups that might turn anti-social is not work our nation can just rush into. But on evidence available already, one thing is clear: letting Catholic priests arrive and operate in Australia has been a calamity. No need to finish grading the report card. It’s a capital “F” for Fail.

Just look at the numbers. There are around 80,000 Lebanese Muslims in Australia. Of these, 22 have been charged with terrorism offences, or around one in 3600. There are around 3000 Catholic priests in Australia, plus a few hundred retirees. Of these, an astonishing one in 20 has been charged with child sexual abuse offences. And according to the best academic experts, the true number of offenders is around one in 15.

I know what you’re thinking, what we’re all thinking: that Catholic priests are about 250 times worse than Lebanese Muslims. But go deeper. Even if we include all categories of crimes committed by Lebanese Muslims, Catholic clergy are so committed to child molestation that are still dozens of times more likely to wind up in gaol. They offend at six times the rate of all other Christian denominations combined.

Some have argued celibacy is a factor in this pattern of offending. But, thanks to Peter Dutton, I’m beginning to think that church doctrine is a blessing in disguise. Just imagine the kind of multi-generational crime-wave we’d be looking at otherwise!

Now, some bleeding hearts might suggest that the Catholic Church is not all bad. That its priests and lay members tend to the sick and poor and otherwise make a valuable contribution to Australian society. But under the Dutton scheme, we must give crimes their due weight, and this huge quantity of good works is easily outweighed by a small number of outrages.

And it gets worse. After all, no-one has been harmed or killed by a Lebanese Muslim terrorist attack in Australia. Meanwhile, Catholic child abuse has thousands of victims. Contrast the way that the two groups co-operate with the police. While Australian Muslims have generally worked with authorities (and have even been complimented for that work), this is not true of the Catholic Church.

That’s not surprising: it represents a medieval pre-Enlightenment system of thought. Many Catholic priests came from rural areas of Southern Europe where police were not to be trusted. And now we have to ask if those beliefs are compatible with a modern society, or instead create some kind of “dual loyalty”. The answer should give us pause, and we shouldn’t pander to the apologists and appeasers, or be ashamed to discuss it openly.

In fact, if we’re honest, if we add these cultural issues to the number of victims, the evidence is undeniable: Catholic priests are literally thousands of times worse than Lebanese Muslims.

Shamefully, many sounded the alarm and were ignored. As early as the 18th century, commenters tried to bell the cat by pointing out that Irish Catholics in Australia had a criminality rate approaching 100%. But they were howled down by the bien pensant lynch mobs of their day. Pointing out this reality was given the ugly name “sectarianism”, as a way to silence sensible discussion.

Now that the blinkers are off, those so-called “sectarians” have been proven correct. Indeed, they are owed an apology. Evidence of the folly is everywhere, not just in our prisons. Under the rose-tinted policy of co-existence, Catholics were even allowed to play cricket for Australia. Look at how the team is doing now. Can anyone honestly say this has been a success?

To avoid the mistakes of the past, Peter Dutton must now prioritise vetting of Catholic priests as matter of urgency, and introduce an all-out ban if necessary. But in time his approach should be applied to other groups, and for other crimes. There are already some suggestions coming from the Liberal Party. Josh Manuatu, an advisor to Eric Abetz, appeared on The Drum where he defended Mr Dutton’s comments:  “You just have to have a look at the people being recruited into bikie gangs, who end up in jail, it is a problem.”

He’s right. But while Mr Manuatu’s viewpoint is welcome, under the new system he will presumably be offering it from somewhere else. Unfortunately his heritage is Polynesian, which on his own metrics of gaol overrepresentation and biker gang recruitment means he fails the Dutton test by some margin.

This might seem harsh at first, even antithetical to liberty and the presumption of innocence. After all, Mr Manuatu appears to be a political staffer engaged in the business of doing government. But statistics don’t lie. There’s a real danger he might join an anti-social gang hostile to the values of Team Australia, and that’s the last thing we need right now.

Richard Cooke

Richard Cooke is a writer, broadcaster and contributing editor to the Monthly.

@rgcooke

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