Update on the Bethel Covenant Community scandal

26 05 2008

On the forum at Catholica Australia is posted the full text of a recent article in The West Australian that yields more information (but not all that much more) about the nature of the abuses at Bethel Covenant Community:

InsideCover
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The West Australian, http://www.thewest.com.au , Edited by Gary Adshead, inside.cover@wanews.com.au , p 2, Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tongues are wagging in powerful Catholic circles after The West’s Bethel Community expose on Saturday.

Apart from deciding whether Benny Hill should be the religious splinter group’s new patron, a blog site which helped lift the lid on the titillating allegations has been shut down.

“The job of the blog is over,” declared the blog site’s mystery convener. “For all of you I pray that you all grow closer to God by the love you express to your fellow journeymen (women).”

But within hours of the blog being pulled, another had started up to funnel discussion about the crisis engulfing the West Leederville organisation.

Unfortunately, the wording of the invitation to potential bloggers could have been better considering the scandal is all about the community’s ex-leader allegedly groping female members. “Get stuff off your chest and keep the communication going,” it reads.

Forum contributor John C. Massam submitted the following Letter to the Editor:

Abreast of the Catholics at Bethel

Saturday’s “West” pages 6 and 7 (May 10) had a heading “Christian chief Horgan quits amid breast-groping claims.”

The “covenant community” of Bethel in West Leederville were doing things to the ladies that no-one who went to Catholic schools in the 1940s would imagine could ever be practised in a Catholic setting, or in any Christian setting except some cults in history and at the present day.

How much Church money went into this charismatic “speaking in tongues” group is anybody’s guess.

This undue interest in ladies’ fronts by some leaders of the Bethel Covenant Community has amazed and annoyed responsible members of the Catholic community in Western Australia.

According to Sean Cowan’s excellent lengthy report, it took almost a year after the first complaints reached the RC bishops for the leadership to leave the scene — and that was the result of self-embarrassing talks by two brave women to other members

But isn’t this kind of inaction the very same as the hierarchy’s reaction to child sex abuse that has festered for decades in this country and America? They don’t tell the police, they don’t warn other RCs, and they just keep on preaching sexual abstinence and responsible non-condom parenthood!

Might I tell non-Catholic readers that before he arrived for his American visit the Pope told the news media that he was “ashamed” of the clergy sex abuse, but “The Record” made the next front page a miracle cure attributed to Father Damien, the leper priest.

With this sort of thinking, how can the RC Church overcome its contrasting set of hang-ups — saving every sperm in marriage or in medical experiments, but wasting millions in sex perversions?

He’s dead right about the ultraconservative Record, which has little to say about sex abuse within the Church, nowt to say about sex abuse at Bethel, but much to say (approvingly) about bribing children with icecream to attend Mass. Sean Cowan’s expose is unlikely to appear there, but I hope it will make an appearance online somewhere: I’d like to read it.

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22 responses

26 05 2008
Sean the Blogonaut

Ignore it and it will go away. Or the parishioners will get used to it. Has this hit the national news?

26 05 2008
AV

As far as I’m aware, it’s only been covered in the WA print and TV news media, and there is almost no information on the Interwebs beyond the Catholica story, the BCC (interim) website, a few BCC-related blogs which may or may not have already been shut down, and the blog belonging to yours truly.

28 05 2008
hemrajsingh

Churches and temples do not change the beastly nature of us human beings. Some of us are plain wolves and no amount of social conditioning can take away our claws and teeth. Let’s just accept the fact. What else?

28 05 2008
AV

Some of us are plain wolves and no amount of social conditioning can take away our claws and teeth.

I’m not a trained clinical psychologist, so I can’t comment on the veracity of this claim. The psychiatric profession recognises sociopathy and psychopathy as mental illnesses, and as far as I understand things, these illnesses are deemed “incurable” if not unmanageable.

I’m not sure about the extent to which this bears on the BCC case (if at all), but I certainly doubt that the way to help people with authoritarian/anti-social predilections or delusions of grandeur is to give them a leadership role in a cult where they will be able to exercise power over the vulnerable and the gullible.

Looking the other way, as has been the situation for so long in the Catholic Church with regard to sexual abuse, is no solution either. Especially not for the victims. And that is why we should definitely not “just accept” it.

28 05 2008
The Lazy Aussie

“The psychiatric profession recognises sociopathy…” What about lycanthropy?

28 05 2008
AV

(Yeah, that too.)

28 05 2008
Bruce

I wasn’t going to suggest that people look away, but I was wondering what the significance of this issue was relative to other instances of abuse meted out by the religious (or indeed non-religious). Catholic-sex-scandal! has often been hyped in the media and I’d prefer sober analysis rather than anything else (although I won’t discount sex offenses committed by the clergy as much as Dawkins did in The God Delusion).

The relative media blackout, especially given the period that has passed since the story broke, is somewhat worrying and for that reason alone I think I may be changing my mind. I didn’t want hype, but I didn’t want quietly-quietly-pr-managed either!

Are journos deliberately turning a blind eye? Is criticising (specific) religious institutions (for specific wrong doing) being treated (wrongly) as a passing fad or something?

28 05 2008
AV

I have a feeling that the lack of media coverage might be due to the obscurity of the Bethel Covenant Community itself, more than an endeavour by journos to sweep this under the rug. I knew that such an organisation existed, because the headquarters are visible from the Fremantle train line, but I certainly was unaware that there exist Catholics who speak in tongues!

29 05 2008
Bruce

Well, I wasn’t actually suggesting that Journos were sweeping it under the rug. More that criticising religion in general had become “so last week” (or whatever).

4 06 2008
DNGQ

There have been a number of subsequent articles about Bethel Community since the above. By far the most disappointing (disgusting) was Archbishop Hickey’s statement of Mon 26th May were he deni
This is amazing as
-Bethel is listed on the Archdiocesan web page as a Catholic organisation.
-It is under ‘Catholic in the ‘phone book.
-The Archbishop has approved a Liaison Priest to the Community.
-The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the Chapel at the Centre.
-Bethel has statutes with the Archbishop and with Rome as an ‘Association of Christ’s Faithful’
-The Church has written dozens of letters to Bethel over the past thirty years telling them what to do
– Etc. Etc. Etc.

4 06 2008
AV

Thanks for the heads-up DGNQ. I hate to impose, but is there any way that you could forward me that article? My email address is fwnietzscheAThotmail.com.

6 06 2008
DNGQ

AV
The article is at http://truthseeker659.vox.com/ There are a lot of angry people in Perth who have just been told by there Archbishop that their 30 years of service to a Catholic Community was not something that wants to be associated with.

While your at it you may want to look at feminist545.vox.com and the web page for Catholica Australia where the editor Brian Coyne first broke the story.

6 06 2008
DNGQ

This article appeared in Inside Cover in the West Australian Newspaper today
“I and many other Catholics who have been watching the revelations about Kevin Horgan, find it incredible that the Catholic newspaper the Record has not printed one word about all of this.
The Record was very quick to report the bishops’ condemnation of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s book Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church. The Editor of the Record must be wondering about the stories he has written highlightingthe conferences and other activities Bethel has been responsible for under the patronage of Archbishop Hickey.”

6 06 2008
arthurvandelay

Thanks for the info, DNGQ. At Feminist’s blog the following message appears:

Jeeze Louise has informed me that I may get sued for hosting a blog on Bethel. So am not hosting a public blog specifically about Bethel any longer.

You are welcome to make general comments about Bethel or about cults but please DO NOT mention mames.

6 06 2008
The Lazy Aussie

Oh, DNGQ, you beat me to it.

7 06 2008
Bethel sex scandal: What Would Archbishop Hickey Do? « Five Public Opinions

[…] Thanks to commenter DNGQ, I have managed to locate a copy of a West Australian article (”Church knew of sex claims,” 26/5/0 detailing the Western Australian Catholic Church hierarchy’s knowledge of and position on sexual and other abuses at the Bethel Covenant Community. […]

10 06 2008
PQ

In the article in the “West Australian” newspaper (May 26), the Bishops give an official response to the situation. They attempt to distance themselves from the situation, even though they have been involved with Bethel over many years. The article quotes the bishop as saying:

“‘It [Bethel] is an independent organisation and has its own authority structure and I don’t interfere with that.”

What a load of bollocks! In the same article they are said to have said: ‘…the Church had previously received complaints about Mr Horgan’s “style
of management and autocratic exercise of authority”. The Church had
pushed for change…’

Also: “Bishop Sproxton wrote to the community about ways to improve attitudes and practices, among the leadership and in relation to the whole community.”

Also: “…at a meeting of elders with Bishop Sproxton, the leader (Mr Horgan) agreed to the bishop’s request to stand down from the day-to-day affairs of the community.”

It clearly sounds that the Bishops were very much involved with Bethel’s authority strucure – so much in fact that they asked the leader to stand down! If that’s not interfering, then what is?

10 06 2008
AV

Thanks, PQ. I have a post on that article here.

8 07 2008
World Truth Day for Pell and Hickey « Five Public Opinions

[…] his knowledge of sex abuse within the priesthood. Regular visitors to this blog will also recall the sex abuse scandal in WA involving the leadership of the Catholic Charismatic Bethel Covenant Com…, and of the Church’s endeavours (as with the Terence Goodall case) to wash its hands of the […]

21 07 2008
DNGQ

Ex members of the Bethel Community are looking for advice as to how to progress this matter since the interim leaders decided to suddenly close the Community.Some of the cases of a buse went on for 15 years and for six years in the case of one young lady. This sort of sexual predatory behaviour by Kevin Horgan surely must be illegal in the relationship between pastor and member. Any suggestestion would be helpful.

31 12 2008
Andy

After reading IC’S REPORT ON wEDNESDAY 31 ON vARANUS iSLAND.
All I can say is can’t people get a life, everybody forgets that no one was hurt during that explosion, but not once has that been mentioned nor has people taken into consideration the saftey procedures Apache oviously have in place.
As a reader of the west Australian I am sick of all the trival negatively writen . Talk about triving in others mishaps. As for the person writing the article well what can I say but get a bloody life.

31 12 2008
arthurvandelay

Does the getting of a life involve driving-by blogs and making vague, off-topic comments?

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