Church & State & That’s Entertainment!

Update (July 31) : YouTube, presumably bowing to pressure from the Church, has removed the offending video. The Good News (so to speak) is that it’s still available via Live Leak; you can even download the video if you want…

Update : After initially defending Reverend Geoffrey Baron’s behaviour, it now appears that, perhaps after some further prayer and reflection (and perhaps even some further consultation with the Church’s PR department), local Church authorities now believe it wiser to apologise for the Reverend’s racially abusive, sexually explicit, and profanity-laden diatribe as captured on video last year. Or so says Sky News (Church apologises). Baron, whose behaviour has been characterised by me as being the real life embodiment and Antipodean Catholic equivalent of Viz magazine character Paul Whicker The Tall Vicar, has also apparently prompted a children’s rights group to recommend anger management classes… well, according to the Herald Sun / AAP anyway (Priest vs skateboarders shocker).

Mark Russell in The Age reports that Red-faced church sorry for blue dean, and a slightly more formal apology — carefully describing Baron’s references to sore arseholes, sperm, and boys fucking, by way of stating that the Right Reverend “used obscene language and suggested in vulgar terms that the youths were homosexual” — is also provided by a further article in the Herald Sun (Apology for priest’s tirade).

Priests these days eh?

    Every now and then you did a cartoon you were aware hit the button and you immediately got a good reaction from it. Paul Whicker the Tall Vicar was the first one, in 1981, and after that Johnny Fartpants, and when the Fat Slags were launched, they had the same effect, a considerable initial impact and then they fade away.

“Likewise, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Epistle of Jude 1:17) or “How’s your arsehole so sore by being fucked by all these cunts?”

In a not entirely unexpected development, local Church authorities, in the person of the Vicar-General of Melbourne, the Reverend Les Tomlinson, have defended the actions of a local priest, who last July provided local youth with an impromptu sermon on the need to respect Church property. A video on YouTube shows the Dean of Melbourne Cathedral, the Reverend Geoffrey Baron, quoting from one of the lesser-known Epistles of St Paul, and instructing a number of teenage boys skateboarding on property outside of the Cathedral to be Good Christians and to go forth and multiply, “by the sperm of all these boys that fuck you”.

    A rough transcript is available for your reading pleasure here.

Judging by reports (or one at least), teenagers skateboarding on Church property — in this case, that belonging to St. Patricks’ Cathedral in Melbourne — are a persistent problem for Church authorities. However, despite this, the Church does not appear to have established an especially sensitive means of encouraging teenagers to skate elsewhere, instead allowing an elderly Reverend (supplemented by the stern instructions of another, unknown female Church official), to engage in racist and sexually explicit verbal abuse of the young offenders in question.

According to one parishioner, the priest in question, Dean Baron, “was ordained in 1968 at Saint Kevin’s Church, Ormond and served in a number of parishes as an assistant priest before being appointed parish priest of Saint Joseph’s Parish, Northcote in January, 1984. In July, 1997 he was appointed parish priest of Saint James’ Parish, Gardenvale. Dean Baron has many talents to bring to the role of Dean of the Cathedral, not least of which are his considerable musical background and ability, his keen interest in liturgy, his warm, friendly and welcoming personality and his generous and committed pastoral care of those entrusted to him.”

And er, the ability to swear like a drunken sailor.

The ABC’s account of the contents of the YouTube video is particularly interesting, because although it makes reference to Baron’s racist taunts, it signally fails to register their explicit sexual content. What’s more odd is the fact that, while neither it nor any other ‘news’ service provides a link to the video in question, viewing it would quickly reveal that there’s more to the story. That said, why the contents of the video should only come to the attention of the corporate/state media now, over twelve months after the incident itself (and its being uploaded to YouTube), is a question left unanswered and, in fact, unasked.

Church defends Monsignor’s outburst
Samantha Donovan
July 27, 2007

MARK COLVIN: The Catholic Church is defending the behaviour of one of its leaders, the Dean of Melbourne Cathedral, after a video showing him verbally abusing a group of teenagers surfaced on the internet.

The Reverend Geoffrey Baron is seen being harassed and abused by a group of skateboarders, but rather than turning the other cheek, he lets fly with obscene and racist epithets.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church says problems with trespassing skateboarders are long-standing and Monsignor Baron was provoked.

In Melbourne, Samantha Donovan.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The footage, posted on the video sharing website YouTube was apparently shot a year ago and runs nearly three and a half minutes.

It appears that a group of skateboarders has been ignoring Reverend Geoffrey Baron’s demands that they leave the steps and paved area outside Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Several of them continue to skateboard around him and taunt him asking him if he wants them to leave.

Monsignor Baron’s demands become more abusive.

(video excerpt)

SKATEBOARDER: Do we have to go?
GEOFFREY BARON: Move now. Off the property. I will (inaudible) of all these boys. F*** you. Get off the property. Get off the property.
SKATEBOARDER: Awwww. (laughing) I’m going to f*** you up!
GEOFFREY BARON: Off the property. Get off the property now!

(end video excerpt)

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: As the skateboarders make obscene gestures, taunt and throw things at Monsignor Baron he appears to respond with comments about one of the teenager’s race.

(video excerpt)

GEOFFREY BARON: Get back to where you come from you spool [sic]. You don’t belong in Australia.
SKATEBOARDER: You are racist you f***. Stop being a racist f***en freak. Don’t touch me you freak!
GEOFFREY BARON: Get off the property. You foreigner there! Look at his sleepy eyes, his black hair, sleepy eyes. Go back to where you belong.
SKATEBOARDER: You f***ing bald prick.

(end video excerpt)

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: This afternoon, the Vicar-General of Melbourne, the Reverend Les Tomlinson said the video was disturbing and the Church wasn’t proud of Monsignor Baron’s behaviour but he had been provoked.

LES TOMLINSON: Could you imagine yourself being subjected to the abuse and the pushing that he was subjected to and be confident that you yourself would not react in a way that perhaps you wouldn’t if you weren’t provoked?

And if any human being is under siege like that, they may well react in a way they wouldn’t do in another circumstance.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Monsignor Tomlinson said groups of skateboarders gathering around the Church have been a long-standing problem.

LES TOMLINSON: I know, the Dean has spoken to me several times and [is?] feeling in fear of his own safety with the confrontations he’s experienced. And I think that the YouTube demonstrates not only the confrontation that occurred, but how it was provoked by these skateboarders.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Monsignor Baron is away at the moment.

Monsignor Tomlinson says he will speak with him on his return but isn’t sure if he will be reprimanded.

MARK COLVIN: Samantha Donovan.

Hmmm. The Church asks for patience and understanding following one of its members being exposed, publicly, as abusive. Apparently, the boys provoked the priest. Or, perhaps he wasn’t in full control of his faculties.

And now he’s gone away.

Where have I heard these lines before? Oh yeah:

Broken Rites and Catholics

There are many reasons why Broken Rites has encountered so many cases of Catholic Church sex-abuse.

The Catholic Church rejects married priests and women priests. The Catholic Church advertises its priests and religious personnel as being “celibate”. Also, the Catholic Church has traditionally interfered in the bedrooms of its congregation – “no sex outside of marriage”, no contraception, no divorce, no choice in the termination of a pregnancy, and so on. This pious public image has unfortunately caused Catholics to believe that they and their children are “safe” in the hands of “celibate” clergy and religious personnel.

Furthermore, until recently, the Catholic Church has skillfully managed to cover up cases of sexual abuse within its ranks. Too often, Catholic child-victims felt that they were prohibited from reporting the abuse to anyone, even to their parents. Too often, Catholic parents were reluctant to go to the police.

Commonly, Catholic victims maintained a life-long silence about their abuse. If they did report the abuse, often they merely told a church official – perhaps at a bishop’s office or the headquarters of a religious order. But this enabled the church officials to “tip off” their colleague, the offender; and then perhaps he would be transferred to a different parish or a different school or, in some cases, to another diocese, to abuse new victims; or he might be awarded an overseas “study” trip. The offender’s former parishioners (or students) would not be told why Father (or Brother) was leaving his old parish, and the new parish (or school) would not be warned why Father or Brother was arriving. Thus, countless children and vulnerable adults were put at risk.

In Australia, this Catholic cover-up began to break down after Broken Rites began operating in 1993. Broken Rites established, and publicised, a telephone hotline for survivors, and we began receiving calls from thousands of people (mostly Catholics), alerting us to cases of church sex-abuse that had had hitherto been covered up. The first cases we took up resulted in the jailing of several Catholic priests and religious brothers throughout 1994, 1995 and 1996. These convictions created a big impact in the Australian news media. This publicity prompted more survivors, especially those with a Catholic background, to phone us for help. This helps to explain why Broken Rites has been involved in so many Catholic cases. Incidentally, the members of the current Broken Rites executive committee all happen to have had a Catholic childhood…

Tomlinson himself is quoted in the case of one priest, Reverend Barry Robinson:

A year after the Archdiocese of Boston adopted a new policy on handling allegations of clergy sexual abuse in the 1990s, an Australian priest who had admitted having sex with a teenager abruptly left the archdiocese and the country, short-circuiting a potential investigation by police and child welfare authorities, according to documents filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court.

Documents from the archdiocese’s own files show that the Rev. Barry Robinson returned to Australia in April 1994 without being questioned by civil authorities even though Robinson had acknowledged to his therapist in March that he had had sexual relations with a teenage boy on three occasions in the rectory of Blessed Sacrament Church in Jamaica Plain…

In addition to admitting to a therapist and church officials to having been sexually involved with the teenager, Robinson also acknowledged that he had engaged in sexual “misconduct” when assigned as a priest in Chile from 1979 to 1985, a church official in Australia said in a statement…

Monsignor Les Tomlinson, vicar general for the Melbourne Archdiocese, said in response to written questions yesterday that Robinson had not been contacted by law enforcement authorities once he arrived back in Australia…

~ Priest left US after admission in sex case, Stephen Kurkjian and John Ellement, Boston Globe, January 14, 2004

“So you’re not a terrorist? Pffft. Who cares. You can piss off anyway.” or Kevin Andrew does his bit in The War on Terror

Mohamed Haneef is at Brisbane International Airport ready to fly back home to India tonight, after the Immigration Department returned his passport. Dr Haneef was freed yesterday after almost four weeks in custody on a terrorism-related charge that was dropped yesterday. The doctor, who was working at the Gold Coast Hospital before his arrest, says he is homesick and anxious to be reunited with his family. Dr Haneef is scheduled to fly out just after midnight via Bangkok, accompanied by a relative and his lawyer, Peter Russo…” ~ ABC News, July 28

Vultures crash…

News helicopters collide; 4 dead

(CNN) — A police chase through the streets of downtown Phoenix turned into a midair tragedy Friday afternoon when two television news helicopters covering the action collided and crashed to the ground in smoke and flame, killing all four people on board. KTVK-TV said photojournalist Jim Cox and pilot Scott Bowerback were killed. KNXV-TV identified its crew as photographer Rick Krolak and pilot Craig Smith…

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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5 Responses to Church & State & That’s Entertainment!

  1. Youre comparing sexual abuse with a verbal outburst. Its not fair.

    Let me tell you that I dont like the Catholic Church and its members any more than you do. But I can understand the reaction of the priest.

    Besides that, I cant understand why everyone is talking about the priest who sinned and not about the kids who had committed a crime.

    The sin of the priest is between him and his God. You dont like it? You dont like him? Stay away. Its your choice.

    But the kids were trespassing and harassing that man. Thats crime, a misdemeanor if you want, but still something society should deal with. The kids should be punished according to the law. I dont want them in jail, that wouldnt help. But we must let them know that their behavior is not acceptable. Their parents must understand that they failed to fulfill their responsibilities.

    Forget about the priest. Thats not a public affair. Its a private affair, its him, his church, members of his church, his God if you want. The kids are getting away with being criminals. Thats a public thing that should be taken to the court. You have the video here, they provided it themselves, what more evidence do you need?

  2. @ndy says:

    Hi James,

    Comparing, yes, in one sense; but I’m certainly not claiming that they’re morally equivalent. Obviously, sexual assault is a worse crime than verbal abuse, and nowhere do I accuse Baron of that.

    As for the subject of criminality and immorality, and the respective status of both the priest and skaters in relation to these subjects, I think the reason this incident has become a talking-point is because Catholic priests are representatives of the Catholic Church; the incident took place on Church property; and at the time Baron was the Dean at St Patrick’s, the oldest and most prestigious Catholic Church in Melbourne. In other words, Baron is not just a priest, but a highly-placed one.

    Secondly, what Baron says to the teenagers is highly abusive, racist, and sexually-explicit. Arguably, such behaviour says something about his character, and raises questions as to whether or not someone of his calibre should occupy such a position in the Church hierarchy.

    Thirdly, Baron’s behaviour suggests a radically immature understanding of and extremely inappropriate reaction to the antics of teenagers; teenagers whose only crime appears to be skateboarding on Church property. In this context, it’s not an unreasonable expectation, I think, that an adult priest, acting on behalf of the Church, should, in fact, be able to devise a means of preserving Church property without resorting to such behaviour.

    Fourthly, in relation to the crime of trespass: I’m not a lawyer, and it may well be that the teenagers in question may have broken the law, not so much by merely being present on Church property — which is not, in and of itself, a crime — but by failing to leave within a reasonable period of time and upon being asked to by the relevant authority, in this case, the Very Reverend Geoffrey Baron. As to whether or not this constitutes a misdemeanor or occupies some other criminal category I don’t know; I’m also unsure whether or not ‘harassment’ may be applied in this case. That said, when you write that this is something “society should deal with”, I think you’re missing the point.

    We have before us an example of an interaction between the Dean of St Patrick’s and a group of teenagers. What happened, happened. At most, one could reasonably argue that Baron should have followed due process and if, after the teenagers refused to leave, informed them — as he was legally entitled to — that he was going to contact the police and ask for their assistance in removing the teenagers from Church property; a course of events which might also result in criminal proceedings being brought against them. Alternatively, of course, he could have asked them to join him in discussing their common problem, and together they could, perhaps, have jointly devised a means of ensuring that a) the skaters had somewhere to skate and b) other people were free to make use of the Church facilities at St Patrick’s without being unduly inconvenienced by their skateboarding.

    Finally, I oppose the institution of the Church, but am otherwise neutral with regards its membership. In my experience, a person’s character cannot be reduced to their religious affiliation, and just as there may be ‘good’ Catholics, there are also ‘bad’ non-Christians. And really, I don’t think that one needs to have a definite opinion on the righteousness or otherwise of Catholicism in order to venture an opinion with regards the Very Reverend’s behaviour.

    I too, can “understand” the reaction of the priest, but what my understanding tells me, based on the evidence presented in this video, is that Geoffrey Baron may well be racist, sex-obsessed, abusive, and hardly the best person to negotiate on behalf of the Church the use of its property.

    And a priest is not merely a security guard.

  3. pol x says:

    The skaters were committing a crime?

    C\’mon, be realistic, they were skating on a section of paving where no one was.

    Oooh off with their heads.

    It is odd the reaction skaters get, if they were on roller blades in brightly coloured shorts and t shirts no one would bother them, if they were riding pink bikes with bells and baskets with streamers from the handle bars on them similarly they would not even register.

    But put on an out size pair of cargo pants sloppy joe t shirt and stick a plank on wheels under their feet and suddenly they are public enemy number one.

    The problem is one of perception, they are perceived as baddies, so every knob in authority decides that they must stop this scourge, when all they really mean is they want to shoo teen age boys away.

    If you don\’t want skaters, pave the place with dimpled paving slabs, and put steel studs in on the axle grindable areas.

    I mean come on, you\’ve only had 35 years of skating to work this shit out.

    And considering the amount of money the RC church saves on not having to pay for sex, bless them altar boys, they could afford to pave the known universe.

  4. Victoria says:

    I have heard that there was a second video. Does anyone know about this or where I could view it.

  5. @ndy says:

    Hi Victoria, contains a link to a news report which shows extracts from TWO other videos, one shot six months ago, the other eighteen. My guess is that they’ll turn up on YouTube or another site in the not-too-distant future (if they haven’t already).



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