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…
Provocative teenage boys have once again got under the skin of a Catholic priest. In this case, by calling one — of all things — a paedophile. While the priest in question claims not to be able to watch the video in question, according to the Very Reverend Geoffrey Baron (Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne), “The only thing I did see was me being surrounded by these kids and I looked like a kind of a hunted animal being yapped at by jackals and hyenas“. The boys, in other words, were highly intelligent, carnivorous pack-animals; whereas Geoffrey was… graceful.
Y’know… like an antelope?
Predictably, Catholic News provides the most sympathetic account, one titled ‘Priest succumbs to skateboarder taunts’. This follows on from the Vicar General of the Melbourne archdiocese, Monsignor Les Tomlinson, initially claiming that Baron had been provoked: “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.”
Aside from the fact that the video reveals Baron to have been pushed — once — but only after having struck one of the skaters, Tomlinson apparently believes that asking a teenage boy why he’s been stained by the semen his friends have covered him in after they’ve “fucked” him, then asking another how sore his “arsehole” is after these same friends — “cunts” — have “fucked” him falls within the realms of the range of ‘natural’ reactions someone might display who discovers a group of teenagers skating on his or her property.
Of course, such utterances did not come from the mouth of, say, a politician, but a Catholic priest. As to why that might be considered more serious, here’s what the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane has to say about these men with a mission:
Priests are called to be forthright messengers of hope, strong community leaders and spiritual guides for both the lost and the faithful.
Messengers of Hope:
Jesus Christ has had an incredible impact on the world. His teachings have shaped many values held by our society, and his love has transformed countless lives. A critical part of a priest’s mission is to tell Christ’s story of hope. That story brings comfort to those who are weak and without a voice, and encourages and activates those who have the power to make the world a better place. Jesus’ message of hope is not always popular; people have suffered for preaching the Gospel, but it is a powerful message that must be told.
One of the most satisfying things about being a priest is being part of a faith community and being a pastoral leader. This occurs on a number of levels, including presiding over communal worship of a faith community and joining with families at big moments like weddings and baptisms. Priests are often called upon to enter the lives of people when life is darkened with sadness and difficulty. Even in these difficult moments, a priest can experience a profound satisfaction that he has been an instrument of God.
The priest of the future will need to continue to assist people in developing their spirituality. Nourishing the Catholic community with the Body and Blood of Christ is a vital role for a priest. He also needs to explore ways of helping people make spiritual sense of their lives in a dynamic and changing world. Before speaking into other people’s lives, priests need to be students of prayer themselves. A priest develops his personal relationship with God, to learn the ways of God and to lead others on those paths.
In Baron’s defence, however, Monsignor Tomlinson claims that “groups of skateboarders gathering around the Church have been a long-standing problem”. Baron himself further claims that “I have the impression that that particular gang of skateboarders, they take a particular delight and joy in reducing people to grovelling measures as I was, that’s their goal, that’s their aim, so I don’t think I owe them an apology as such…”
So, not just skateboarders, but evil, malicious skateboarders — jackals even; hyenas! And the “abuse” Baron directed at them was not “abuse”. No, by telling the boys to go away (hitting one across the head) and to fuck off; calling them fucking cunts, fucking fools, foreigners who don’t belong and four eyes… this, apparently, was — by Geoffrey’s rather odd definition — ‘grovelling’. But in any case, even if we assume that Tomlinson is correct, and that the presence of skateboarders on Church property was indeed “a long-standing problem”, this would suggest that Church authorities have in fact had some time to develop a solution, one which doesn’t consist of a tirade of abuse from the Dean.
As for media reportage of the Very Reverend’s irreverent outburst, it’s worth remembering that in October 2006, it was revealed that Sydney-based Muslim cleric Sheik Taj Din al-Hilaly gave a highly-controversial sermon, in which, among other things, he made an infamous comparison between (what he considered to be) inappropriately-dressed women and uncovered meat. Not surprisingly, his comments sparked outraged denunciations from both Muslims and non-Muslims; soon-to-be-ex Prime Minister John HoWARd described the remarks as “appalling and reprehensible”; the Islamic Council of Victoria called for his resignation.
According to the ABC, the Very Reverend Geoffrey defended his actions on radio today, stating that “If I could take it back I would, if I could walk around the city in sackcloth and ashes I would, but that’s not going to happen… I can only express from the depth of my heart [that] it’s out character with me. But because of the situation I was in and the nature of the territory that’s there, it’s a sacred space, I just found it appalling that they had so little regard there and that reduced me to the level of all that rubbish that I said. I was shocked too when I saw the whole thing and I was shocked when it happened. When I was pushed to the limit something snapped inside me and I was out to say as much as possible to hurt and humiliate these, as you call them, thugs.”
- thug (thŭg) pronunciation
1. A cutthroat or ruffian; a hoodlum.
2. One of a band of professional assassins formerly active in northern India who worshiped Kali and offered their victims to her.
[Hindi ṭhag, perhaps from Sanskrit sthagaḥ, a cheat, from sthagati, sthagayati, he conceals.]
What a wanker.
Potty-mouthed priest ashamed of outburst
Herald Sun [AAP]
July 30, 2007
A SENIOR Catholic priest says he feels indescribable shame over the verbal abuse he hurled at a group of teenagers taunting him on his cathedral steps in Melbourne.
Reverend Monsignor Geoff Baron, the Dean of Melbourne’s iconic bluestone church, St Patrick’s Cathedral, was caught on video swearing at and racially abusing a group of teenage skateboarders.
The incident happened a year ago and video footage recently surfaced on the YouTube website.
Monsignor Baron said he wished he could take back his “outrageous behaviour”.
“The shame that I feel and the embarrassment, I can’t really describe,” he said on Southern Cross radio.
“It was outrageous behaviour, I let myself down terribly badly, that’s quite clear and I’ve also brought scandal and shock to other people.”
He said he had been provoked when the teenagers, who were skating on the cathedral steps, called him a pedophile.
“I can’t excuse it, I wouldn’t even try to, I don’t know why I said those things. It might be linked up in some way that so many priests are considered to be pedophiles and here I was being called one.”
He said he could not bear to watch the footage.
“The only thing I did see was me being surrounded by these kids and I looked like a kind of a hunted animal being yapped at by jackals and hyenas,” he said.
“All they were doing was provoking me and making it worse and worse. I have never in my whole life got as angry as that, never.”
He said he would now have to live with the footage of his outburst being beamed around the world “all the days of my life”.
The language came from the depths of his heart, when something “snapped inside”, he said.
He said the outburst was out of character and he was “utterly embarrassed”, apologising to all who were offended, but not to the teenagers he abused.
“I have the impression that that particular gang of skateboarders, they take a particular delight and joy in reducing people to grovelling measures as I was, that’s their goal, that’s their aim, so I don’t think I owe them an apology as such, I apologise to all who were scandalised by my behaviour.”
Monsignor Baron may now seek help in dealing with anger issues and will have to discuss the incident with Archbishop Denis Hart.