Today The Courier wants to take the critical issue of sexual abuse in Ballarat back to where it most matters; its victims and the community.
The media noise has resonated loudly over the last few days and displayed the enormous public support for the survivors and an overwhelming public expectation the Catholic Church do what it can to redress these wrongs and help extricate the truth from a dark past.
But the heightened attention and emotion also have the danger of polarising prejudices, serving those who use fear and ignorance to drive a complex world into stereotypical moral extremes and labels.
We challenge anyone who wants to make this an ideological wedge and talk of “witch hunts” to look at those smiling children’s faces and remember human tragedy is the epicentre of the uproar.
We have used the faces of these innocent children to again remind the reading public that this is what the issue is all about; innocence shattered, terrible crimes perpetrated and concealed.
We are also reminded the damage did not end with the acts; whole lives have been ruined, the terrible consequences for that generation and the next.
This is why these stories and the outcomes of the Royal Commission; its truth and redress, matter so much to Ballarat.
Many people will know someone touched by the terrible resonating waves of destruction as the years pass.
Looking at those children’s smiles; joy soon to be blighted, one must also recognise that they could be anyone’s children - even our own.
VIEW THE GALLERY OF THE AFFECTED CHILDREN HERE
But Ballarat has had enough.
The original destruction begets more hatred and destruction.
Healing has started with the spontaneous compassion of a community, sick with its past but eager to find a way forward.
Facing the ugly truth of what has happened, that a whole culture of denial and indifference was to blame, has opened the doorway to the first tentative steps towards healing.
It is significant to say here these are steps largely being taken together.
The recognition is there in every fluttering ribbon whether tied by survivors, sympathetic residents, students or priests.
The church must know if it is to find a way forward and restore its shattered credibility it must be part of that solution; the bold steps of admission and courageous honesty.
But there is also hope.
The hope is a pastoral sense of inclusion, compassion and charity may yet win both forgiveness and renewal for future generations.
The journey is only beginning but Ballarat has started.
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