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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

The G.G. & dirty hands « Previous | |Next »
May 12, 2003

Well, he had to do something. He has become a moral cripple. He needs to spend 40 days in the desert reflecting on his lapses of judgement, instead of developing strategies to hang onto power and stay put. He really did get dirty hands from his protection of pedophiles during his long climb up the ladder in the Anglican Church. The Report into the past handling of sexual abuse can be found here.

It's a case of dirty hands not the basest political blackmail as Paul Sheehan is trying to argue. The dirty hands have politicized the office of the Governor General. It appears that the current incumbent does not the moral character and civic virtues to unify the nation and articulate its aspirations. Hollingworth says that he aspires to a man for all people. It appears otherwise. And appearances carry a lot of weight in politics.

Michelle Grattan has got it right:

"...that Hollingworth's credibility is shot to pieces because of his handling of pedophilia when Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane. Specifically, he let a priest who admitted pedophilia continue in the ministry."

It is increasingly obvious that Hollingworth does not have the right moral character for the job. Thats the judgement that is being made by public opinion and it is why the G.G. has been on the defensive for the last two years. That flawed moral character is continuing to undermine the very basis on which the G.G operates---public trust and confidence. As Ken Parish says its time to go

But is the current 'standing aside' a clever strategic political move by Howard to retain the G.G? A political fix? This is considered by Alan over at The View from the Right in an interesting post. Alan highlights the political campaign against the G.G. (and John Howard.) However, he fails to deal with the problem of dirty hands in which managers and politicians are involved in situations that require them to commit moral violations to achieve worthwhile goals.

The tense relationship between politics and ethics is addressed here by John Morgan. He says:

"In the Elliot case – which involves child sex abuse by a man before his ordination by another bishop – a pastoral and disciplinary judgment was made, in which it is asserted Hollingworth got the balance wrong. But, the independent report says, it was a judgment made "in good faith". This has gone unacknowledged.... Have we recently decided on matters of sex abuse that unless a strictly legalistic line is followed, condemnation ensues for making a decision and getting the penalty wrong? Or are there other agendas relating to our moral confusion?"

Is there moral confusion here? Its drawing a long blow. It is more a case of dirty hands in which ethics was put aside to protect the church. This means we need to ask: how should we view morally questionable political acts that are done for some good purpose?

Morgan does not address this. He continues with his moral confusion theme:

"Jesus spoke of judgment, repentance, restoration, compassion and care. In dealing with sex abuse, this applies towards victims as well as perpetrators. Some of that is hard to accept – especially in the present legalistic mood. Ways of dealing with wrongdoing or sin of any kind are held in tension within Christian communities...There is hypocrisy and ambivalence in our community in matters involving sexuality.....We need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and ask: What is the moral basis of our own lives as individuals and as a community? Are we so confused that we will jump on any particular campaign wagon and believe the worst of certain people? Are we so confused as to believe that truth is only as we want to perceive it?"

Hardly. Hollingworth handling of pedophilia when he was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane is seen to be morally wrong because he let a priest who admitted pedophilia continue in the ministry. It is a morally questionable political act because he did this to protect the Church.

Morgan is saying that it is right sometimes it’s right for a senior bishop to let a known pedophile continue to give pastoral care for the greater good of the church. The contrary judgement is that Hollingworth has done a moral wrong. Its the ethics of dirty hands that is crucial here not the politics of a witchhunt.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:33 AM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (2)

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The G.G. & dirty hands:

» a modern tragedy from Junk for Code
Now that Hollingworth is a private person one can feel sorry for him as an individual person. HE HAD A [Read More]

» Gaita: truthfulness in politics#2 from
In the previous post Gaita had argued that the implication of the connection between truthfulness in politics and love for country is that ethical considerations are integral to a serious conception of politics. Gaita mentions the Aristolean dictum tha... [Read More]



"But is the current 'standing aside' a clever strategic political move by Howard to retain the G.G?"

Nah...I reckon it was the only way out of the ridiculous impasse - the GG was clearly not going to quit and the PM was not going to sack him. Even Howard seems to have realised what a liability the man is. Howard wants him to go but being a lawyer, he knows he can't just sack him under the rules as they presently are.

Interesting the way it was reported - messages being sent back and forth between the PM and the GG until they reached a settlement - it sounds like Howard had his work cut out negotiating a deal. But they're letting the red herring of the rape case cloud the fact that the public wants him to go on the pedophilia issue. He should have quit or been sacked. This calling in an administrator to adminster the Commonwealth is farcical.