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Big News: Race And Clergy “Relations”

Big News with Dave Crampton

Race and clergy “relations” - Ugh Yuk!

The way Greg Fortuin’s mediation with the Alliance ended up with his subsequent decision not to apply for the position of Race Relations Conciliator has more to do with Bill English and Margaret Wilson than political neutrality or the reputation of the Office of the Race Relations Conciliator.

The O’Herald could have done a much better job had they bothered to find out the facts, like how many times Fortuin mediated with the Alliance. The papers said “several”. Both Fortuin and the Alliance know mediation occurred on just two occasions.

It was Bill English’s persistent call for Fortuin’s resignation in Parliament that made up Fortuin’s mind not to reapply. Sure, Margaret Wilson had two phone conversations before Easter asking him to think over his position over Easter. But as Fortuin knew he wasn’t wanted by the National party leader, he decided he wasn’t going to work in a position that didn’t have full confidence on both sides of the house.

But after Fortuin made his decision not to reapply for his job, English had the audacity to call him a man of integrity, while the Government said they may have appointed him if he had not withdrawn his application. Yet it was another National Party leader that offered much of the support when he was making his decision. That leader was Jim Bolger.

What this saga tells us is that Greg Fortuin had more integrity than any politician who made statements on the issue – save one. That person was Peter Dunne. The United Future New Zealand leader is one of the few MP’s that have integrity anywhere near that of Greg Fortuin. The integrity of Gerry Brownlee, Bill English and their National cronies is slipping away at a greater rate than their popularity in the polls. Even Helen Clark, who said what Fortuin did in his time was his own business, changed her mind when she realised what Wilson’s views were. I mean, who IS the Prime Minister here?

Some MP’s even questioned Fortuin’s role as a celebrity speaker. What most of them didn’t know was that he was a celebrity way before the politicians found out, as he was registered with Celebrity services way before his appointment as Race Relations Conciliator. Other MPs have questioned his tax-free 175,500 salary. None asked him how much tax he paid last year. For the record, Fortuin paid more than $150,000 tax last year, so why can’t he at least earn some of that back?

As for the fact that Fortuin is registered with Celebrity Services, so what? Did any journalist ask whether he planned to do any speeches as a paid celebrity while as Race Relations Conciliator? If any bothered to ask him they would have found out that he had one contract to honour when he was accepted for the race relations position and he informed Celebrity Services that he was not going to do any more before his contract expired last Sunday. Fortuin did more than 200 speeches last year, and if they were commissioned with Celebrity Services at 2-3,000 a pop… well, you work it out. It’s a hell of a lot more than $175,500.

Fortuin certainly had more support than English and Wilson do- and still does. He received hundreds – yes hundreds - of letters, faxes and phone calls from all manner of people from all areas of the country, people such as Jim Bolger, the Maori Queen, Sandra Lee, to street kids and university professors.

Much has been made of the fact that Fortuin is a director of two boards. That’s because he gets directors fees – even if he has only one meeting per month. But not one daily newspaper has mentioned his unpaid community service work that was formally recognised by at least two mayors, including Porirua Mayor Jenny Brash. No mention has been made of his work as Chairman of the Youth Suicide Awareness Trust, a national organisation that Jim Anderton no doubt has links with – perhaps that is how they met. He is also involved with other community groups and has mentored many youths in Porirua. Fortuin’s community work certainly drew Anderton and Fortuin together and it seems ironic both parties have lost their jobs as leaders within a week of each other.

It’s just that one deserved to lose his leadership role because he wanted to hold on to power. The other one is a servant in his job – with his integrity intact - and has no need to relish in power games. One did not deserve to be treated like a political football in the field of Parliament, the other deserves to be booted out.

And a few people lacking integrity and honesty deserved to be booted out of the Catholic Church, too after the sex abuse scandal in the US. But dont’ expect too much from the meeting between Vatican chiefs and US Cardinals this week. The purpose of the meeting is to examine the problems created within the Church in the United States in relation to paedophilia scandals, and to provide guidelines in order to restore confidence within the clergy and the community of the faithful.

The aged virgins are there due to the work of one newspaper, The Boston Globe, who outed the clergy sexual abuse of their non-virgin priests. The Globe has had a field day since revealing in January the church's role in supporting serial-abuser priest John Geoghan, now serving a 10-year sentence. Then came more cases of abuse, and more, and more.

But, like the Fortuin case, it is all politics. Nothing will happen this week at the Vatican except talk – and maybe the forced resignation of Boston’s cardinal, Bernard Law who along with those in his diocese has broken many of the 10 commandments. At least one abuser was shunted by Law to another diocese after multiple sexual abuse. One even got a written recommendation that “there were no allegations of misconduct against him”. The ninth commandment was therefore broken by Cardinal Law due to his blatant lie: You shall not bear false witness. Of course, the priest had also broken another commandment, You shall not commit adultery, despite taking a vow of celibacy. Which brings me to the fourth. Commandment: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain: God's name is disgraced whenever religious people, and especially clergy, behave immorally. And if the immorality occurs on “the Sabbath” –and lets face it, that’s the day where priests get to meet the parishioners - another commandment is broken: You should keep the Sabbath day holy.

And another one: You shall not steal. Theft is not only the stealing of money and property. It is also the stealing of innocence, but before you take away innocence you must break another commandment: You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife. Or your neighbour’s sons or daughters, either.

But before ignoring any of these commandments, they had to ignore the words with which the Ten Commandments begin. I am the Lord your God. This sets the tone for everything that follows – a statement of fact.

But until all the paedophile priests and Cardinals who condone the behaviour by doing nothing are exposed and uprooted, the crisis in the church will go on. It’s a good thing that the NZ Cardinal, Thomas Williams. has openly said that there are no paedophile priests currently working in New Zealand. If there were, they’d be found out by now.

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