In September of 2012, Adrian Bayley raped and murdered 29-year-old Jill Meagher (below), receiving a life conviction for the crime. Also appalling is how Bayley had over twenty rape convictions to his name before being put away for good this time. Reacting to the story, one Catholic priest, Father Joseph Olickal, reportedly took the opportunity to opine that the murder victim might have been spared such a tragedy had she but lived a “more faith-filled” life.
The comments were allegedly made during an end-of-term mass at St Christopher’s Primary School in Airport West [Friday] before a congregation of students, staff and around 100 parishioners, 3AW reports.
The priest held up a newspaper that featured a photo of Ms Meagher’s killer Adrian Bayley, telling the congregation had the 29-year-old Irish woman been “more faith-filled” she “would have been home in bed” and “not walking down Sydney Road at 3am”.
To their credit, the church promptly responded to the inevitable criticism:
Monsignor Greg Bennett, vicar-general of the Melbourne archdiocese, said the church was aware of yesterday’s sermon and did not support the priest’s “totally inappropriate” and “offensive” comments.
“I’ve spoken with the priest; he acknowledges that the homily wasn’t appropriate and apologises for the offence and upset it has caused,” Monsignor Bennett told 3AW.
Of course, it isn’t just the fact that the comments were made that is an issue. The root of the problem is the mindset that prompts comments like Father Olickal’s — a victim-blaming mindset that contends that there is a certain way to act, and a certain set of (usually religious) rules to follow, that will protect “good” women from being raped; that rape is something that happens to women who transgress moral boundaries, and is, therefore, really the woman’s fault.
Still, I suppose it must be said that, considering how long this sort thing has come straight from the Church, it’s at least a step in the right direction to see churchmen recognizing, rather than endorsing, the inappropriateness of such commentary and publicly denouncing it.
(Image via Facebook. Thanks to Anthony for the link)