The Australian Catholic Church’s silent treatment

Australian Catholic Church Silence

Title: The Australian Catholic Church’s silent treatment
Author: Garry Everett
Publisher: John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations
Date: 14AUG2020

Changing the culture of the church should be the major task for the Australian Bishops. After all, the first and only independent assessment of that culture, by the Royal Commission into the sexual abuse of minors, described the culture as “toxic”.

“At best, the silent treatment is an immature behaviour used by spoilt brats and manipulative individuals. At worst, it is a weapon used by abusers to punish their victims.” (

In the world of human relationships, we were fond of the saying: “Silence is golden”. It purportedly indicated a certain form of wisdom, but we were never sure because the silence was deafening, and communication had ceased. Nothing much has changed. Recently in Victoria, the health minister, Jenny Mikakos refused to answer any questions about Covid-19, and the Prime Minister declined to comment on the unusual outbursts of federal back-bencher, Craig Kelly.

In a different context, leaders in the Catholic Church in Australia also employed the same tactics. I recently wrote to three Bishops on the matter of the relationship between the toxic culture of the Church and the outcomes of the plenary Council meeting next year. No Bishop replied, and only one secretary (a woman), acknowledged receipt of my letter. From discussions with other Church members, I have discovered that “the silent treatment” is almost the default response.

Is it either a case of immaturity or punishment? Could it be both immaturity and punishment? Or are there other explanations? One possible alternative explanation is that the silent treatment is a behaviour that others have allowed to flourish. By not having the behaviour named, or called out, the perpetrator assumes that his or her silence is acceptable.   This should raise the question:“ Why is it so?”

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