A Catholic forum has a discussion thread: "Jehovah Witness now appear with the Royal Commission".
I have made the comment before that Dr. Applewhite's appearance in support of the JWs is not surprising if you consider that the Royal Commissions' findings will impact the structure of the Cathoilc Church as well. The Catholic Church has a vested interest in the JWs' hearing - if the JWs are forced to change their organizational structure, so will the Catholics.
The following post is an excellent discussion on the similarities and differences between the Catholic Church and the JWs structure.
The Jehovah's Witnesses, the Royal Commission and the Catholic Church (Main Forum)
by James, Australia, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 08:04 (6 days ago) @ Sandra
The opening address for Case Study No. 29 on the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a very interesting development in the way that the Commission is dealing with religious organisations, and it is an indication of what is likely to happen to the Catholic Church further down the track.
The opening address by Angus Stewart SC makes very clear that the Commission considers that the “systemic issues” that it has to address as part of its terms of reference includes not just the practices of the religious organisation, but its structure and theology, and how they impinge on the way child sexual abuse is dealt with.
In the cases involving the Catholic Church so far dealt with by the Commission, the emphasis has been on what actually happened, and how the Church in practice dealt with those particular complaints. Issues involving the Church structure and canon law have only arisen as part of the description of what occurred. A good example of this is the Nestor case in Wollongong where canon law inevitably had to be dealt with, but it its relevance was really only as to what actually happened. There was no overall critique of how canon law dealt with child sexual abuse matters, and the issue of reporting did not arise because the offenses had been reported to the police.
In the Case No. 29, the Commission is dealing with two cases of how Jehovah’s Witnesses were dealt with by the Church, but in doing so it has gone well beyond what actually happened to look at the structures, rules and theology in much greater detail than it has before in relation to the Catholic Church.
If the Commission follows the same practice as it has dealt with in Case No. 29, there is likely to be a much more detailed examination both canon law, the structure of the Church and Catholic theology on the capacity of the Church to deal with child sexual abuse.
The opening address is worth reading because the similarities between the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church stand out more than the differences. In many ways, the difference is one of degree rather than of substance.
“As will be seen, the Jehovah’s Witness Church is a tightly controlled, rule bound organisation that seeks to keep its members in relative isolation from the rest of society.”
“The Jehovah’s Witness Church is preoccupied with sin and sinning. If a congregation member becomes aware that another member has committed a serious sin, such as “fornication, adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy, apostasy, idolatry, and similar gross sins”, he or she is obliged to report that to the congregation Elders. In the case of lesser sins as between members, the Church prescribes the steps that must be taken to reach a resolution. The more serious sins must be investigated by the Elders who must pass judgement on the accused and his or her degree of repentance for the sin. It is a system in which a group of men who are appointed from above, not by the congregation, stand in judgement over their fellow men, women and children on every aspect of their lives.”
The opening address then goes into the formation of the Jehovah’s Witness Church and then describes its structure:
12. The primary legal entity used by the Jehovah’s Witness Church today is the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (Watchtower Pennsylvania). The headquarters of Watchtower Pennsylvania is in Brooklyn, New York and is also known as “Bethel” meaning “House of God”.
13. The activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide is overseen by the Governing Body. The Governing Body is a council of eight men based at the headquarters in Brooklyn. It is at the apex of a highly centralised and hierarchical structure.
14. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the teachings promulgated by the Governing Body are based on God’s Word, and not devised by men. Teachings take the form of the Awake! and Watchtower magazines, letters containing directives to branch officers and Elders, handbooks, and other publications.
15. The Governing Body supervises more than 90 branches worldwide. A Branch Office is the headquarters for the Jehovah’s Witness Church in a particular country or region and is also referred to as “Bethel”.
16. Each Branch Office is supervised by a Branch Committee which oversees districts within the branch. The Australia Branch Office is represented around Australia by Circuit Overseers, who have pastoral responsibility for about 20 congregations (that is, a circuit). A circuit overseer travels weekly to different congregations in his circuit and is responsible for, among other things, ensuring that each congregation is complying with all theocratic direction given by the Governing Body. By theocratic I mean a form of government in which God is recognised as the supreme civil ruler.”
And even when canon law is not involved, the Bill Morris case in Toowoomba shows that the control also works in other subtle ways.
The address points out that there are 68,000 active members in Australia, and the world congregation of the Witnesses is some 8 million. One distinguishing feature between the Witnesses and other Protestant sects is:
“The English High Court has recently recognised that “[t]his distinguishes them from other religious denominations who use the bible to shape thinking, guide behaviour and teach lessons, but do not use it directly to set policy and religious practices”
The Commisson then deals with “male leadership”:
“Documents will be tendered which show that Jehovah’s Witnesses are counselled to demonstrate submission to Christ’s headship by obedience to the Elders who are taken to be controlled by God for the purposes of accomplishing Jehovah’s will. Mr O’Brien will give evidence that Jehovah’s Witnesses accept the divine standard that "the head of every man is the Christ, in turn the head of a woman is the man". The evidence will reveal that this belief is reflected in the patriarchal structure of the institution, where men hold positions of authority within congregations and headship in the family. Women are expected to defer to the authority of their husbands and children are taught to obey their parents.”
In the next section dealing with the development of child sexual abuse policies, the opening address says that the Church has been developing such policies over the last 30 years. The Catholic Church, on the other hand has had policies dealing with such abuse since the Council of Elvira in 306CE, and at least since the time of St. Basil of Caesarea and until the first Code of Canon Law in 1917 has required clergy sexual abusers to be imprisoned either by the Church itself (when there was little difference between Church and State) and between the 12th century and the 1917 Code, to be handed over to the civil authorities.
One of the difficulties in proving an offence under the Witness’s rules was the “two witness” rule which required the evidence of two witnesses if the accused did not confess. This prevented action being taken internally with many complaints. Canon law at one stage had the “two witness” rule as well, but it dropped the requirement in the 19th century in case of soliciting sex in the confessional, because inevitably there would only be two people involved. When child sexual abuse was tacked onto the procedures for dealing with soliciting in the confessional with Crimen Sollicitationis, there was also no requirement for the corroborating witness.
The Witnesses have a judicial committee consisting of three elders, not unlike a canonical trial. Since 1950, 563 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse have been dealt with by the judicial committee in Australia. This is in marked contrast to the situation within the Catholic Church where there had been no canonical trial of any priest accused of child sexual abuse at least until about 2000. The reasons for this are because of the restrictions placed on judicial trials by canon law itself. This will no doubt be a matter to be dealt with by the Commission when the Catholic Church’s turn comes.
The punishments are somewhat similar if repentance is shown by the perpetrator. The perpetrator is “reproved” or reprimanded, and this can be public or private. The ultimate sanction is “defellowshipping”, or the equivalent of excommunication from the Church. The Witnesses have a better record on this than the Catholic Church:
The Royal Commission will hear that since 1950:
a. 401 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse were disfellowshipped; 78 of whom where disfellowshipped on more than one occasion; and
b. 190 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse were reproved; 11 of whom were reproved on more than one occasion.
There are some similarities with the Catholic Church’s removal of faculties of a priest, and the practice of shifting priests around:
62. A disfellowshipped person may be reinstated into the congregation after the passage of sufficient time if the judicial committee determines that the individual is truly repentant, and the reason(s) for their removal from the congregation have been abandoned. In all cases of reinstatement, documents will be tendered which show that congregational restrictions should be applied.
63. Since 1950, of 401 disfellowshipped alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse, 230 were later reinstated; 35 of whom were reinstated on more than one occasion.
79. Since 1950, 28 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse were appointed to positions of authority after having been the subject of allegations of child sexual abuse. Further, of 127 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse deleted as Elders or Ministerial Servants as a result of allegations of child sexual abuse, 16 were later reappointed.
67. Mr O’Brien will give evidence that Elders are directed to report allegations of child abuse to authorities where mandatory reporting laws apply. The Royal Commission will hear evidence from Vincent Toole of the Legal Department of his understanding of the varying mandatory reporting obligations that apply across Australian states. Documents will be tendered which show that if no mandatory reporting obligations apply, Elders are directed that they do not themselves need to report. The evidence will show that where a matter becomes known to the authorities, Elders are directed to disclose information in their possession where legally required to do so unless ecclesiastical privilege applies.
“68. The Royal Commission will hear evidence that Elders are directed never to discourage or sanction anyone from reporting an allegation of child sexual abuse to the authorities and that, if asked, they must make clear that this is a personal decision and a victim’s absolute right. The Royal Commission will hear evidence from at least one survivor witness who, contrary to this policy, was discouraged from reporting her abuse to secular authorities by Elders in the Jehovah’s Witness Church. Documents will be tendered which show this is consistent with the Jehovah’s Witness’s policy not to resort to secular courts to resolve personal disputes with fellow Christians but to rely the on Elders.”
“69. Evidence will be put before the Royal Commission that of the 1,006 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse identified by the Jehovah’s Witness Church since 1950, not one was reported by the Church to secular authorities.”
The opening address then dealt with the two cases mentioned and how they were handled. It then deals with the systemic issues which the Commission has to address, and this is likely to be a blueprint for dealing with the Catholic Church.
120. In particular, the systemic issues that are expected to be considered by the Royal Commission arising from this case study are the following:
a. The influence of theocratic beliefs on the way in which religious institutions handle complaints and manage the risk of child sexual abuse and their interaction with government authorities.
b. The management of complaints or allegations of child sexual abuse within an institution without reference to external authorities, and the impact that that approach may have on the institution’s capacity to protect children.
c. The impact of an institution’s internal disciplinary mechanisms on criminal processes.
d. The impact of the record-keeping practices of institutions on the ability of those institutions to manage the risk of child sexual abuse and to respond to victims of abuse.
e. The efficacy of mechanisms to prevent child sexual abuse.
f. The adequacy of systems to support and rehabilitate survivors of child sexual abuse.