How is it that the Catholic Church has not only harboured so many paedophile priests but strenuously covered up their criminal activities?
This conspiracy exists not only in Australia but in other countries where the Catholic Church functions. We've seen the same pattern in Ireland, Britain and the US. It is a cover-up on a global scale.
With the work of the royal commission into child sexual abuse and the Newcastle Maitland special commission we've been hearing, almost on a daily basis, of senior priests protecting the worst sort of offenders, failing to report them to the civil authorities, moving them around when things got hot, and generally being part of what can only be described as a large-scale criminal protection racket.
In his evidence to the special commission in Newcastle, Father Brian Lucas said that the obligation to report a serious crime depended on the wishes of the victim. The other rabbit hole of escape was that the secrecy of the confessional overcomes obligations to the criminal law.
This week the Marist Brothers in Canberra have been the focus of the McClellan royal commission, and the story is the same – protection of clergy against whom allegations of paedophilia have been made and giving victims the most incredible run-around.
But why? Why has the church taken that course of action instead of expelling these creepy "groomers and touchers" and sending them off to the police with a file note listing all the complaints against them?
It is puzzling, until you read Kieran Tapsell's just published book, Potiphar's Wife.
Tapsell is a retired Sydney lawyer who also studied for the priesthood, with canon law as his special interest – and it is here that he locates the problem.
You have to go back to the book of Genesis to work out who Potiphar and his wife were. Mrs Potiphar must have been the first recorded person to have accused her victim of rape, after unsuccessfully trying to seduce him.
It is not as though the civil law has had a relaxed attitude to the sexual abuse of children, but current church law does.
Yet, it wasn't always so. For 1500 years the Catholic Church stripped abusing priests of their office and status and handed them over to the state for punishment.
It was not until 1904 that Pope Pius X created a commission with the job of unifying the canon law code and tossing out unwanted bits. One of the discarded decrees was the one requiring priests who abused children to be sacked and prosecuted.
In 1922, Pope Pius XI issued Crimen Sollicitationis, which imposed the secret of the holy office. Priests who were meddlesome in the worst ways imaginable were to be kept under wraps.
This was subsequently confirmed in 1962. In 1974 the "secret of the holy office" was rebadged as the "pontifical secret".
It was confirmed again in 2001 by Pope John Paul II. Later Benedict XVI (the German pope) conveniently declared the secrecy provisions extended to allegations of priests having sex with intellectually disabled people.
By 2010, the scandals of paedophile priests were well and truly on the front page. The heat was on, so the Vatican got busy and came up with a harmless amendment to the established code. A restricted form of reporting to the civil authorities was permitted, but only where the civil law required it.
Oddly enough, all Australian states have mandatory reporting for children at risk under 18 years of age. Only NSW has mandatory reporting for all abuse, including historic abuse.
The principle was that the morality of the community was by now well enough entrenched so that serious crimes would be reported anyway, and there no longer needed to be a broad legislative requirement to do so.
Tapsell says: "The leaders of the church did not share that moral sense when it came to priests sexually assaulting children."
The response of the Vatican to the report of the Irish commission of investigation into priestly abuse of children, headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, was instructive.
Benedict XVI had given the Dublin report "careful study" and was "deeply disturbed" by its contents.
Three months later, the Pope released a pastoral letter in which he laid the blame at the feet of the Irish bishops for not applying "the long established norms of canon law".
Yet it was those very norms of secrecy that the bishops had sworn to uphold to protect abusing priests.
Certainly, there was no mention in the pastoral letter that the canon law was largely responsible for protecting these abusers. Nor was there any suggestion that this particular part of the code would be abolished, including the bit that makes it almost impossible to dismiss a priest without the priest's consent.
Hence, Father Brian Lucas' day job, as he unfortunately expressed it, of "seducing" priests to resign.