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Monday, March 04, 2013

St Matenga of Aotearoa

Coroner Gordon Matenga

Self proclaimed saint, Gordon Matenga, has landed himself in hot water here in New Zealand... and I'm not talking about the natural hot springs of Rotarua.

Matenga is a coroner.

He's also a Mormon [latter day saint] whose church believes its followers are modern day saints.

I've never been one to follow any religion, for me all of them are ancient ramblings, Chinese whispers if you will, borne out of boredom and used to either keep the elders in control and/or amusement whilst sitting around a camp fire.

I mean, come on, one only has to look at the decline of religious footsteps to the church on Sunday's to see that people have found other things to keep them amused.

I may be totally wrong, I may burn in hell for my beliefs  I may even offend people with my non-religious stance but, hey ho, I can't do any worse than Coroner Gordon Matenga.

Matenga was recently assigned to look into the suicide of Corporal Douglas Hughes, a 26 year old New Zealand soldier. His investigation concluded that no inquest was needed.

Here's where the controversy starts.

Hughes, according to news reports, was dealing with a number of emotional issues, including struggling with his sexuality. It's been learned that before his suicide he had confided and confessed his feelings for a male colleague of his. His advances were rejected and  Hughes was later forced into a lengthy meeting with his  sergeant and the soldier who had confessed his feelings to. After the meeting, Hughes took his life. His family allege he had been subject to serious bullying and mockery by defence force personnel as a result of his sexuality.

Now, Matenga is a Mormon, a latter day [self-proclaimed] saint whose church condemns homosexuality. Clearly, however, his beliefs on homosexuality should not influence any ruling he may make.

But a growing number of critics are calling for Matenga to resign after it was learned that he had put a submission before MPs opposing gay marriage just three months prior to declining to open an inquest into the death of Corporal Douglas Hughes. Matenga had submitted 5 points that opposed same sex marriage.

One of his arguments was:

"A man and a woman are required to produce children. There is no other way. Same sex couples cannot, without intervention produce a child. Therefore, to allow a couple of the same sex to marry would serve no useful purpose as it relates to children"

Assuming one wanted children that is, Mr Matenga.

His full submission to parliament can be downloaded here.

It seems rather odd that this human being who, on a daily basis, plays the role of God when trying to determine why someone died, should feel he has the right to try and play God outside of his job as coroner.

To add insult to injury to the surviving members of the Hughes family, Matenga has suppressed all details relating to the corporal’s death which includes the Defence Force court of inquiry report.

An inquest is put in place to try and determine all the facts that led to the death of a person and to make recommendations that may prevent future deaths. Matenga, it appears, seems disinterested and many are suggesting that it's because of his religious beliefs on homosexuality.

While the Mormon Church condemns homosexuality without exception, current doctrine for the Mormon religion regarding suicide isn't as black and white as their stance on same sex marriages/relationships.

Suicide, they claim, is something that only God can judge and that there may be circumstances leading to suicide which reduce its sinfulness.

Matenga's job as a Coroner is to help God out by uncovering those circumstances. Sadly, he chose to close all doors for the remaining family members - leaving them in limbo and to pick up the pieces, jigsaws that will never lock in to place because one man has denied them that one opportunity to understand what led their son to end his life.

The church must be very proud of Gordon Matenga today.

I don't know what it is about coroners, excuse the pun but a good coroner is a dying breed.

Matenga isn't the first coroner in New Zealand to surround himself with controversy.

Whilst writing about the inquest of 17 year old Takapuna teen, Toran Henry, I learned that the presiding coroner was Murray Jaimeson.

Jamieson was a former gynaecological registrar who was embroiled in NewZealand's largest health scandal when he and his boss conducted experiments on women without their consent which led to a number of them dying or being seriously disabled. Following a Royal Commission of Inquiry, Jamieson resigned from medicine and did a law degree, then became a coroner.

During the Inquiry, a letter published by the New Zealand Medical Journal surfaced. It was authored by Dr Murray Jamieson.

Jaimeson, speaking of cervical cancer, starts off with a religious rant about Apostles, Herod Agrippa and the Roamn dictaror, Sulla.

In his letter, Jaimeson, refers to women as "promiscuous"

"Our young people are becoming more permissive and promiscuous. An epidemic of cervical cancer, especially among our younger women, follows inexorably from these premises. True, the victims are not eaten of worms, but gnawed away by cancer (or fear of it)...the wages of sex is a positive smear."

Exactly what was Jamieson implying here, that young women are sluts?

The Cartwright Inquiry 1988 can be downloaded HERE.

So much for New Zealand's independent judiciary, at least when it comes to investigating sudden and unexpected deaths. No wonder families are asking whether the findings of inquests are a product of objective investigation or their coroner's religious views.

Bob Fiddaman