Pell-Mell on Abuse

Cardinal_George_PellCardinal Pell is taking much heat for his comments on administrative accountability on sex abusers. Via Josephine KcKenna at RNS:

Using a hypothetical example, Pell said the church was no more responsible for cases of child abuse carried out by church figures than a trucking company would be if it employed a driver who molested women.

“It would not be appropriate, because it’s contrary to the policy, for the ownership, leadership of that company to be held responsible,” Pell told the inquiry. “Similarly with the church and the head of any other organization.

“It is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure.”

The analogy does not quite hold true. More accurate would be that if the trucking owners found that when one if its drivers attacked women on one route, they would simply extract a promise from him not to do it again, then transfer him to a different route to prey on new victims.

So … Cardinal Pell does not understand the scandal facing the bishops and their institution, it would seem. Does that make him unfit in his roles as a churchman? Unfit to be a bishop, I would say yes. He’s not quite on target as far as a good sense of culpability and sin. Is there a problem with his moral judgment? That’s a more difficult question, but we have to admit the question is actually in play.

We can say Cardinal Pell’s judgment on sex abuse and cover-up is impaired. Might that mean his judgment with regard to finances and administration is damaged? Outside of the hierarchy, I’d say there are significant numbers of people who might say yes.

 

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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5 Responses to Pell-Mell on Abuse

  1. John Drake says:

    But not all instances of clerical sex abuse involved transferring of priests to other parishes.

    • Todd says:

      The deeper scandal is not abuse, which we know happens everywhere. The reason why bishops are under fire is that they have mismanaged predators and covered it up. That is the distinction Cardinal Pell misses and that you have dodged.

  2. devin453 says:

    I think you may have misunderstood the Cardinal.

    http://www.9news.com.au/national/2014/08/21/23/05/cardinal-george-pell-claims-the-church-is-not-legally-responsible-for-abuse-by-priests

    A quote from the news article.
    “But he [Cardinal Pell] said if the church had been warned about a priest or had bad policies or procedures in place, “then certainly the church official would be responsible”.

    Also see this article http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-22/victim-support-groups-outrage-pell-royal-commission-testimony/5688570 which quotes the Cardinal directly.

    “If every precaution has been taken, no warning has been given, it is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure.”

    “If in fact the authority figure has been remiss through bad preparation [or] bad procedures or been warned and done nothing or [done something] insufficient, then certainly the church official would be responsible.”

    So it appears he is only addressing the issue of whether a diocese should be held legally accountable for a priest abusing a minor without the diocese’s prior knowledge and responding with appropriate procedures.

  3. crystal says:

    I’m not surprised about Pell. He has been scary for a long time and in a number of areas. He was in charge of Vox Clara and the bad missal translation, he’s argued against people trusting their consciences, and his record on sex abuse in Australia hasn’t been good (the John Ellis case .. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/28/a-cup-of-tea-with-the-cardinal-what-george-pell-did-in-the-ellis-case). It was quite depressing to see the pope put so much trust in him.

  4. Jenny2 says:

    A few comments from a Catholic currently living in Australia (and, for several reasons, paying close attention to the work of the Royal Commission).
    First:
    So … Cardinal Pell does not understand the scandal facing the bishops and their institution, it would seem. Does that make him unfit in his roles as a churchman? Unfit to be a bishop, I would say yes.
    Let’s call a spade a bloody shovel, shall we? Pell, as his performance before the Commission has made clear (ditto various TV interviews and his appearance before the Victorian inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations) is an overbearing bully who has shown not one ounce of real compassion towards the many victims of sexual and other abuse by Catholic religious (including nuns) and official Catholic organisations in Australia. He has, almost single-handedly – although ably abetted by many other clerics – done more damage to the Church in this country than any number of fashionable atheists or muck-raking journalists.

    He’s not quite on target as far as a good sense of culpability and sin.
    Certainly not in admitting that anyone wearing a clerical collar might be guilty of more than understandable human weakness, let alone that the institutional church as a whole (including a number of lay men and women who collaborated in various cover-ups etc) is guilty of having destroyed faith, ruined lives and poisoned families for generations.

    Is there a problem with his moral judgment? That’s a more difficult question, but we have to admit the question is actually in play.
    Based on what Pell himself has been forced to admit, “moral judgement” is the least of it. The man appears to have no sense of morality at all, or even the rudiments of conscience. Nor do many of those – other clerics and religious, lawyers acting on behalf of the church, counsellors and psychologists concerned above all to steer victims away from those who might really help them (such as the police) – who helped him “preserve the good name of the Church”.

    We can say Cardinal Pell’s judgment on sex abuse and cover-up is impaired. Might that mean his judgment with regard to finances and administration is damaged? Outside of the hierarchy, I’d say there are significant numbers of people who might say yes.
    Eh? Much as I dislike the man, the one proposition doesn’t follow from the other. Certainly, Pell has been an absolute disaster from the pastoral point of view; but the one area in which he *was* undoubtedly successful was precisely that of administration and finance. Indeed, part of what led to the current catastrophe was his excessive concern for the monies and property of the Church – he and his supporters hushed up accusations, shuffled perpetrators out of the spotlight and browbeat victims into accepting quite inadequate sums as compensation, all with a view to preserving what they thought of as the Church’s patrimony. (All, of course, without asking or even informing the laity in the pews, whose offerings basically funded all this). That’s why the Church has so far paid out $17 million to survivors – and spent another $17 million on lawyers and administrators to ensure that they didn’t get too “greedy”.

    While I’d much prefer it if the Pope had reserved him a cell in, say, some particularly austere Carthusian monastery in the Alps, short of that I feel that Francis, in transferring him to his current position, hit two birds with one stone – removed him from the Australian Church which he was damaging more each day, and placed him where he might actually achieve a positive effect.

    Meantime, keep checking Australian news outlets to watch the sorry parade of shufflers, con-men, cowards and hypocrites receive a well-deserved comeuppance….

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