Top Catholic angers abuse victims
Leading Catholic cleric George Pell drew fire at the weekend after drawing an outrageous analogy between a paedophile priest and an abusive employee of trucking company.
Cardinal Pell – a former archbishop of both Melbourne and Sydney before taking up a high-powered job this year as head of a new Vatican finance ministry – made the comments when he was giving evidence via a video link from Rome to a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Melbourne.
He acknowledged that the Church had a “moral obligation” to the victims of pedophile priests, but suggested that it should not be legally responsible in the same way as the “ownership or leadership” of a trucking company is not responsible if one of its drivers picks up a hitchhiker and molests her.
The comments outraged support groups, who said Pell was displaying a lack of compassion for victims of abuse.
Adults Surviving Child Abuse President Cathy Kezelman said:
His comments were outrageous. He continues to duck and weave.
Nicky Davis, from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, told ABC radio it showed Pell was out of touch.
He shows that he really has absolutely no conception of what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior and what are appropriate or inappropriate things to say to survivors.
It was a highly offensive comparison and showed that, at the end of the day, all he was concerned with was protecting himself and making excuses for behavior that is inexcusable.
Writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, Keitan Tapsell said:
Pell’s analogy revealed the fatal flaw in his own argument the moment he used the word “company”. If a trucking company had been remiss as he described, and people were injured as a result, the trucking company would be liable. Those injured would have access to the company’s assets to meet any judgment, even if its directors or officials were dead or had no assets.
Pell spent over $750,000 on lawyers in the Ellis case to prove that the Catholic Church was not like his trucking company, but is an unincorporated association that could not be sued. All of its billions are tucked away in a corporate trust that does nothing else than hold property. The only person who could be sued in that case was Cardinal Freeman, who had been warned about John Ellis’s abuser, and yet let him continue as a priest.
Cardinal Freeman was incapable of being sued because he was resting in peace in the crypt of St Mary’s Cathedral.
The Ellis case, which went to the High Court in 2007, has been a curse for victims seeking to sue the Catholic Church because it established in case law, in effect, that the trustees that hold the assets of a church diocese cannot be sued because they are not responsible for the diocese’s activities.