Thursday, 12 January 2023

Pell - Offender or Victim?


Pic courtesy The Australian

George Pell died yesterday in Rome after complications post surgery.

I won't make any comment on his successful appeal to the High Court, and the legal journey that led to that.

I wasn't there, I don't know what happened. Only Pell and his Maker hold that truth.

I can, however, reflect on my minor personal experience with him, and his position in the church in Australia.

Back in 2011, the then Bishop of Toowoomba Diocese, was removed from office after a series of complaints from the Temple Police. I blogged about this situation back in 2011.

I wrote to cardinal Pell protesting Morris' dismissal, and after an interval of six months received a fairly brusque letter from his private secretary. It thanked me for my concern, but claimed that I had been misguided by the publicity surrounding the history. None of the questions I had put to Pell were answered, and the message was clear - mind your own business.

The fact that I was a member of the diocese and that William Morris was my pastor was apparently irrelevant.

Fast forward to the 2018 conviction, the successful appeal to the High Court in 2020, and Pell's transfer to Rome.

Prior to that was Pell's development of the Melbourne Response, the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse, and the public response to the findings. In reference to Pell, they were -

"We are satisfied that Cardinal Pell's evidence as to the reasons that the CEO deceived him was implausible. We do not accept that Bishop Pell was deceived, intentionally or otherwise."

There are a couple of facts of history that will remain relevant to Pell's stewardship and pastoral activity.

First, he was the head of the Catholic Church in Australia during a period when there were literally thousands of cases of clerical abuse of children.

Secondly, he developed an institutional response that initially capped compensation to victims to $75000. The level of compensation was increased during the process to a ceiling of $150000.

Third, he was resistant to any effort to reform the clericalism that was a very significant element of the problem. I learned as a special school principal, that sexual abuse of vulnerable children is a problem of untrammelled power, rather that sexual dysfunction, and whilst that power remains, so does the abuse.

Clericalism in the church has always been about power and control. Fortunately, under the current Pope, there is a slow transformation towards a more pastoral culture, and the power is leaching, at least at parish level, to the laity. There is a long way to go.

Most significant to me was my experience of the required institutional response, in the state education system, that reporting any suspected episode of abuse is compulsory. Failing to report is a criminal offence.The establishment of Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) teams at regional and district level reflects that.

Criticism of the Melbourne Response has always been that it was designed to protect the institutional church, as much as support the victims.

Pell was probably as much a victim of the perpetrators as the children, in that he was unable, given his attitude towards clerical hierarchy, to escape the consequences. His efforts were stymied by the structures he sought to preserve.

However you regard the history, he will be remembered for the positive influence he apparently engineered in sorting the Vatican's finances. His reputation in his own country is much more complicated.

Luke 4:24 writes that no man is a prophet in his own land. 

I wonder if Pell ever had a chance to reflect on that.

Comments Closed.


Anonymous said...

7-0. Didn't happen. Victim of your side of politics where evil knows no bounds.

1735099 said...

What "didn't happen?" - the abuse of 4,444 children as revealed by the Royal Commission?
That's "evil", and it did happen.
And what on earth does it have to do with "my side of politics"?

Anonymous said...

"I wasn't there, I don't know what happened." You got that right.

Anonymous said...

Found not guilty of the offences charged, by 7 credible members of the community.
Generally not guilty means innocent of the charges, whether that means didn't do it or that the matters couldn't be proven is a moot point. He walked. Apparently due for heavy criticism and disdain, but he was not charged in relation matters you wish to tarnish his reputation with. Many a lawyer has managed to fudge the facts in relation to serious matters of criminality and ethics, and people like you seem to believe that's ok. Pell like the lawyers was doing his job and the law allowed it. Like it or not.

1735099 said...

"Many a lawyer has managed to fudge the facts in relation to serious matters of criminality and ethics, and people like you seem to believe that's ok."
Love the "generalisation" of people like me.
I make no judgement of Pell on anything he was charged with, but it's entirely reasonable to judge him on the basis of what kind of pastor he was.
He presided over thousands of proven cases of abuse of children by his clerics.
That's catastrophic failure of pastoral care and he can be judged by that.

Anonymous said...

"He presided over thousands of proven cases of abuse of children by his clerics."
And like the lawyer he stood up for his client (the church) and was successful in the eyes of the Pope. I think that's called doing his job... hence the transfer and promotion to the Vatican. He wasn't sacked. Perhaps you should look higher in the tree for someone to blame. Perhaps it is a cultural failing and you should denounce your religion rather than criticise an individual doing the job expected of him.
I agree he is/was an rzol. Many people in positions of trust were alleged to be guilty of the most heinous crimes against those in their care. Some of those POS hit the fan, some didn't. His role in adjudicating matters that were brought before him was atrocious. Even Police handling of some matters I am aware of were treated "differently" by coppers "of the faith". I don't see Catholicism any differently to the Masons in this regard.

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