“Is the line broken?” asked the Royal Commissioner, Peter McClellan, as the television hook-up to Rome failed.
“The cardinal is unmoving on the screen which suggests it has,” replied counsel assisting Gail Furness SC, with Judge McClelland observing mournfully: “The line has failed in Rome.”
It sure had, in more ways than one when Cardinal George Pell used the analogy of a truck driver raping a hitch-hiker. The trucking company had no liability for the driver’s crime just as the church had no liability for a priest raping a child.
What could have possessed a cardinal of the church to use such a crass analogy? To compare a one-off rape to the litany of recurrent sexual abuses of children by clergy? To strip a heinous crime of all moral culpability beyond that which attaches to the perpetrator of the moment? To conflate the betrayal of a vulnerable child placed in the care and protection of a church with an adult hitch-hiker.
With men like Pell rising to the top of the hierarchy, incapable of compassion, devoid of any sense of owning responsibility, swerving all over the road to avoid trouble, the church has lost all moral authority.
The disbelief in the Royal Commission hearing was palpable – and the wider community was also incredulous. Here is the reaction from letters to the editor in today’s Melbourne Age:
Such a company would be taken off the road
All right George Pell, let’s compare the Catholic church to a trucking company (The Age, 22/8). Let’s imagine that hundreds of truck drivers all over the world begin raping children on their shifts – and, horrifyingly, they all belong to the same company. Head office knows what’s going on, because streams of distressed parents have been making complaints. But it doesn’t report its drivers to the police, or even sack them – it just moves drivers on to other routes. What’s more, the families are told that because their children were raped by truck drivers, it is the company itself that is best placed to investigate the crimes committed against them. They’ll get a nominal amount of money if their claims are established, as long as they don’t tell anyone else about it. That sounds like a company that needs to be taken off the road.
Nina Puren, Oakleigh
Church management the biggest problem
At least George Pell is honest in suggesting that the Church is not there to provide pastoral care. Rather, it is like a trucking company that is there to ship things around by night (such as paedophile priests) and make as much profit as it can. An exception is that the Church, unlike trucking companies, has been allowed to “structure” itself to prevent legal action being taken against it. The worst problem in the Church is not the paedophiles. It is the “management” – up to the very top – that protected these offensive people, hid the offences, scared off its victims and excused its own disgusting behaviour. Your own words, George Pell, condemn you as a major part of the problem.
Graeme Scarlett, East Malvern
Further abuse of victims
How much lower can the Church go in its secondary abuse of victims? I did not stand on a highway to be picked up by a “truckie”, Cardinal Pell. I was a small child in a loving Catholic home where a trusted “employee” of the church, i.e. a priest, was invited to my home for dinner by my parents and then assaulted me. The analogy further shows how out of touch the old men of the Church are.
Shelley Thomson, Flaxton, Queensland
Recall ambassador to Holy See
Recall ambassador to Holy See
The Vatican’s refusal to hand over all documents relating to every case in the royal commission, claiming they are “internal working documents of another sovereign state”, beggars belief. These atrocities were committed under Australian law yet not one priest was ever handed over to the police by the Church. Time to pick your team, George – Team Australia or Team Rome. Our embassy to the Holy See should be closed and our ambassador recalled.
Brent Baigent, Richmond
An accessory after the fact?
If a truck driver committed molestation and his chief executive transferred him interstate to avoid detection the CEO could be charged with being an accessory after the fact. Cardinal Pell (and others in the Church) should be investigated with the view of having Pell extradited here to face charges of being an accessory after the fact.
Lawry Twining, Northcote
End tax-free status
The royal commission must continue even if it does cost a further $105 million. However, given that the churches were willing to pay for QCs to defend their predatory employees, should not taxpayers be reimbursed for the costs incurred in giving victims a voice? If they have no redress at law perhaps now is the time to remove the tax-free status of those parts of these institutions that are not bone fide charities.
Colin Simmons, Woodend
Two faces of the church
The two faces of the Catholic Church were on stark display this week. The head of Vinnies, John Falzon, led off with a spirited defence of the marginalised on Monday’s Q and A, reminding us that the Church at its best is gospel-focused, hope-filled and passionate about upholding the rights of society’s most vulnerable. Alas, by Thursday we had lurched back into the bleak world of Cardinal Pell, a senior Church ”leader” still in abject denial, who compounded the grievous damage already done to clergy sexual abuse survivors and their families with his ludicrous ”truck” simile. Falzon’s words and demeanour were prophetic, pastoral and empathetic. Pell’s were the opposite.
Grant McDavy, Noble Park
Read more here.