Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cardinal Pell true to form

In disgust at Cardinal Pell's appalling 'we are the victims' statements I was planning to write a follow-up to my  uncovering the cover up  post on institutional child abuse.

But Mike Carlton has said so much better than I could exactly what I would have tried to say.

Here it is, from this morning's Sydney Morning Herald:

Grave of mien, choosing each word with studied care, every inch a prince of Rome, Cardinal George Pell defied the accusers.

The sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests had been exaggerated, he told a news conference in Sydney on Tuesday. There was a "press campaign" against the church, with "general smears that we are covering up and moving people around''.

"We object to being described as the only cab on the rank … because there is a persistent press campaign focused largely on us, that does not mean we are largely the principal culprits.''

With those few sentences, Australia's most senior Catholic churchman flung aside any lingering shred of moral authority attached either to his person or his office as the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney. There were one or two perfunctory remarks about "shame" delivered in that familiar treacly baritone, but that was it. Strip away the apostolic airs and he could have been a flack for James Hardie assuring the world that the dangers of the company's asbestos products had been rather overblown.

It was monstrous. It was despicable. To portray the church as a victim in this filthy business was an Orwellian reversal of the polarity of right and wrong, truth and fiction. With self-serving hypocrisy, Pell delivered yet another slap in the face to those hundreds if not thousands of children, and their families, who suffered abuse. For the rest of us, it was an insult to the intelligence.

Nobody is suggesting the Catholic church is the only cab on the rank. In Australia and worldwide, this epidemic of child abuse has extended across the Christian denominations and into schools, state institutions, the Boy Scouts, and sports clubs and teams. In my extended family, I know of a young boy in country NSW abused by an Anglican rector. The brute was quietly moved on when his crimes were discovered. Just this week in Britain, a retired Bishop of Gloucester in the Church of England was arrested on suspicion of sexual offences committed against eight boys as young as 12.

But the truly sickening thing about the Catholic church was the sinister cover-up, which ran for decades and which, for all we know, might still be happening. The statistics are there, and they are shocking. At a parliamentary inquiry in Melbourne last month, a deputy commissioner of the Victoria Police, Graham Ashton, revealed that since 1956 there had been 2110 sexual offences against 519 child victims in that state alone, about 70 per cent of them committed by Catholic priests, brothers or teachers. Not one of those crimes had ever been reported to the police by the church, he said. Not one.

Like the Bourbons, Pell has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. For him, the primacy of the church is all. His pastoral failure is absolute.

He seems to suggest that 'we're not the only ones doing it' is an acceptable defence.

I've never liked the man, I've never thought he was the right man for the job and I'd be delighted to see him go. He certainly should now, if not for the cover-ups during his watch then for these appalling pronouncements.

Mike Carlton in SMH

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