A- A A+

Cardinal Pell at the Royal Commission

82 Comments
Frank Brennan |  27 March 2014

Cardinal Pell at the Royal Commission from Sydney Morning Herald

Prior to Cardinal Pell's appearance before Justice McClellan at the Child Abuse Royal Commission, I wrote in the Fairfax press: 'The spotlight on the Ellis case should lead to better church administration for the good of everyone, especially those abused or wronged by those in authority. Together, Pell and McClellan can provide us with a better-lit path through the thickets of past abuse and maladministration.'

It has been an excruciating week or two. But there can be no doubt that the Australian Catholic Church with the forced scrutinies of the State has been assisted in getting back to its mission and basic values, espousing truth, justice, compassion and transparency. 

As an institution, it has been dragged kicking and screaming. Pell has been put through the wringer, though admittedly nowhere near to the same extent as was John Ellis when the Church decided to unleash the legal attack dogs on him in litigation which was euphemistically described as vigorous and strenuous.

In his written statement to the Commission, Pell was upfront in apologising again for the sexual abuse which Ellis had undoubtedly suffered at the hands of a priest. Pell wrote, 'I acknowledge and apologise to Mr Ellis for the gross violation and abuse committed by Aidan Duggan, a now deceased priest of the Sydney Archdiocese. I deeply regret the pain, trauma and emotional damage that this abuse caused to Mr Ellis.'

Under cross examination on Wednesday, Pell had to admit that he, his advisers and his staff had fallen well short of the standards expected of a model litigant, let alone a Christian organisation. He finally admitted to the vast chasm between Christian decency and the tactics employed in pursuing Ellis in the courts. 

Having blamed various members of his staff for earlier errors and omissions, Pell was anxious to exculpate his lawyers who had acted on instructions and perhaps with insufficient supervision. He said, 'I believe in a legal sense there was nothing done that was improper, and any reservations I might have about particular stands of our lawyers, I would not want to suggest that they did anything improper. But from my point of view, from a Christian point of view, leaving aside the legal dimension, I don't think we did deal fairly (with Ellis).' 

According to the ABC, at the conclusion of this afternoon's hearing, Pell made a long awaited apology to Ellis, not just for the initial and sustained sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a deviant priest but for the hurt which had been inflicted on him by the Church ever since he had sought compensation and closure. Pell said:

As former archbishop and speaking personally, I would want to say to Mr Ellis that we failed in many ways, some way inadvertently, in our moral and pastoral responsibilities to him. I want to acknowledge his suffering and the impact of this terrible affair on his life. As the then archbishop, I have to take ultimate responsibility, and this I do.

At the end of this gruelling appearance for both of us at this Royal Commission, I want publicly to say sorry to him for the hurt caused him by the mistakes made, admitted by me, and some of our archdiocesan personnel during the course of the Towards Healing process and litigation.

The Cardinal's long time critics found fault with his mode of delivery. But I am one Catholic and one Australian citizen who is mightily relieved that the Cardinal has been man enough and priest enough to apologise publicly for his failures and the failures of those under his supervision.

It is now clear that the Church like all right thinking people would view priests and church workers as employees of those those church leaders who appoint and supervise them.

To date in Australia, the victims of sexual abuse have been unlikely to succeed in court against anyone but the perpetrator or a callously negligent employer or supervisor who had little regard for the signs that there may be a sexual predator in their midst. There have been many hurdles for a victim wanting to sue anyone but the criminal perpetrator. The Royal Commission will need to give detailed consideration to these hurdles, making recommendations to governments about reforms which will impact on all employers and not just churches.

Until now, a victim like Ellis has faced an additional hurdle when suing for abuse by a priest or other church personnel. Often the alleged abuse occurred many years ago and now there is a new supervising bishop or superior. The previous bishop or superior will have long since died. Who is to be sued?

In 2007, the New South Wales Court of Appeal ruled that in the case of the Catholic Church, there was no point in trying to sue the 'Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church', the statutory trust corporation that holds title to all the church lands of a diocese. That corporation may hold the assets but it does not supervise, employ or oversee clergy or other church workers.

This week, everyone has come to accept that the Church should not give any appearance of hiding behind the corporate veil. Justice demands that present church leaders agree to satisfy any judgment debt against their predecessors or their deceased predecessors' estates when there is an allegation of past failure to supervise or adequately investigate a sexual predator in their ranks. Any damages should be paid from church assets.

For the moment, we should all be grateful that Pell apologised to Ellis ruling a line under hierarchical behaviour that does not pass the sunlight test, to say nothing of the Sermon on the Mount. While Pell heads for Rome, McClellan is only starting to wrestle with the really difficult legal questions.


Frank Brennan headshotFr Frank Brennan SJ is professor of law at Australian Catholic University, and adjunct professor at the College of Law and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, Australian National University.

 



Comments

Comments should be short, respectful and on topic. Email is requested for identification purposes only.

Word Count: 0 (please limit to 200)

Submitted comments

I wondered if he would have apologised if he wasn't leaving on Monday?

Sarah 27 March 2014

"The Cardinal's long time critics found fault with his mode of delivery". Presumably this refers to Pell's apparent inability to show emotion. Those holding this view would do well to remember the vilification heaped on Lindy Chamberlain's head even, particularly, by some in the legal profession for her apparent inability to show emotion. We all deal with distress in our own way, one mother's distress at the loss of her baby wasn't openly obvious so not apparent to many and it seems that many believe that one Cardinal's outward composure indicates an inner lack of empathy. Think again.

Paul 28 March 2014

I don't think Cardinal Pell should be getting out of this with just a few words of apology. He is meant to be the guide in matters of morality and he has clearly failed miserably. The Pope should sack him.

Brian Finlayson 28 March 2014

Cardinal Pell has apologised, after some ducking and weaving. He's to be commended for this, it can't have been easy. Thinking of Mr Ellis, I am heartbroken for him - that he had to endure, publicly, this level of intrusion into his life. It was the only course left open to him and I thank Justice McLellan and the Child Abuse Royal Commission for their work. Perhaps Ellis will never be able to 'accept' the mode of apology, or apology, and I'd understand if this were the case.

Pam 28 March 2014

Maybe so, Paul, but if so, what is a person like him doing in a pastoral vocation where an ability to relate and relate obviously must surely be part of the job requirements? And it's hardly a matter of outward composure or stiff upper lip concealing a sensitive inner self; throughout this whole sorry saga the man has many times demonstrated that he just doesn't get it!

Ginger Meggs 28 March 2014

"mode of delivery": perhaps there is more to say here, even from the perspective of the rites of penance. Medieval theology found contrition to be perhaps more important than confession. Contrition is not simply emotion, and has a sense of being recognized or intuited by the community/priest. It is not the long time critics that are of interest but the victims of institutional abuse who are looking at a very senior and powerful figure, who has dealt extremely poorly with abuse claims, and who now is off to a top job out of the country. They are looking for something that says their plight is understood. They are looking for signs that institutions will do better. Each news bulletin sets them off on trains of thought that they are trying to overcome or suppress. Their interpretation of the Cardinal's response is key to appropriate 'contrition', actual 'satisfaction' by institutions, and sufficient acceptance or 'absolution'. Does flying off immediately to a distinguished and challenging role in Rome, and checking diaries to be able to return ease doubts in the abused that they are the absolute priority at this time?

Gerard Moore 28 March 2014

The Cardinal's demeanor, including his flat affect, suggests stress. He has had to apologise, something that would have been unthought of before the Royal Commission. His legalistic rather than compassionate response to the abuse of John Ellis has shone the light on his personal ministry. His apparent inability to emapthise and show compassion is his 'Lindy Chamberlain' millstone. His call to Rome where he can kick heads and clean out the corruption in the vatican finances is a perfect role for him. Sydney desperately needs a new Archbishop in the mode of Francis - compassion, integrity, justice, humility, love for others and alignment with the poor, the marginalised, the sick, homeless people, people with disabilities and other needs. We need a return to Christ's values. I hope and pray we are not again disappointed.

Mary 28 March 2014

A very good and sensible article once again, Father Frank. At a SIPS talk last year you said that you would not break the seal of the confessional, even in such cases as are being highlighted in this Royal Commission. As there is now such growing criticism of the Church's insistence on this absolute privacy of the confessional, I would like to hear your opinion on this.

Jan Coleman 28 March 2014

I hope and pray that the apparent conversion that Fr Pell has gone through, from attack-dog high-protector of the "church as institution" and aggressive proponent of the conservative cause (whatever it takes!), to the sort of christian-first loving servant of the faithful that Francis is calling for, is real and deep. As Fr Hamilton pointed out so well earlier this week, the unjust sacrifice of even a single righteous individual for there sake of "the greater cause" is un-ethical and wrong; and unfortunately that has been the calling card of our Church leaders. It is now the policy of our Catholic prime minister...I wonder where he got his moral counselling on his issues? I pray too for his conversion to discipleship of Jesus.

Eugene 28 March 2014

Pell knew an apology was needed. It is what happens when you are cornered and all other avenues have been exhausted. He gave it. Now he has cleared his desk, and conscience, enabling him to move on to bigger and better things. May he go far.

Claire 28 March 2014

Over these last two weeks I have watched much of the proceedings online. I have felt for some of the witnesses as they are for the most-part good people who tried to alleviate suffering in a different context to which they are now being questioned. In this category I would place John Usher, Michael Salmon and Ray Brazil. Others perhaps were incompetent or perhaps simply blinded by a misplaced sense of loyalty. Perhaps Rayner, Davoren and Michael Casey fit into this category. What I found hardest to watch was the response to questions given by Cardinal Pell and Daniel Casey. Perhaps, reading between the lines, the image of a corpse hanging at the city gates warning all who might want to enter came to mind. The corpse was Ellis. My own feelings are ones of anger and disappointment. It is my Church that has been dragged through the mud by actions of those who had the responsibility to lead it in the manner of the Good Shepherd. In the wash up while it is Ellis who requires the most healing he is not the only one whose faith has been damaged by this whole sad, sorry affair. Truly scandalous

John Francis Collins 28 March 2014

Is there no one else out there who has a major problem with the way Cardinal; Pell blamed everyone but himself? "Mode of delivery" may or may not be part and parcel of the same problem.

margaret 28 March 2014

the words matter, even if the manner of delivery was typically "Pell". He can no longer help his defensive stance for the church he learned to love in the 1950s. Bon voyage to a Prince of the institutional church. We have need of more loving shepherds.

moira 28 March 2014

A very good article once again Father Frank. However something you omitted to mention is the much highlighted question of the absolute seal of the confessional. You said at a SIPS last year that you would never break this seal. I would like to hear what you have to say now when there is such a huge swell of criticism about this rule, seen as yet another failure in the Church's obligation to be responsible and transparent to victims. Thank you.

Jan Coleman 28 March 2014

My view on Cardinal Pell’s apology was that it was good that he gave it. But that’s all I can say. The fact that he never looked at Mr. Ellis tells me that it was a highly impersonal performance which contradicts what an apology should be about. The apology might have also had more substance if it had been accompanied by some form of restitution for the "hell" Mr. Ellis has been put through. We as a Church should not breathe a sigh of relief that the Cardinal apologised. He set a very low standard for saying sorry.

Jane Anderson 28 March 2014

I too have the beginnings of admiration for Pell and the way he answered charges and apologised. True, he is not the most endearing of characters, but we should be able to see past his exterior. And don't for a moment think he is going to a soft job in Rome; there are heads to be kicked and if he can manage to tidy up their finances, this country can be proud of him. His appointment in view of his recent troubles in Australia, is an act of some courage by Francis. I might never be able to warm to him, but I wish him well. By the way, part of Pell's trouble is his friendship with Tony Abbott - it used to be that this was the other way round, but not any more.

Frank 28 March 2014

Pell's apology, stilted and formal though it was, would have carried more weight if he had even once looked John Ellis in the eye as he delivered it.

Juliet Flesch 28 March 2014

Frank, you are too loyal to the church and too gentle on an unevangelical "servant". Among many other things, who do you believe, GP or the various aides whom he brazenly contradicted? One tests the credibility of the various witnesses and comes to a decision. I think you are reluctant to do this.

Keith Carlon 28 March 2014

But why did Pell not have the moral courage to look John Ellis in the face during the apology? The words were welcome, and very acceptable, but the body language was not, and to those people who watched the proceedings on television, it smacks of a very grudging admission

Alison Cotes 28 March 2014

I deplore this facile use of term The "Catholic Church" or "Church" when in fact the Catholic Church in postconciliar terms is wider than His Eminence,[now a top Vatican Finance fixer], The RCC has 2.4 billion mostly innocent members; most wouldn't have heard of Ellis[e.g. Rcs on Trobriand Islands[Kinwina Is. PNG] uck excuses of context is a cop out for sloppy journalism at best!

Father John George 28 March 2014

Thanks Frank for fair summary of the mechanics of the Hearing, but it might have helped if the Cardinal could have looked into the eyes of the victim when he was saying "Sorry'" It may just have seemed more convincing and genuine?

Brian F Kennedy 28 March 2014

#Trial by media[ES' posts] is utterly unjust and absurd. #With a Mlle Defarge Gallery of cat calls, etc The Royal Commission[though professional] was far removed from the judicial gravitas of Bench/Bar/Jury ambience of rigorous justice cum conviction and sentencing! $Yet some here scream for "sacking" of his Eminence[who stayed on his Calvary to the last even longer than "usual" protocol.despite rude and scoffing gallery upstairs and outside rants] We can be truly proud of this Cardinal who sees his red trimmed and sashed cassock as symbolising blood of martyrdom than effete prettiness! Ad Multos Annos Your Eminence[ I will dearly miss your pastoral visits to my humble room in retirement Home! with my tale of woes!

Father John George 28 March 2014

Another deft and thoughful piece from Frank Brennan. I note that in Oregon, where the archdiocese declared bankruptcy in large part to pay claims from many people who had been raped, the question of responsibility is clear; the rapists worked for the archdiocese (they were NOT independent subcontractors, as other American bishops have tried to suggest when they fled responsibility), and the archdiocese was and is liable for damages. Another bit of fallout from the bankruptcy (now concluded) was the legal establishment of parishes and schools as independent entities, NOT owned by the archdiocese -- a welcome thing, and in many ways a hark back to the early independent community feeling of congregations. The less corprate control the better, seems to me; remember that we are a revolutionary cult in the end, not a corporate entity.

Brian Doyle 28 March 2014

The church is alive and well; thanks to the Holy Spirit. The hierachy of the Church is another body. They have taken the mantle of Caesar with hundreds of young men joining it every year, proud to be part of the Roman Legion. They have a mixed history of goodness and atrocities. In Australia, the walls of decency and justice have, after some time, checked the the abuses of the legions. When will the next Caesar or Govenor attack again, simply because they have the power, because they are exclusive. When will they next defend their men simply because it is the name of the Legion that matters more than that of common peasants. The words of Jesus; on being inclusive, of service, of being last don't apply to them. It will not apply until there is a fundamental change in the hierachy church. They have lost their way. Only God can save them.

DonaldD 28 March 2014

Interesting that so many demand Christian charity and understanding from Cardinal Pell yet continue to vilify and deny him any charitable understanding or forgiveness. He in fact has shown great courage at the commission and has set in progress the groundwork for genuine reform , sadly to no apparent advantage to himself. His actions in the nature of his admissions and apologies perhaps contain far greater Christianity than the sum of that evident in his unforgiving critics, Catholic and otherwise.

john frawley 28 March 2014

Have you never watched a small boy, ashamed and forced to apologise? He is unable to look the person he has harmed in the eye. I will never understand how it could have happened, but let's wait, pray and see what actions and understandings come out of this Royal Commission before we make our judgment

Name Margaret McDonald 28 March 2014

Mr Doyle your concerns re compo from abusive priest, primarily responsible,,may find resolution in a passing Royal Commission dialogue by the Judge and His Eminence re compensation for abuse: "Q.[Judge] Do you think there might be wisdom in the Royal Commission recommending that priests should be insured? A.[Cdl] I think that might be a very useful development. Q. And it would solve a lot of problems very quickly, wouldn't it? A. I think so." [Transcript 24/3/2014] frjg adds-such would compensate without bankruptcy depriving needy dependent on Archdiocesan social outreach

Father John George 28 March 2014

For once I disagree with Frank Brennan, but only slightly. The fact that Pell apologised is good news for the whole sordid saga. It did seem obvious to me, though, that the apology was not from the heart. It did not seem genuinely given.

Anna 28 March 2014

I sat through most of the hearing and read the statements. The treatment of John Ellis was appalling!. In the witness box he came across as a very honest (and brave ) person. The tongue lashing that was given by His Honour to two of the lawyers in the case left me .dismayed as to their professional skills and ethics in not (apparently) advising the Church to curtail the legal action when the church accepted Mr Eccleston's report The whole process seemed to be get a life of its own and poor old John Ellis suffered and continues to suffer very badly, The treatment of victims can only improve. (I hope )

Brian 28 March 2014

For the apology to John Ellis to have any validity it needed to be addressed to him in person, not announced to the commission or the public at large, referring to John only in the third person. Not only did Pell not look at him, he didn't speak to him either.

OldG 28 March 2014

With all respect to His Honour and His Eminence, I know of no insurer who would insure anyone for their prospective commission of intentional torts or crimes. There is a lot of hard legal thinking to be done once the dust settles.

Frank brennan Sj 28 March 2014

#Ms Anderson A Royal Commission is far far removed from a group abreactive therapy session with loads of catharsis. #The professional/'clinical' mode characterises forensic ambiance where emotional outpourings are at times utterly counterproductive

Father John George 28 March 2014

I am still, profoundly not impressed with my church ... nor with the character of the men who lead it ... the lot of you, should really, just get out.

Paul 28 March 2014

I hope Mr Ellis gets some long awaited justice now. I admire his persistence in fighting for justice and truth - how he wasn't worn down completely by the Church's appalling tactics amazes me. Pell has got off too lightly in my opinion. When one takes on a position of responsibility such as Pell has, his accountability and any atonement for wrong doing should reflect this - as it does when a police officer or judge falls foul of the law and in his case, his own moral code of ethics as well. In my opinion he is a lucky boy going off to Rome to be sitting along side the Pope .... and all he got was a grilling at the Royal Commission! Thank God the process has forced the hand of many Church leaders to apologise and finally examine their own consciences.

Carmel 28 March 2014

Just a small follow on ... a short time ago, Pope Francis was quoted as saying something along this line, '... that Catholics should feel "shame" for the abuse by our priests ...'. I find this comment to be fundamentally wrong, that it sickens me to the depth of my soul. Clearly our leaders knew full well, the massive extent of abuse going on everywhere on earth, in all types of organizations and institutions ... and did nothing but attack ... until people started to get caught! Do any of us now really believe, that folks around the planet actually want to remain Catholic? Or accept the moral high ground put up? Why should I, as a Catholic, feel, or otherwise bear a collective shame, for those men and women in positions of power and authority over innocents ... when they knew full well what they were doing? I feel nothing for abusers ... they deserve no forgiveness whatsoever ... for the hell they brought to so many, when they had it within their grasp, to make a spiritual difference.

Paul 28 March 2014

Cardinal Pell has done a lot of good work for Catholic education in Australia. Because of Pell's initiatives, we now have many more seminarians that we did not have before Pell. There is a long list of achievements of the great work that he has done in Australia and other parts of the world, that many Catholics are not aware of. I am glad that I was present at St Mary's Cathedral on 10 May 2001 when Pell was installed Archbishop of Sydney. I have great respect and admiration for Cardinal Pell.I will continue to pray for him to have strength to carry out the good work in the Vatican. God bless Cardinal Pell.

Ron Cini 28 March 2014

I am concerned about the numerous apologies that been hollow. Hollow!? An apology is hollow if it does not recognise and rectify its underlying causes. The spotlight needs to be focussed on Canon Law and attachments to reveal what Bishops (Ordinaries) were required to do or not do when dealing with clerical paedophilia. I hope the Commission doesn't wind up before doing this.

John Casey 28 March 2014

The most basic and deplorable fact in all of this shocking scandal is that the leadership of the Catholic Church has hidden behind the prescriptions of Canon Law which effectively sacrifice innocent children at the altar of clericalism. That's the real issue here, Frank. The Ellis catastrophe is one deplorable example of a clericalist subculture, a church within the Church, which is guilty of allowing, enabling and being complicit in systemic failures in Church governance almost beyond belief and imagination. It's not only the Catholic people who have woken up to the fact that all too many of its chief pastors have failed in their call to be and act in a Christ-like way. And what an irony it was to witness Justice McCellan educate Cdl Pell that the great values of justice, fairness, mercy, generosity and compassion are all embedded in the Common Law (and John Howard's Australian values) and, by inference, singularly lacking in the callous, calculating mentality of lawyers and accountants employed by dioceses. Many are now looking forward to the publication of Chris Tapsell's Book, Potiphar's Wife, He's already been limbering up on John Menadue's blog and in The Swag. One can only hope Chris will personally translate it into Spanish!

David Timbs 28 March 2014

Father John George, I thank you, Even though, I never met you, I respect and admire you, for having the courage to stand up for our beloved Cardinal Pell.

Ron Cini 28 March 2014

Thanks for your compassionate and balanced commentary. One discussion that is not happening and that we urgently need to have is how to develop effective psychological treatments for the perpetrators. We are failing to learn how to break the cycles of abuse when we leave this question in the too-hard basket and do not provide treatment options in prisons. We need more training in mental health first aid in parishes.

Carolyn Minchin 28 March 2014

It's Kieran Tapsell, of course. Apologies.

David Timbs 28 March 2014

Frank, you are a heroic figure in the local Church but Pell's apology was as genuine as a Burberry handbag bought in a Kowloon market.

Martin Loney 28 March 2014

To avoid misunderstanding a correction: My post intended to indicate the small boy is humbled and ashamed, and so can't look the person in the eye. This indicates new understanding.

Margaret McDonald 28 March 2014

As a life long Catholic I am so distressed and appalled at the inhuman treatment of Mr.Ellis,the Catholic Church has a lot to answer for in the way so many victims have been treated. Many Bishops and other Religious Superiors have through secrecy and moving these predators around never even gave the victims another thought. I thank God that Julia Gillard called a Royal Commission to bring to book all the institutions including the Catholic Church many of whom have been so unjust. in their treatments of victims of terrible crimes at the hands of Catholic clergy and others. I no longer trust our leaders as I once did. Would Jesus EVER recognise the Church we claim to be His! Margaret M.Coffey

Margaret M.Coffey 28 March 2014

Father Brennan given USA $2 billion abuse payout ]supported by Insurance companies] I contest your post re insuring against torts -Such I suspect has been usual pratice in other professions for decades. Furthermore: "Since 1966, the Archdiocese of Miami Insurance Programs have paid $26.1 million in settlement, legal, and counseling costs associated with sexual misconduct allegations made by minors involving priests, laity and religious brothers and sisters"

Father John George 28 March 2014

The following Royal Commision dialogue[27/3/2012] is most pertinent to issues raised in Father Brennans post above. "Q[Judge Mcllelan Can I ask you some questions, please, about insurance and the present position with insurance with CCI, as far as you are able to assist us, please. As far as you know, does Catholic Church Insurances insure a priest for criminal conduct? A.[CDL] No, and it's a moot point whether they can insure somebody for criminal conduct. THE CHAIR: Q. Cardinal, the criminal conduct we're talking about is a deliberate tort; you understand that? A. That's a deliberate legal offence. Q. No - well, it's that, but it's also a civil wrong. A. Yes. Q. I mean, if you hit someone in the street, you may commit a criminal assault, but you will also be liable in the civil law for assault. Do you understand? A. I understand that now. Q. There's no reason why the insurer couldn't provide insurance for a civil wrong, could it? A. I simply don't know, but if you say that they can, good. Q. They often do. A. Good".

Father John George 28 March 2014

Fine short piece. Thank you. I watched, live, the first day's broadcast on ABC 24. Couldn't see Day 2. I was appalled about the legal advice and very relieved about everything said by Cardinal Pell.

Dr Susan Reibel Moore 28 March 2014

I am with you Mary! We pray for an enlightened, pastoral, servant to all as we await Pell's replacement. We are not looking for one's "waiting in the wings" but for a true and humble pastor for all.

Marg 28 March 2014

He publicly apologised, but is he repentant? The true example of a bishop is to be repentant, including and especially the bishop of Rome. That is what many of us would call leading by example.

Mount Purgtaory 28 March 2014

How can anyone judge what is in another's heart? Cardinal Pell apologised, and to my mind seemed to be shamed ,sorry, and very sincere. That is my perception, and once again who can say yea or nay as to the feelings of the heart. I heard Cardinal Pell had eye contact with Mr. Ellis as he left the court., which may have been a profound experience for both!

Bernie Introna 28 March 2014

Would Pell have expressed such contrition were he not, as Brennan says, “dragged kicking and screaming” (to the commission)? I don’t believe so. It’s a terrible shame that it takes a secular state body to redirect the church back to its core business of espousing truth, justice and compassion. Something is not quite right in this Church, but I take great heart from most of those whose views are reflected here. The Holy Spirit is indefatigable.

Mark Meehan 29 March 2014

It took a Royal Commision for Pell to be man enough and priest enough. C'mon Frank Brennan, A man and a priest should have reached out to Ellis and ask for his forgiveness. People didn't find a reason to be critical of Pell they are deeply hurt by the man and who he represents. The man Priest is not the victim

Michael Gravener 29 March 2014

What a contentious person he remains even now, after all that has been said, blaming his 'advisers' leaving the inference that his legal team included, had fallen well short of the standards expected of a model litigant, [not that it hasn't happened to others when the shoe has been on the other foot]. But with Holy Week soon upon us, and being Catholic, he would no doubt be assured of being forgiven.

Lynne Newington 29 March 2014

Richard Ackland and I discussed some of the ethical issues regarding the Ellis litigation with Geraldine Doogue on ABC Saturday Extra. Listen at http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2014/03/sea_20140329_0820.mp3

Frank Brennan SJ 29 March 2014

There are so many people who are guilty of sexually abusing minors in the State Education Dept where I work and I cannot recall one apology from a leader. The only people who apologise publicly seem to be religious leaders, eg Catholics, Salvation Army, Anglicans - in each case the apology comes from one who did not do the abuse, but one who is taking the blame for a badly mishandled situation. If only the actual perpetrators would apologise. Let us hope the church can quickly identify such abusers of children and teenagers and keep them out of the priesthood forever.

Skye 29 March 2014

The line it is drawn.The curse it is cast.The slow one now. Will later be fast. As the present now. Will later be past. The order is Rapidly fadin'. And the first one now. Will later be last. For the times they are a-changin'. Robert Allen Zimmerman.

Annoying Orange 29 March 2014

Father Brennan invokes "all respect to His Eminence[28/3] after describing said Cdl Prefect as “dragged kicking and screaming” when back on earth,Eminenza entered, stayed, and exited with outstanding dignity, befitting a Nuncio Pacelli, in Munich residence[1919], facing down German communists with their brandishing guns, the thugs withdrawing in utter confusion. Neither eminent personages ever resorted to infantile "kicks and screams" in crises; au contraire, indeed, critics bemoan perceived 'sang froid'!

Father John George 30 March 2014

Whose autonomous responsibility is it to insure (provide) against a risk of damage to a child by abusive education in sexuality and true love (Cf. TTMHS, PCF, 1995, 24)?

Oliver Clark 31 March 2014

I am left reflecting on how hard it is to acknoledge and express shame. When I heard the Cardinal express regret I wondered where shame sat in his regret. Feeling ashamed of our actions is such a difficult place to sit with yet it is where we must sit if the actions we commit are shameful. And perpetrating actions of abuse is shameful. The Cardinal was grilled. How much easier would that have been if he had simply said I am ashamed .what we did was abusive. ..A painful feeling to sit with made even more so by defending against. The admission of shame and remorse an essential part of the healing process. Too many have suffered on the Cross. Hopefully this experience marks a genuinely new beginning, a truly Christian beginning .

john 31 March 2014

I watched Pell's appearance before the Commission and found Pell not only embarrassing but 'shifty'. Couldn't remember anything! Blamed everyone! We are well rid of him from our local church and maybe some people might gradually find some trust in the future. I can't help but wonder why any parish still has altar servers. They don't 'serve' any purpose and I believe NO priest should put themselves in the situation where they can be accused or put themselves in a position where they are open to suspicion of child abuse. It also seems to me that altar servers, both girls and girls, are placed in a position of 'servitude' which I see as unhealthy. Priests can get the bread and wine etc without any help from young children. We need to change many things that just happen because they always have. We know now that the church has to think through many things that need to change. Like less power for the priests and more community decision making.

glendagoodyear@hotmail.com 31 March 2014

#John the ES issue is not that the Cardinal did not express regret but that he did not abreact emotions. .#The guy is a former sought after AFL high talent. Such rarely carry tissues for tearful episodes in public. #Cardinal Pell handled Royal Commission with dignity and sincerity--no call for harakiri[ritual suicide by disembowelment with a sword, formerly practiced in Japan by samurai as an honorable alternative to disgrace ]. #By the way John your "new beginning" is a tautology]. Re "abuse" by Cardinal [ I underline Duggan committed the abuse not his Eminence-More nuance please with "abuse", in Ellis context [for unfamiliar readers at least!

Father John George 31 March 2014

George, you're not getting on to Pacelli again... At the moment I'm reading Ronald Florence's book: Emissary of the Doomed and Pacelli as far as I'm concerned, could've stood in front of a truck passing by Vatican gates or a train at the station carting the Jews of to concentration camps in dog boxes if he had been serious about saving the them..... Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends... No wonder Francis has honed in on the road to sainthood of Oscar Romeo...he too was silent.

Lynne Newington 31 March 2014

Cardinal Pell with his pursed lips and blank stare is the classic image of the bean counter. His 'apology' had the ring of the accountant who admits to a misjudgment in the administration of accounts. I expect his job in Rome will be more to his liking and talents. As such, his departure is a relief for a Church in desperate need of contrition and human compassion.

Brian Sayner 31 March 2014

Part of the Church's problem in this whole saga, is that there is no real forum in which one can critique the performance of priests and bishops, no matter what the issue. Most of the Catholic Media is controlled by bishops, and the policies there seem to prevent the publication of legitimate critiques. Over the years I have penned many a critique of aspects of Cardinal Pell's performance, but none have been published. This situation leads the offender to believe he is right because no one told him otherwise. Thank God for Eureka Street in which some of the People of God can air an alternative or contrary view. I only wish the protected Catholic media would be more open and less defensive of those in power. The results of such policy are obvious in the proceedings of the Royal Commission.

Garry 31 March 2014

#Ms Newington has clearly swallowed the Kruschev anti Pius disinformation campaign, attested by Ion Mihai Pacepa a former two-star general in the Securitate, the secret police of Communist Romania, who defected to the United States in July 1978. #“Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth.” Those were the words of Albert Einstein. Golda Meir [Israeli Prime Minister] offered similar praise. At the end of the war, the World Jewish Congress was so appreciative of the pope’s efforts to save Jews that it gave 20 million lire to the Vatican. And after the war, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israele Anton Zolli, formally expressed the gratitude of Roman Jews “for all the moral and material aid Pope Pius gave them during the Nazi occupation.” In 1945, Zolli was received into the Catholic Church and asked Pius XII to be his godfather; he chose the pope’s first name, Eugenio, for his baptismal name. #in Italy—where the pope was actually in a position to affect outcomes? (Throughout Europe 65 percent of Jews were exterminated, but in Italy 85 percent of Jews were saved.) . Pius ordered bogus baptismal certificates passed by vatican emissaries into "trains at the station carting the Jews off to concentration camps in dog boxes"

Father John George 31 March 2014

Dr Susan...I think you will find his legal counsel disputed his claims of bad advice.

Name 31 March 2014

Reading the text and the comments it seems that the missing element is empathy, both in Frank's one dimensional article and in Pell's appearance a the RC. But I am sure that Father George and others will be glad to hear that Pell is not just going to Rome just as a bean-counter. It is rumored that he is going to do a corporatization of the New Testament. He is said to start with the Beatitutes and add a 9th, "Blessed is the headkicker for he shall never be unemployed". As David Timbs pointed out John Menadue's blog has some good stuff on the whole matter.

Michael D. Breen 31 March 2014

As a physician and graduate of Loyola University Chicago and Trinity College Dublin, I ask Professor Brennan if there can be truth and justice for the victims in the Catholic Church, since Pope Francis will not refer cases to civil law officials?

Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh 01 April 2014

To a large extent this, "Justice demands that present church leaders agree to satisfy any judgment debt against their predecessors or their deceased predecessors' estates when there is an allegation of past failure to supervise or adequately investigate a sexual predator in their ranks" masks a deeper problem. Under Australian law institutions are not generally legally liable for criminal acts committed by employees, contractors etc. These are usually outside the Australian standard for vicarious liability. I would hazard a guess that many (if not most) victims of sex abuse aren't able to substantiate institutional failures of supervision or investigation but were instead victims of opportunistic predation in circumstances where vicarious liability does not currently apply. Where can these victims turn for justice? I am hoping the Royal Commission will provide an answer

Luke V 01 April 2014

With incredibly mixed emotions about this whole issue, I agree that all the Pell detractors out there are the types of a peculiarly Australian mindset that would have been the first to hang Lindy Chamberlain all those years ago for an apparent lack of empathy. Who knows how Cardinal Pell feels? As the pope himself says, "Who am I to judge"? We can't have it both ways merely because of a "national peculiarity".

athanasius 01 April 2014

Dr McHugh, Pope Francis will never do that, reflecting on his own experiences when ecclesiastical authority in his past life.

Lynne Newington 01 April 2014

Mr Breen Sir, I suggest eminent Prefect merely recalls: "Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also"[John 15:20]

Father John George 01 April 2014

excellent ,as usual. Some such reconciliatory statement should be in Sundays Prayer of Faithful

R Walshsj 01 April 2014

To athanasius, Pell is not being judged for what he 'feels', nor even for what he does not say or do, but rather for what he does say and do.

Ginger Meggs 02 April 2014

#Mr Meggs THE Royal Commission[RC] does not hand down judgments as forensic bench/bar/ jury. Indeed recent RC is redolent of Place de La Concorde with 'cat calls' from tricoleur Defarges' 'knitting gallery' atop and baying mobs awaiting. Give me the constraints of court ambiance anyday, sans tabloid judiciaries

Father John George 02 April 2014

Fr George, if you had read my post in the context of athanasius's comment you would have realised that neither s/he nor I was referring to any 'judgement' of the Royal Commission. But I do have a great regard for the ability of such inquisitorial bodies to get at the truth and I would be very surprised if the hierarchy of the institutional church comes out smelling of roses. But time will no doubt tell.

Ginger Meggs 03 April 2014

Elizabeth Farrelly (“Exit Cardinal Pell, with a bombshell”, 3/4) claims that Cardinal Pell proposed “his priestly child abuse insurance scheme”. Under cross-examination, Pell did float the idea of insuring a religious superior against negligence for failing adequately to supervise a pedophile priest. It was Justice McClellan, not the Cardinal, who floated the idea of the pedophile priest being insured. Here is the exchange between them: Q. Cardinal, the criminal conduct we're talking about is a deliberate tort; you understand that? A. That's a deliberate legal offence. Q. No - well, it's that, but it's also a civil wrong. A. Yes. Q. I mean, if you hit someone in the street, you may commit a criminal assault, but you will also be liable in the civil law for assault. Do you understand? A. I understand that now. Q. There's no reason why the insurer couldn't provide insurance for a civil wrong, could it? A. I simply don't know, but if you say that they can, good. Q. They often do. A. Good. With all respect to His Honour, you cannot and should not be able to insure against your own commission of a deliberate tort or criminal act. Any such insurance policy would be void. It is another matter whether you might insure yourself against the negligence of failing adequately to supervise another person under your authority who commits a deliberate tort or criminal act, or against the vicarious liability for any wrong committed by your employee.

Frank Brennan SJ 04 April 2014

The royal commission now has to deal with some very difficult legal and public policy questions. Let me give an example which has nothing to do with the church and child sexual abuse. Imagine that one of Lindsay Fox’s drivers stops his truck at an intersection and comes over and biffs you. The driver has committed a criminal offence. Should the driver be able to insure himself against the commission of such offence? Despite what Justice McClellan said, the answer is: “Of course not.” Are there any circumstances in which Lindsay Fox might be liable for negligence for failing adequately to supervise his driver (if for example the driver had form)? Are there any circumstances in which Lindsay Fox might be vicariously liable for the criminal act of his driver committed in the course of his employment (if for example the driver was driving criminally recklessly and caused you damage)? In the royal commission, the easy bits are determining that a priest or other church person is “an employee” of the Church and that the church authorities need to provide a defendant who can be sued for any negligence, or other liability (vicarious or strict) of the church supervisors. The hard bits are determining when an employer (including a church) is to be liable for the criminal acts of an employee committed “in the course of employment” or committed in a work situation which would warrant making the employer strictly liable. Once the royal commission has done its work, the big challenge for governments and parliaments will be deciding how heavy the burdens to impose on employers who commit workers to working with vulnerable children. If the burdens are too heavy, the care of vulnerable children will be sole the preserve of the State. Some people might think that an attractive proposition. I think it would be horrendous.

Frank Brennan SJ 04 April 2014

Re: Frank Brennan's second comment of 4 April. There are indeed some "difficult legal and public policy questions" the Child Abuse Royal Commission will be grappling with. These are questions no doubt our finest legal minds will debate. For vulnerable children this must be done and we must hope and pray that the 'right' answers are found. It saddens me very much though and fills me with an apprehension I can't quite define that it's come to this.

Pam 04 April 2014

It is the parent or guardian whose "autonomous responsibility" (TTMHS, PCF, 1995, 24) it is to insure their child or ward against risk of child sexual abuse and any other abuse in a Catholic education and pastoral care setting. Oliver Clark

Oliver Clark 06 April 2014

Fact is Father Brennan, Justice McLellan's judicial hermeneutic on Insurance, has corroborative precedence, in USA church clergy abuse pay-out of $2+ billion, [with Insurance help-sans Ellis Decree safety net.]

Father John George 06 April 2014

On 25 March, this exchange took place between Justice McClellan and Monsignor Usher, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Sydney: Q. We've now been sitting in public for a little over six months and we've, as you know, spoken to well over 1,000 people in private session. Do you think that the discussion that the Commission has engendered in the community in various places is having any impact in terms of the leaders of the church being required to reflect? A. I certainly do. I certainly do, yes. In fact, the attitude of Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, has changed considerably. I don't know whether it's because of this Royal Commission or because of extra learning, but - and I've seen that in other parts of the Catholic Church. I can't comment much about other institutions. Q. What changes have you seen in Cardinal Pell's attitude? A. To admit he made mistakes.

Frank Brennan SJ 24 April 2014

Similar articles

Rhyme and ruin in Tony Abbott's court

11 Comments
Brian Matthews | 28 March 2014

Tony Abbott's head on Henry VIII's bodyThomas Wyatt, poet and prominent figure in the court of Henry VIII, found life there not only perilous but repugnant and dreamed of escape. There is much that Wyatt would recognise in the court of Tony Abbott: the obsessive secrecy, the suspicion of foreigners, the cruelty, the ecclesiastical connections, the dames and knights, the aggressive Anglophilia. At least he wouldn't have had to encode his unease in poetry.


You don't have to be a communist to stand up for the poor

16 Comments
John Falzon | 27 March 2014

Graffiti fist on a grungy brick wallI reject the dystopian vision of an Australia where people experiencing poverty are made to endure expenditure cuts while the people who have the least need for assistance enjoy overly generous tax concessions. From time to time someone comes out of the woodwork and accuses me of being a communist but that's the least of my worries. What worries me is the myth that people living in poverty are to blame for their own situation. 


Bullying artists and the art of conversation

6 Comments
Michael Mullins | 17 March 2014

Line art depicting conversationArts minister George Brandis has accused artists of 'bullying' corporate heavyweight Transfield. The artists' recent ultimatum to the board of the Sydney Biennale threatens to kill the event and possibly the entire model of arts sponsorship in Australia. Both sides of the dispute have lost sight of the opportunity that networking between artists and sponsors offers for civilised conversation that leads to a better world for all.


What Minister Morrison is giving up for Lent

19 Comments
Kerry Murphy | 11 March 2014

Lent graphicWhen I was young, I remember being encouraged to give up lollies or chocolate for Lent. On the eve of the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday last week, the Immigration Minister announced he would be effectively giving up granting protection visas for refugees for the duration of Lent, and beyond, until 1 July.


Fence-sitters key to asylum seeker success

19 Comments
Fatima Measham | 10 March 2014

Blue sign, 'Do not sit or stand on fence'After more than a decade of refugee advocacy, campaigns still cater to small 'l' liberals and progressives. They are of course critical to consolidating support for asylum seekers and sustaining political pressure. Yet the debate has become so polarised that it would seem as if the left has a monopoly on compassion. This is a serious campaign problem because it alienates those who might otherwise be allies.