|Before heading off to become the Vatican's financial boss, Cardinal Pell had a few rough days explaining how he handled clerical abuse as Australia's clerical boss. Not well.
I have been following the sexual abuse inquiry by Australia's Royal Commission for weeks. It's been an eye opener, but nothing opened my eyes quite the way as did the testimony of Sydney's Cardinal Pell. The Commission put Pell through two and a half days of questioning. Days of questions for which Pell found all kinds of ways to pass the blame to subordinates, claim a faulty memory, and sometimes use a bizarre logic which seems part and parcel of a mind set removed from the reality of everyday life. I guess that's not too surprising since Pell has reached the pinnacle of a reality that is by definition removed from much of everyday life, especially if one has chosen to make one's life mission ascending to the heights of that reality. Cardinal Pell demonstrated in spades why clericalism, amongst some other trends, will be the death of this Church. Like many other failed pastoral leaders, he jetted out of Australia the very next day for a new position in Vatican City. Vatican City, where the clerical heart beats strongest, and where he will become the Pastor of Coins.
The following excerpt is from the Australian blog Pearls and Irritations and was written by Chris Geraghty, a retired New South Wales district court judge. Judge Geraghty watched the entire proceedings and his take is an honest expression of a Catholic truly saddened by what passed for Catholic pastoral leadership in a time of crisis for the Church of Australia.
"George Pell, Cardinal Archbishop, sat there day after day, an image of King Lear, a broken man, weary, slow and incompetent, a man who had spent his life climbing the greasy clerical pole, now at the tail-end of his life, being forced to answer questions and to confront his conscience, summoning hollow logic to assist in his defence, thrashing about blaming others, constructing academic distinctions, trying to exculpate himself and deflect the load which will inevitably be heaped upon him. His private secretary, Dr Casey, Mr John Davoren, the elderly man and ex-priest who used to be in charge of the healing service of the archdiocese, and Monsignor Brian Rayner, his former chancellor – all muddlers, all incompetent and unable to provide an accurate version of events, while he was macro-managing the show with his hands off the wheel. The board of any public company would have long since called for the resignation of its CEO.....
......As the days wore on and the archbishop grew tired, I began to understand a little of how the man’s brain worked. Slowly. Some confusions. Circles and dead-ends. Non sequiturs. Fending off blows, protecting himself. Appeals to trivial logic in the face of catastrophe. I could see how he came to be a man-made climate change denier, why over the years he had not given a lead on the many ethical and moral issues which were confronting our nation, why he had led the English-speaking world back to the old, fossilized and awkward formulae of the Mass, why he had not even mentioned the name of Father Ted Kennedy when he opened the Jesuit school for aborigines in Redfern, why he was unable to comprehend that his placement of Neo-Cats in Redfern had been a mistake and needed to be remedied, why he had not inspired his Sydney brethren to faith and action, why he had failed to engage the general community and had preferred to identify with the conservative, reactionary forces of times now past. He was dull. Colourless. Distant. Pugnacious. Yesterday’s man. Some might even say dumb. Now, for a few days, we were able to look behind the figure on the plinth, observing a king without his finery, seeing the man behind the frills and furbelows. It was frightening to see how the system worked – and riveting.....
..... From his evidence, it was clear that Pell was desperate to regulate the outflow from the Church’s financial dam of assets. He wanted to remain in charge of the show. After all, the Roman Catholic Church was different – powerful, independent, international. A history going back centuries. Its own language, structures, legal system, customs and practices. Tax exemptions and immense political influence. She has always been treated as special.....
..... Pell exposed himself before the commission as the prize muddler par excellence. A tragic figure. I positioned myself at the back row of les arenes, and watched the commissioner and his cool, analytical counsel-assisting teasing the witness, delivering wounding blows at will, drawing blood, playing with their prey, delaying to the end their final thrust into the very heart of an old bull already mortally wounded, standing beaten and defense-less in the centre of the ring.
Cardinal Pell managed to do a number of things while leading the Australian Church. First he brought in a very conservative mindset and supported 'new lay movements' that had power and connections in Rome. Especially those lay movements with direct connections with the two previous popes. These included Opus Dei and the Neo Catechumenate. Pell also led Vox Clara, the committee which over saw the new English translation of Roman Missal and which conveniently turned itself into a rubber stamp for blatant Vatican control of the translation. On this front whatever Rome wanted Pell gave them.
The second thing Pell managed to do was double the assets of the Sydney Archdiocese to some 1.2 billion dollars. This was a pretty nifty trick given the general world economy during his tenure. One of the reasons for this increase in assets is directly attributable to the outcome of the Ellis case--the very case for which Cardinal Pell was called before the Royal Commission to testify. The ruling in the Ellis case, which Pell took all the way to the Australian Supreme Court, determined neither the Roman Catholic Church in Australia nor it's Diocesan components were legal entities eligible to be sued in court. In other words, under Australian law, the Roman Catholic Church did not exist as a legal entity and could not be sued. Only individual bishops or priest perpetrators could be sued. Ask Cardinal Mahony recently of the LA Archdiocese what that kind of ruling would have meant to the coffers of the LA Archdiocese....billions saved. What that ruling meant for Australian victims was a kick in the teeth, but it ultimately resulted in the very Royal Commission which is now vindicating victims like John Ellis. For an in depth look at the Ellis case and the reasons why Pell is no longer allowed to pastor people, but just coins, I suggest this article from the UK Guardian. It's long, but well worth reading for the portrait of Pell the as the compassionless competitor who not only ran roughshod over Ellis, but had no scruples about throwing his subordinates and legal team under the landing wheels of his soon to leave for Rome plane.
I do not think Pell's appointment to Rome as what amounts ot number three in the Vatican behind Pope Francis and Secretary of State Parolin has all that much to do with his personal business acumen as it does with his connections to Opus Dei and members of the Knights of Malta. As Betty Clermont points out in her latest posting at Open Tabernacle, Pope Francis has appointed a lot of OD members or sympathizers to positions having to do with economic matters. I sometimes wonder if the real 'work' of Opus Dei isn't using Roman Catholicism as the entry point and front for creating an new form of conservative global corporate oligarchy. As long as the Holy See retains it's status as a Sovereign State, having all the rights and privileges minus any obligations, it's an exceptional place from which to engage in global empire building of the hidden sort. This is especially if true if one views the clergy as essentially a Trojan horse for access to governments and politicians. In short, I'm not enthused about Pell's appointment. I would have been more enthused if Pope Francis had appointed Cardinal Pell the Vatican Almoner and place the current Vatican Almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewski in Pell's position as overseer of papal assets. Unfortunately, even in the Vatican money rules so Pell is where that rule says he should be....pastor of coins.