Like a trucking company

Cardinal Pell is another one vying for the Zero Empathy Remark of the Year Award.

Cardinal George Pell has strongly defended the so-called Melbourne Response as Australia’s first comprehensive redress scheme for victims of clerical sexual abuse at the royal commission.

Appearing at the commission via video link from the Vatican in Rome on Thursday night, Cardinal Pell likened the Catholic Church’s responsibility for child abuse to that of a ”trucking company”. If a driver sexually assaulted a passenger they picked up along the way, he said, ”I don’t think it appropriate for the … leadership of that company be held responsible.”

What’s wrong with that analogy? Well let’s see…

  1. The Catholic church doesn’t pick up passengers along the way. Its relationship to its child parishioners is not similar to that of a truck driver to a hitch hiker.
  2. The Catholic church sees itself as the source of absolute moral truth. Trucking companies don’t see themselves that way.
  3. The relationship between the Catholic hierarchy and its priests is not like that of a trucking company to its employees.

But even more to the point, it’s just so…shoulder-shrugging, indifferent, blame-shifting, evasive.

Sean Cash, a lawyer for abuse victim Paul Hersbach, challenged the trucking company analogy, saying that because the Catholic Church was an organisation of the ”highest integrity” it owed victims a far greater legal and moral responsibility. He said it should not impede victims’ ability to receive full and fair compensation.

”We were among the front-runners in Melbourne in addressing these scandals and I would suggest to you that that is entirely consistent with Catholic tradition and the teachings of Christ,” Cardinal Pell replied.

Jesus had teachings about how the church should deal with rapist priests? I missed that part.


  1. Ramiro says

    As much as I hate to admit it, he’s correct. The Catholic hierarchy cannot be responsible for the conduct of all its priests. No matter if they provide “moral truth”, they cannot be expected to have absolute control over all their employees.

    However, this still leaves them far from blameless. They did not put adequate safeguards in place to prevent this issue, despite all evidence that it was a serious one. They protected the priests from the repercussions of their actions, hid the evidence, and blamed the victims. If the leadership of a trucking company did the same thing, I would expect the exact same repercussions.

    The arguments against the catholic hierarchy should concentrate on the disgraceful way they handled the abuse, not on the fact that the abuse occurred.

  2. Trebuchet says

    And if the leadership of the trucking company, knowing their drivers were rapists, repeatedly moved them to other routes instead of reporting them to the police, apparently the good cardinal is just fine with that.

  3. Randomfactor says

    Jesus had teachings about how the church should deal with rapist priests?

    I think it involved millstones.

  4. RJW says

    Like a “trucking company”, that’s rather dangerous ground for His Eminence. The problem is, in fact, that the Catholic Church in Australia has not been legally treated as the corporation that it really is, and its hierarchy classed as employees.

  5. Suido says

    @Ramiro – that might be your view, but it is not the legal view of Australia. WHS legislation says that executives are accountable for the actions of their staff. Should those staff break the law while working for the executive, it is up to the executives to show that the staff were not following company procedure and were outside their control.

    The catholic church, and their Melbourne solution, has avoided this kind of accountability by not being treated as a corporation, as said by RJW.

    Not to mention that there is plenty of evidence to show that the executives in this case were fully aware of their employees actions, and engaged in numerous activities to hide those actions from the police and general public. In any other corporation, that would mean jail time for the execs.

  6. screechymonkey says

    They’ve been fighting desperately to avoid being held to the same standard as other private entities.

    I’m reminded of Dan Savage’s frequent observation that if children were raped at Denny’s restaurants as often as at Catholic churches, it would be a crime to take your child to Denny’s.

  7. John Morales says

    I saw this story yesterday on the national broadcaster, and this struck me:

    “I acknowledge there to be some standards, if that’s the word, for comparable levels of offences and comparable levels of suffering,” he [Cardinal Pell] said.

    “Money was never my primary concern. My primary concern was to help the victims.

    “I was quite clear that we provide what was appropriate.”

    He said the $50,000 cap in 1996 would be equivalent to about $120,000 today.

    When asked if the current cap of $75,000 therefore was “going backwards”, Cardinal Pell said “going from $50,000 to $75,000 is going forward”.

    (Cool, logical sophistry)

  8. Sara Lin Wilde says

    This analogy only works if the trucking companies deliberately strived to get hitchhikers riding shotgun in every single one of their trucks, then worked to conceal any sexual abuse that ensued from the proper authorities while meting out slap-on-the-wrist discipline to the truckers who were violating passengers’ consent. Oh, and they’d also have to tell the hitchhikers that the truck drivers have the power to send them to hell.

  9. smhll says

    Does the hypothetical trucker paint words on the side of the truck that say “Hey,kiddies, God says I’m terrific!”?

  10. sailor1031 says

    If George Pell had ever done an honest day’s work in his life, in his own or someone else’s company, he would be aware that employers may indeed be responsible for the acts of their employees if those employees are either acting in the workplace or in their official capacity anywhere. If a trucker raped a victim he picked up along the way his employer very likely would be responsible – especially if the trucker had a history of such acts. Sexual harassment in the workplace is taken very seriously by aware companies – among other reasons precisely because a company can be held liable should there be any negligence proven – negligence such as ignoring evidence, moving the harasser to another assignment, failing to investigate in good faith etc. Pell needs to get a job and undergo the HR briefing, except he’s too useless to get hired anywhere.

    In addition to the above, organizations and private individuals are responsible for harms incurred on their properties whether they knew about them or not. Cardinal darlin’ – it’s one reason why we all have liability insurance, renters insurance, homeowners insurance. Get a fuckin’ clue FCS!!

  11. Omar Puhleez says

    “The Catholic hierarchy cannot be responsible for the conduct of all its priests. No matter if they provide “moral truth”, they cannot be expected to have absolute control over all their employees.”

    Are priests commonly regarded as “employees” of the Church?
    Or is the Church a ‘community’ of clergy and laity, as it so often portrays itself to be?
    And does such a ‘community’ have a moral (legal is another debate) responsibility to repair or compensate for damage done by one of its members, particularly on ‘community’ premises and in association with ‘community’ activities? Or is it yet another example of Galbrath’s principle in reverse: gains to be socialised and losses to be privatised?

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