The lonely Cardinal

Thursday 15 November 2012 12:42 AM

Editorial Opinion: ‘Pell has failed the church and its victims’ This was a secular commentator, and sadly I think they're right. Also sadly, the Cardinal has I fear lost a lot of respect in the past few days, from within and also beyond the Christian community – including from people like me, who've substantially respected him before. It’s the wrong response, and total silence would have been far preferable.
However I do have at least some sympathy for him. It is a tough gig indeed being at the top of any organisation, large or small, and the more so when questions of corporate liability for human suffering arise – usually with dollar signs attached. Its then that being in pastoral leadership is at its most invidious, because of massively conflicting responsibilities.
The leader is at once both corporate ‘CEO’ and responsible shepherd of souls. In our litigious age when suffering is measured in gold and silver, that places one between the rock of insurers, stakeholders and lawyers and the hard place of the innocent and helpless victims. Serving either means betraying the other.
I personally found myself in precisely that place about 20 years ago, though not on the same scale as Pell now finds himself in. Avoiding details, my church was pretty certainly morally responsible for an incident. As pastor my heart belonged to those affected. As local ‘CEO’ I was answerable to insurers, who demanded absolute avoidance of any admission of liability, on pain of uncovered losses which would have bankrupted us. The result: this pastor avoided the victims entirely, and they undoubtedly felt abandoned.
They say it’s lonely at the top; and they're often right.