George Pell Trucking Company
In his video appearance before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on August 21, the former Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, insisted that the Catholic Church should be treated like every other organisation in society. It should not be held responsible for the crimes of its priests in the same way as the “ownership or leadership” of a trucking company is not responsible if one of its drivers picks up a hitchhiker and molests her.
Pell conceded that “if in fact the authority figure has been remiss through bad preparation, bad procedures or been warned and done nothing or insufficient, then certainly the church official would be responsible”.
Pell’s analogy revealed the fatal flaw in his own argument the moment he used the word “company”. If a trucking company had been remiss as he described, and people were injured as a result, the trucking company would be liable. Those injured would have access to the company’s assets to meet any judgment, even if its directors or officials were dead or had no assets.
Pell spent over $750,000 on lawyers in the Ellis case to prove that the Catholic Church was not like his trucking company, but is an unincorporated association that could not be sued. All of its billions are tucked away in a corporate trust that does nothing else than hold property. The only person who could be sued in that case was Cardinal Freeman, who had been warned about Ellis’s abuser, and yet let him continue as a priest. Cardinal Freeman was incapable of being sued because he was resting in peace in the crypt of St Mary’s Cathedral.