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September 20, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box – For Whom the Pell Tolls

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ChurchbellNo-one is impressed with Cardinal Pell. Not the average punter. Not most Catholics. Not Tim Minchin. Not the adult survivors of clerical abuse. Not Justice Peter McClellan. Not even the pope. And certainly not God.

Being brought up Catholic I do remember the long Sunday sermons referring to the caretaking relationship of shepherds and their flocks – with the persistent message being that the shepherd never abandons his flock. Story after story about caring for sheep. As a child I began to think that religion was just a passionate branch of animal husbandry that focused primarily on the welfare of sheep.

It was hard to really see what it had to do with me. After all, I didn’t have any sheep. And if I had sheep I’d certainly look after them. Later of course I realised that the aforementioned ‘sheep’ is not actually sheep at all. Sheep is Us. We are God’s metaphorical sheep. I am a sheep. You are a sheep.

It’s unflattering and crude, and personally I would have preferred if he’d chosen ducks. Or even chooks. Something less homogenous and Anglocentric. And the Shepherd, well that’s the clergy. People like Pell. So when your chief duty is the wellbeing and safety of your flock, I wonder how you can lose interest. Especially when the most vulnerable members of your flock are being devoured by wolves. Wolves from God’s side of the fence.

I would think that the primary goal of caring for one’s sheep was maintaining their safety and wellbeing. In fact, there are numerous quotes like this one: ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.’ Surely after decades of reading the same book every week the metaphor is going to hit home. They take the sheep-caring thing seriously.

We know that Jesus aka God is the shepherd, but the priest, the bishop, the cardinal, the pope – aren’t they supposed to be God’s earthly action men? Clearly the whole sending his son down didn’t go to plan the first time around, and in the absence of guest appearances by God in the role of shepherd, I always understood that it was a role occupied by clergy.

People like Pell. How does a person simply choose to not pay attention to persistent and ongoing allegations and accusations of child rape? If that’s not worth paying attention to, then what is? If there were a performance review for ‘shepherding’ I would say Pell’s lack of response constituted an Epic Fail.

Pell needs to resign. He needs to give up his frock for forsaking his flock. But no. Once you get the big pointy hat you don’t want to give it up. That’s a seriously pompous outfit. I can imagine that once people start kissing your ring, the power surge must be mind-blowing. It would give the empathy centres of your brain an instant brown-out.

When people start addressing you with sentences starting with ‘Most Reverend Eminence’ I reckon you’d start to get ahead of yourself in the self-importance game. It’s hard to be humble when you’re constantly being told you’re superior. After a while I guess you start to believe it.

And when you’re superior the normal rules don’t apply. You are a super-shepherd. And you no longer wrangle sheep. You are in charge of shepherds. So after risking the safety of God’s sheep by turning a blind eye to bad shepherding, why isn’t Pell stepping down?

My crude theology seems to suggest he’s snookered by his own bible’s shepherd-and-flock allegory.

But I guess when you live in a share-house with the pope you start to feel like you’re untouchable. It’s a pity the same untouchability wasn’t applied to the children who were in the church’s care whom Pell deemed too insignificant to rate a blip on his moral compass. I guess he was banking on the silence of the lambs. But damn it if the lambs got noisy!

It’s time Pell showed real compassion for the flock he’s failed, admitted his wrong and asked for forgiveness. But who will hear the confession of the confessor? And who will do what needs to be done? Dis-PELL. Re-PELL and please, hurry up and Ex-PELL.

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  1. Hello Mandy,

    What these men have done to these children over the decades is absolutely terrible. It’s hard to believe that any sane human being would rape and abuse children. The fact that these men were ordained priests and claimed to be doing the work of God is terrifying.

    What I find a little bit disturbing is when you say, “We know that Jesus aka God is the shepherd, but the priest, the bishop, the cardinal, the pope – aren’t they supposed to be God’s earthly action men?”. You seem to group these individuals in the same room as Jesus as if he’s given them his stamp of approval. It’s the same logic as people who claim, “all Muslims are terrorists.”

    These men are human beings, given free reign and free choice to do what they please and they’ve used that freedom to make some terrible decisions which have affected peoples lives deeply.

    To paint Jesus with the same brush as you have these men show’s a great misunderstanding to his teachings and the life he lived.

    The Catholic Church as an organization needs to take responsibility for it’s actions. Sweeping these incidents under the rug is extremely disturbing.

  2. Mandy;
    It is terrible what crimes priests have committed against children. All victims must get every possible assistance to try to re-establish love, healing and value for their lives. These priests and anyone who protects them do need to face the law courts. No question about this.

    It is also easy to paint the whole Catholic church with one brush. It is easy to paint Cardinal Pell or the Pope as having responsibility for all that has occured over the past decades of these crimes. Therefore, also easy to ignore the millions of good priests and clergy who have faithfully done their work over the centuries. It is also easy to forget it is the same Church and Christian thinking that played a very integral in delivering the freedom and wealth enjoyed by the most developed and richest nations today – including the freedom with which you speak.

    Any corporation run with the flaws as seen evident in the Catholic church over the centuries would have gone out of business a long time ago. Human society and the so-called enlightenment tends to dispose of that which is not truth with ruthless efficiency. You have to ask – how has the Catholic Church remained??

    It comes down to Jesus Christ. I hope you will take time to understand/encounter Jesus Christ in the fullness of his presence. The best quote I have heard is – one does not abandon Peter (with all his flaws) because of Judas!

    I hope you will take time to consider what the Catholic Church really is and why it remains with us – against all odds.

  3. Actually the Catholic Church has survived because it has a huge amount of power over the flock. Firstly by instilling an enormous amount of fear in people, that unless they do exactly as the church says they will burn in hell for eternity. And by amassing vast sums of money through various means. And by prohibiting birth control so that the flock grew and grew. So very little to do with Jesus Christ, who distanced Himself from such behaviour as exhibited by the scribes and Pharisees.

  4. Is it possible that God in his unfathonable wisdom allowed a counterfeit church to train us what was NOT the authentic so as when we truly meet Him on the road to Damascus we will know the difference

    • David
      If this thinking brought you to relationship with Christ then the Catholic Church has done its job in your particular case. What matters is a relationship with Christ – as those 95+% of faithful Catholic clergy aspire to in their various capacities.


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