Michaelia Cash Condemns Cardinal George Pell's "Complete Lack of Empathy"
By Elle Hunt
March 7, 2016
The senior Liberal minister Michaelia Cash has condemned Cardinal George Pell’s apparent lack of compassion and empathy for victims of abuse in the Catholic church, saying it was against the teachings of Jesus.
The minister for women was one of five panellists on ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night and was asked whether she thought Pell should be removed from his position in the church.
Pell gave evidence at the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Sydney via video link from Rome over four days last week.
Cash began her answer by acknowledging that she is Catholic.
“What we’ve all seen over the last few weeks – over the last few years – it was that complete lack of empathy,” she said.
“Jesus was someone who had compassion and who had empathy. I would expect nothing less from the leaders of our church, especially of those victims in verbalising what they went through, to at least show them compassion and empathy.
“I think why there is currently so much criticism of George Pell is because, despite what he may or may not have known, it is the way that he has approached the victims of the royal commission.
“He hasn’t, I don’t believe, reached out to them and said, ‘I feel your pain’, as Jesus would have. He has just completely been totally ... There is just nothing there and I think that has played against him.”
Cash took over the women and employment portfolios and entered cabinet in September last year, after Malcolm Turnbull took the Liberal leadership from Tony Abbott.
She is the most senior Liberal politician to publicly condemn Pell.
Earlier in the program, the right-wing radio host Alan Jones had said that the focus on Pell was “fairly unfortunate”, arguing that the cardinal, at the age of 28 at the time, did not necessarily know about the abuse or have the influence to stop it.
“There is a presumption in the way in which this has been conducted that Pell was then the cardinal and therefore should have done something.”
He went on to suggest that part of the hostile response to Pell could be chalked up to his somewhat off-putting manner, comparing him to Lindy Chamberlain, wrongfully sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of her daughter.
“Lindy Chamberlain was guilty because she didn’t cry. Pell is this great big man of quiet manner but very strong, limited personality and limited capacity to engage – people see him as aggressive and diffident.”
Jones concluded that Pell might not remember: “I hope I don’t get asked what I was doing at 28 years of age.”
Fellow panellist Josh Zepps, a New York-based media personality, delivered a smart rebuttal: “Well, we weren’t covering up rapists.”
Labor’s Penny Wong noted that the royal commission had yet to make its findings. “What I can say is when I watched aspects of the evidence, including the answer that you’ve just given, I thought it would be very difficult, if you were a survivor, to forgive that.”
Mia Freedman, the founder of Mamamia, also commented on Pell’s apparent lack of empathy and even “arrogance”.
“I was struck, as I think anyone with an ounce of humanity was struck, by the absolute lack of compassion, empathy, understanding, sensitivity, humanity shown by Pell when he spoke about things that were so heinous as to almost defy comprehension,” she said.
“I think that, for survivors, we expect from our religious leaders some leadership, some empathy and some understanding, and I think that it was just quite flabbergasting to see his arrogance and his complete lack of understanding of the real pain, devastation and in many cases loss of life that have been caused by what happened.”