Where does the buck stop in the Church?

UCA News

Michael Kelly SJ, Bangkok

March 31, 2014

You could be forgiven for not knowing where the buck stops in the Catholic Church these days. In any society, organization or Church community, it is important to know who is ultimately responsible in decision making; otherwise, chaos or worse would prevail.

In an unprecedented (for a cardinal) cross examination in court last week, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney seemed confused about responsibility in the Sydney Church. He was speaking for the Archdiocese of Sydney which he led from 2001 until his transfer to a job at the Vatican, appearing before the Royal Commission into child sex abuse in institutions, including the Church’s, across Australia.

The Cardinal blamed various mistakes on his hand-picked lieutenants, “couldn’t recall” the details of instructions being given on his behalf to his lawyers and claimed his legal representatives had gone beyond what was acceptable to any Christian in defending a case brought against the archdiocese by a child abuse victim, John Ellis.

The same was true at a global level in February when the Vatican’s chief spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, ducked criticism from the United Nations committee investigating the Church’s compliance with a UN protocol it signed on the rights of children.

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