When I saw Cardinal Pell on Qanda a couple of months ago, I felt a kind of appalled pity for the man.
Pity, I hasten to add, is not an emotion I enjoy, based as it is in disinterested contempt, and complete lack of interest in its object’s fate. When I pity someone, they are pretty much dead to me.
Pell seemed subject to moments of confusion and rather bad judgement.
Then, in the ABC Four Corners report this past Monday on the sexual abuse of children by priests of his church, Pell again seemed quite out of his depth, and rigidly adhering to a well-worn script.
Pell clings to his belief in the word of three priests, even though there is very strong evidence to the contrary, including an admission in court by an accused rapist, Father F, that he did indeed perform some of the criminal acts of which he stands accused.
Pell was himself accused of sexually molesting a child,as is discussed here in an 2008 interview conducted by ABC journalist Ali Moore with former priest and now commentator Dr Paul Collins. Reading this 2008 interview I was struck by the similarities. Four years later, Cardinal Pell does not seem to have changed his perspective, in spite of more ghastly revelations about the behaviours of his priests, and the number of suicides thought to be related to sexual abuse.
I’m sometimes undecided as to who is the worst offender: the perpetrator or those who cover up for the perpetrator. I can only imagine the number of little kids whose lives would have been so different if the church authorities who knew about the pederasts in their ranks had taken proper action. Proper action in this instance is informing the police, however the Catholic church seems loathe to concede that sexually molesting a child is a crime, and treat it accordingly.
I note here that Cardinal Pell was very, very quick to threaten legal action against Catherine Deveney when he felt she had slandered him in a tweet. His reputation apparently warranted the protection of the law, unlike the lives of the children whose rape and molestation his church failed to report to the police.
As far as the mistreatment of children is concerned, I’m of the opinion that there are no innocent bystanders. Everyone who has anything to do with children professionally is required by law to report suspicions of abuse. This ought to include the Catholic church. When anyone knows something bad is happening to a child and keeps it quiet, she or he is enabling the perpetrators. The church takes that one step further and protects them as well.
It is my hope that like the US, it will be possible in this country to charge Catholic bishops and hold them criminally liable for the behaviours of the priests they supervise.
In the meantime I take my hat off to the ABC journalists who are persisting with this story, as well as other stories of child abuse. As a survivor, it does my heart good to know there are people willing to pursue these criminals and uncover their crimes. It is very difficult to speak about these things when you’ve endured them. We need others to help. We need others to confront and challenge those who would be innocent bystanders, and in their denial and silence, enable abuse to continue. I know it’s awful to have to listen to these things. But it is far, far worse to experience them. Thank you to everyone with the courage to listen and care, and say so.
Finally, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is credited here with having described Cardinal George Pell as ” one of the greatest churchmen Australia has seen.” If this is a measure of Abbott’s ability to judge character, and an example of someone he profoundly admires, I fear even more for our future should he become the next Prime Minister.