This song is for the survivors. Not nice enough for you? Tough

18 Feb

Pedophilia Catholic Church



If you haven’t already heard Tim Minchin’s excoriating musical appeal to Cardinal George Pell, I’ve linked below.

It’s called “Come home, Cardinal Pell” and it is everything you’d expect from a satirist and comedian of Minchin’s calibre.

Father Frank Brennan, Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer, has accused Minchin of damaging survivors with his song, and, wait for it, putting the entire Royal Commission at risk of ridicule.

This is, for mine, a bit of an hysterical stretch: the Royal Commission is solid, respected, honoured and about as far from being ridiculed as it is from the sun, so quite what Brennan thinks a satirical lyric from Minchin is going to do to upset that apple cart is a mystery.

It’s also emotionally manipulative: Brennan attempts to turn the tables by accusing Minchin of hurting survivors, when every survivor who has spoken on the matter has made it absolutely clear that they are being damaged by Cardinal Pell’s attitude to, and physical absence from, the Commission.

Philip Adams, ABC broadcaster and well-known lefty has criticised Minchin’s use of the word “scum” in the song, as well as finding it distasteful overall. “Scum” is, of course, a word usually employed to deride the lower classes: the middle-class are bound to feel initially unsettled when it’s used to describe a cardinal of the Catholic church. But hey, since the extent of pedophilia in that church came to light, the gloves are off. They’ve long since forfeited respect, and scum is exactly what too many of them have, unfortunately, proved to be.

Amanda Vanstone also flew to Pell’s defence, claiming he is being unfairly treated as he hasn’t been charged with anything. True, but the Royal Commission has the power to recommend charges be brought, with the agreement of victims, and as Pell has yet to be further questioned, we don’t know what the Commission’s recommendations will be.

The Project’s Steve Price was appalled that Minchin should personally abuse Pell.

And Gerard Henderson of The Sydney Institute says the song is “personal abuse set to music.”

To be honest, I find it difficult to conceive of any personal abuse of Pell that comes close to the abuses suffered by survivors, and those who have died, and all their families, as a consequence of sexual abuse by catholic priests. So I’m not losing any sleep over Pell being described as “scum.”

I can’t help but think that none of the above objectors actually have any real idea of what sexual abuse does to victims’ lives, or of the sheer magnitude of the catholic church’s offences against children entrusted to their care. A few mean words about Cardinal Pell whose role in the scandal is, at the very least, dodgy, and they’re outraged and offended?

It isn’t Pell who needs public support and protection. The sympathy is misdirected. Pell ought not to be shielded from the consequences of his actions, and one of those consequences is being described as scum and a coward. It doesn’t seem a very high price to pay for the luxurious life the Cardinal lives within the safety of the Vatican’s walls, while victims of pedophile priests suffer ongoing trauma, injury, and too often, death.

So suck it up, Father Frank, et al. Minchin’s song is an expression of popular feeling towards Cardinal Pell and the catholic church. If it isn’t worded as nicely as you’d like, tough. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to be rude and nasty, and sometimes rude and nasty are the only expressions that cut it.

PS: If you are interested in music, this analysis  in The Conversation of Minchin’s “pitch-perfect protest song” will give you great joy




22 Responses to “This song is for the survivors. Not nice enough for you? Tough”

  1. Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) February 18, 2016 at 6:31 pm #

    Before this song had arrived upon the scene, I had in recent days observed that the subject of regulating crowd funding was on the government’s agenda. This surprised me initially somewhat, because crowd funding by its very nature seems to embody the acceptance of risk (presumably that of deceit or misrepresentation by those who may appeal for it) by those who choose to respond. There had been nothing I had seen to indicate significant concern amongst donors or prospective donors existed as to the environment in which crowd funding was occurring. Generally legislators are very slow to respond, even when there are persistent public calls for it, which in this respect are conspicuously absent.

    The speed with which in this cause the necessary funds that would enable the negation of what Vatican interests might otherwise have expected would have operated to dampen reaction to Pell’s avoidance of directly having to testify have been collected is spectacular.

    Are we seeing the reaction of purportedly influential parts of the political class, and of those who have perhaps behind the scenes facilitated the putting of them there, revealing who and/or what they truly represent? Is crowd funding seen by them as the biggest threat upon their horizon?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson February 19, 2016 at 6:58 am #

      Forrest: The crowd funding of the journey of survivors to Rome has been spectacularly speedy and successful IMO, and together with Minchin’s song, which reflects public sentiment in a way it’s never before been expressed on these matters, the people appear to be taking considerable control. This is always a threat to the deciders, isn’t it?


      • townsvilleblog February 19, 2016 at 10:24 am #

        The Catholic Church is as guily as sin in this disgraceful chapter in Australian history. That said there is no organized religion of any kind that is exempt from the same guilt, even cults like the assembly of god have hushed up several situations of pedophilia. The whole ‘religion thing’ seems to me to be a front for this type of behaviour. All those who have committed the crimes and all those who knew about the crimes and did nothing deserve to rot in a jail cell as far as I’m concerned. I was molested by a pedophile in my youth, luckily not penetrated (more good luck than good management) and a friend of mine was penatrated by her grandfather at 6 years of age, and still has not recovered, she will be 47 in a few days. It can be horrific and life lasting damage, and we should have much harsher penalties in my humble opinion.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. paul walter February 18, 2016 at 6:41 pm #

    Don’t worry about Pell. No one beleives he is staying away because of ill health, even if it is true.

    I saw a bit of Frank Brennan on tv and am reminded he is some what opposite to Pell, a renegade Jesuit intellectual who is on a cusp. On the one hand he is a catholic priest, yet the evidence would show, over time, that his take on life is fairly opposed to the likes of Pell and the Opus Dei ultras; he is likely closer to Liberation Theology.

    I sort of got the impression that he is Pell’s last resort. I doubt whether he welcomes having to virtually defend Pell. I beleive he thinks that defending Pell is a lost cause and is trying to get peope to cool down to endure Pell for long enough that the process follows its course and that any faint hope of evidential help for Pell is exhausted.

    Brennan’s look is of a man who sees someone drowning and can’t quite reach them. He would give even Pell a hearing, but it may not be important in the end, the damage was done and is being done now regardless of whatever Brennan could or couldn’t do.

    So, let it drag on and the Church disgrace itself the more for the want of even a little gorm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn February 18, 2016 at 7:19 pm #

      I adore my old friend Frank and I am his favourite atheist. We wept on the phone when Akram Al Masri was slaughtered like a dog in the streets of Gaza after we trafficked him home but on this I found his comments shocking.

      Tim’s song is a fucking master piece and with being a victim and having a mother who covered up the crimes I can tell you that the enablers are just as evil as the doers.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jennifer Wilson February 19, 2016 at 6:51 am #

        Yes, Marilyn, I found his comments inexplicable, I have a lot of time for Brennan’s stance on asylum seekers, but then, they aren’t cardinals of his church, are they. I guess everyone has their blind spot.


    • Jennifer Wilson February 19, 2016 at 6:55 am #

      Yes, Pell’s drama is damaging to the church, and not, as Brennan would have it, to the Royal Commission.

      Perhaps Brennan is shocked by the depth and strength of bad feeling towards Pell as expressed in the Minchin song. It’s the first time, I think, that public sentiment on the church’s abuse of children has been so consolidated.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter February 19, 2016 at 4:24 pm #


        A sin of omission is no less a sin than one of commission. Much was observed in the breach and still not dealt with. Because Pell did not commit the abuses himself exonerates him not a jot without some evidence of any effort to staunch the rivers of blood involving others known to him. Like another NT historical figure, he washed his hands of the tormented souls seeking quarter.

        I agree Brennan is one the few likely to guess at the true extent of the damage done and understand the implications. If so, he has a cross to bear and a lance piecing his heart as with the rest of us who would not have committed such crimes and not realised till very late that it was true, so called civilised people could actually do these things to children.

        Brennan should walk away, if innocent himself. It should be not his task to carry the can for the ilk of Pell. If he stands with Pell he is complicit, and reckless for ruining one of the few poitive impressions as a male role model and priest offered up for younger people today.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Jan Dobson February 18, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

    Funny isn’t it how we never hear complaints from a senior executive of an organisation when he is singled out to accept praise. Not so willing to accept condemnation for the failings of said organisation though, are they?

    My litmus test for appropriate behaviour is based on how I would react if the person was someone I admire tempered with a natural inclination to giving second chances. So, in general, I’d err on the side of generosity.

    But what those supporting Cardinal Pell appear to forget is that we’ve seen him in action previously and he didn’t show to good effect. He’s unwillingly made some admissions in this case. This is not an entirely innocent person.

    Even I, who had the golden childhood everyone deserves, understand the harm that has been caused by the abuse to which his parishioners were subject. Not only in the original crime but in the denials and cover ups.

    I’m with Minchin on this. Come home, Cardinal Pell. Come by boat if you’re too unwell to fly. Australia will even crowd fund medical support to accompany you, I’d bet my house on it. Come home, Cardinal Pell. Those affected “have a right to know what you knew”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson February 19, 2016 at 6:50 am #

      My litmus test is similar to yours, and Pell exceeded my generosity limit quite some time ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The Nurdler February 18, 2016 at 10:32 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Nurdler and commented:
    Absolutely agree with this,,, scum and coward are NOTHING compared to what the victims of the Catholic church have had to endure, the cover ups that this disgusting person perpetrated are almost as bad as the actual crimes….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Carolyn Hastie February 19, 2016 at 12:26 am #

    One has to ask where are those people’s indignant condemnation of the pedophiles nasty harming behaviour and that of those who protected them? The song is pure genius. Gives voice along with a rather catchy tune to what so many of us are thinking and are now singing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 19, 2016 at 6:46 am #

      Yes, I have a gut recoil at their choice of what offends them.
      And the more I listen to the song, the more admiring I am of Minchin’s ability to capture the essence of the situation.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. doug quixote February 19, 2016 at 5:11 pm #

    I have always been a fan of Minchin. He pulls no punches. So refreshing.

    And as Liam Viney points out in the last link it is interesting musically.

    As for the substance, I doubt Pell will be influenced and his apologists have already dismissed it. Henderson’s record for getting everything wrong remains intact.

    If Brennan is correctly quoted he is quite wrong as well. I fail to see how lampooning a witness yet to appear affects the Royal Commission. I suspect it simply affronts Brennan’s catholoic sensibilities – after all, he is a priest.

    Contrast Kristina Keneally’s response:


    • paul walter February 19, 2016 at 6:18 pm #

      She’s angry, isn’t she?

      Brennan doesn’t live in Pell’s fairyland and knows how it is really going.

      He’ll regret to the day he dies not having the guts to make a clean breast of things at the Royal Commission. Hiding won’t help and it won’t go away, not now.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Moz of Yarramulla February 19, 2016 at 6:15 pm #

    I agree with the above.

    My thought riding home was that people seem concerned that Pell might not survive the trip home. But he’s previously willing to take the chance that those abused by his church, then denied compensation (and often further mistreated) by his hand might commit suicide. I’m willing to extend the same consideration to the cardinal. If he dies coming back to face the music, he dies. As a former prime munster put it in a related case “sometimes shit happens”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. paul walter February 20, 2016 at 9:35 pm #

    Must include following:

    It does get to the essence of this similar posting and confirms Dr Wilson’s take.



  1. Well, now Cardinal Pell, you’re beginning to smell… | No Place For Sheep - February 19, 2016

    […] wonder how those who leapt to Pell’s defence after Tim Minchin’s protest song are feeling right […]


  2. Religion rhymes with prison | oecomuse - February 19, 2016

    […] of the commentary on the Minchin song is collected and criticised in this excellent post. The discussion I heard on ABC radio, between four journalists – Richard Glover, Jennifer Hewiit, […]

    Liked by 1 person

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