Evidence given by a former altar boy to the Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse of Children in 2015, quoted Cardinal George Pell as having made the above statement in 1983 in regard to his former housemate and infamously cruel paedophile, Gerald Ridsdale.
The statement indicates knowledge Pell now denies. It’s extremely difficult to prove knowledge (the word of the former altar boy against Pell’s unrelenting litany of denial) but outside of the legal requirements for proof the statement seems unlikely to be a fabrication: decades after a mass an altar boy invents a conversation he claims to have overheard between Pell and another priest in which Pell says “Ha ha, I think Gerry’s been rooting boys again” doesn’t sound to me like something made up to cause Pell current discomfort.
Pell added to the legitimacy of the altar boy’s recollections by stating yesterday that while he considered the Ridsdale story to be sad, he was not much interested in it. I have no doubt at all that in this instance, the Cardinal is speaking the truth.
Whatever we’ve learned or not learned from Pell’s testimony over the last two days, he’s unwittingly revealed just how normalised sexual abuse of children had become in the Catholic church. Furthermore, he’s revealed how normalised it had become to conceal that abuse, and how he and others in senior positions washed their hands of the sins of their fellow priests, normalising wilful ignorance as well.
In this normalisation of criminal offences against children the Catholic church does not, by any means, stand in isolation
Pell gives the impression that sexual abuse of children by priests was merely an irritating and distasteful distraction with which he could not be bothered to concern himself. Pell’s obvious distaste for the discussion of paedophile crimes did not extend to their prevention, and punishment of the guilty.
As is so often the case, for Pell, god’s earthly shepherd, talking about the crime is far more reprehensible than committing the crime. It’s sad that these things happened to the children but he is above concerning himself with it, unlike Jesus who apparently did concern himself with the suffering of children, and made some ghastly threats about the fate of those who injured them.
In Pell’s attitude we see the measure of the man. It isn’t an unusual attitude: feminists have been exposing and fighting it for decades. It’s an attitude that defines crimes against women and children as matters of lesser concern than the survival of institutions, the life of the mind, reputation and the pursuit of (male) careers.Children and women have been and still are accused of “destroying* the lives and sometimes families of men who have criminally abused them.
Until relatively recently, the deciders of our narratives would not permit many of these crimes to be acknowledged and discussed, indeed, the tactic of victim blaming still exerts a significant degree of control over what can be said and who can say it without risking further ruination of their lives.
Pell is an example of a way of thinking and a way of being that is the antipathy of Christian values and teachings, indeed of any kind of decency at all, regardless of which ideology claims it as its own. He can be diagnosed as a sociopath, a psychopath or as suffering from any number of disorders and the diagnoses may well be accurate.
No matter through which lens you view him, he is one of the sorriest and most despicable examples of the human species we’re ever likely to come across. To commit horrendous crimes is one thing: to wilfully turn your face away from the knowledge of those crimes and their terrifying effects on victims must surely earn the Cardinal a special place in his god’s hell.
The Cardinal’s interpretation of *Suffer the little children:* Ha ha, I think Gerry’s been rooting boys again. A sad story that wasn’t of much interest to me.