Tag Archives: Cardinal Pell

Pell at the RC: I don’t remember if I remembered…

29 Feb

clerical-abuse

 

I just spent the morning watching Cardinal George Pell give evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, from Rome, via video link.

You may recall that despite Tim Minchin’s musical appeal, Pell refused to return to Australia to give his evidence on the grounds of ill-health.

The Commission is attempting to ascertain what Pell knew and when he knew it. It is Pell’s task to thwart them at every possible opportunity.

Pell predominantly uses the “I don’t recall” defence in its many variations to achieve his goal. Gail Furness SC has the responsibility for persisting when possible, ironically thanking Pell when persistence proves futile, and weaving her web of questions in such a manner that Pell hopefully slips up,and honestly answers one or two.

Ms Furness is brilliant. Pell, not so much.

For most of the lengthy questioning (beginning at 2am Rome time) Pell was controlled and careful. However, now and again he became rather snippy, allowing his mask to slip and his arrogance to momentarily show itself in impatience and curmudgeonly testiness.

It is inconceivable that a man with the ambitions of Pell worked his way through the church hierarchies without acquiring considerable knowledge of the widespread paedophilic activities of priests in his parishes. Someone of such ambition would make it his business to know what was going on around him. It was politic for Pell, and continues to be so, to refrain from any kind of involvement or acknowledgment of these activities, even when living in the same house as one of the most infamous, Gerald Ridsdale.

When it became impossible to avoid acknowledgement of these crimes against children, Pell minimised them, as he did again in his evidence today, stating that he did not know if they were crimes or merely “misbehaviours.” He went so far as to accompany Ridsdale to court when he was finally charged, because he had no choice at that stage but to pretend disbelief of the priest’s crimes if he was to maintain consistency.

At one point in the questioning, Furness forces Pell to admit the “misbehaviours” of a certain priest were known to practically everyone in the community, except, apparently, Pell himself. This was explained by Pell as follows, and refers to several well-known abusers of whose activities Pell denies knowledge:

No parishioners told me about problems with brothers. I was rarely in the parish. I did three masses on Sundays. I had Saturday off. I wasn’t around 
I heard they swam naked. It was common knowledge. It wasn’t uncommon but no improprieties were ever alleged to me

I didn’t hear anything at that stage except about Fitzgerald kissing boys, but that was done in front of everybody it wasn’t hidden. It was common knowledge he kissed the boys. It was harmless enough, he was an older man

No he didn’t mention any incidents of sexualised conduct by Christian Brothers to me 
I know next to nothing about him. I can’t remember him. I’ve never heard of any massages

It’s difficult to answer that absolutely. 

I can’t remember. 

I’ve no such recollection 
I can’t remember, not clearly, not definitively, but as a possibility

A woman in Mildura said Day was innocent & I was impressed by her view. 
I wasn’t around. I wasn’t in Australia

You’ll find all of this and much more on my Twitter feed, but you get the gist.

Pell is far from stupid. It takes some intelligence to focus on what you aren’t supposed to remember, and continue to get it pretty much right. He hasn’t slipped up so far.

The victims in this are the survivors, and truth. Pell cares little for either. If he indeed, by some miracle, did escape knowledge of  crimes against children perpetrated so prolifically under his nose, he is an appalling failure as a church leader and ought to admit that and cower in shame, not seek to publicly defend his ignorance and lack of awareness.

But for mine, any ignorance on the part of Pell was and continues to be wilfully and disingenuously chosen by him, inspired by rampant ambition, and persisted in to save himself.

To paraphrase Dylan, sometimes Satan comes as a man of god.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

The pointlessness of Tony Abbott

18 Nov

tony-abbott-1

 

Tony Abbott’s most outstanding feature is, for me, his pointlessness. I look at him and I think, why? Why?

He reminds me of nothing as much as an unreconstructed Catholic priest. Old-fashioned paternalism. Meaningless clichés and stultifying slogans that won’t withstand a moment of even the mildest interrogation. Delivered with a most eerie absence of affect, indicating that even he doesn’t believe what he’s parroting. Speech designed to repress thought, smother questioning with a patronising blanket of faux fatherly authority that in truth means, don’t you question, we know best for no reason other than we are in possession of the power.

All designed to sap the public political life force, to grind it into submission the better to impose the kind of authoritative, unquestioned governance that is every conservative’s wet dream.

And what of his own life force? Think of him in opposition. Daily fired with destructive energy, unstoppable in his attacks, alive in every cell, thriving on abuse, insult, deceit, manipulation and spin. As the country’s leader he is a mere shade of his opposition self, far from what any country needs in today’s dangerous world, unremarkable except for his staggeringly stupid public utterances, thought of in  Europe as “the blunder from down under,” our very own suppository of wisdom, though whatever is in that suppository is very far from wise.

That he is dangerous in his pointlessness is incontestable. Abbott believes he is wise. He believes he is a statesman. He believes he has a god-given authority that imbues all his decisions with rightness and righteousness. He believes himself to be appointed and guided by his god. He is, to the very core of him, a devoutly religious man, and from that central belief system, all things Abbott flow. For Abbott, the point of him is him, and god endorses that point.

You can take the man out of the priesthood. But you can’t take the priesthood out of the man.

 

CardinalwithhisAbbottWin

 

 

 

Abbott on Pell: “One of the greatest churchmen Australia has seen.”

4 Jul

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.

Tony Abbott, trainee priest, St Patrick’s Seminary

Well, Cardinal Pell?

13 Apr

I’ve just read this piece in The Age titled “Church’s suicide victims.” It’s about a report from the Victorian police detailing the suicides of some forty victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and calling for an inquiry into these and other deaths thought to be related to childhood sexual abuse by priests. The article states: In a damning assessment of the church’s handling of abuse issues, the reports say it appears the church has known about a shockingly high rate of suicides and premature deaths but has “chosen to remain silent.”

I then read this article published in On Line Opinion earlier this year, in which the author explains why  in NSW the Catholic Church cannot be sued when its priests sexually abuse children:

Put simply (as Cardinal Pell would no doubt argue), the situation is that when a Catholic priest commits sexual abuse, it does not happen in the Catholic Church because there is no such thing. It happens instead in one of its unincorporated parts and therefore responsibility for its rests totally on members of that part, especially the perpetrator and those responsible for appointing or supervising him. That is to say, responsibility is completely limited to the parish, school, hospital or whatever is the unincorporated part in which it occurred.

As the trustees merely own the property within which the abuse occurred and have no responsibility whatsoever for appointing or supervising the perpetrator, they cannot be held responsible for the abuse he committed. Of course, victims are perfectly free to sue the perpetrator or the unincorporated part but they have no assets (the Trust has them all and anyway priests take a vow of poverty) so there is nothing to be gained by it.

It seems that where sexual abuse of children is concerned in NSW, the Catholic Church has two parts: one that does the damage and one that owns the wealth…

I then read this:

Matthew 18:6  But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Well, your Eminence?  What say you?

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