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