Pell—For the Record

A COUPLE OF COMMENTS have not made it through the combox moderation process. They take me to task for defending such a “vile creature”, for serving to “perpetuate the silence”, asking “why does the church at least try to stop it [sic]”, as well as “blind support of a convicted pedophile” and asserting that “the suffering of the victims seems to be of little interest to the Church.”

I give such comments little time as they exhibit such profound ignorance that it seems reasonable to conclude these are people who want only to sound off, not to listen, and certainly not to try to learn the facts. You would have to be in a coma not to know that the Catholic Church has been so obsessed with safeguarding that it often errs on the side of the complainant and priestly ministries have been destroyed on the flimsiest of evidence on some occasions. The Church is not as centrally run as the uninformed seem to think, so some parts of the Church differ from others, to be sure. But even secular observers now conclude that a Catholic church is, statistically, a safer place for children than the family home.

Silence about child abuse? It is impossible to take such a charge seriously.

Blind support of a convicted pedophile? Well, if he had read the blogs and articles and the vast array of coverage even in secular media, the charge of ‘blind’ support would be found absurd. Convictions are not infallible acts; many innocent people have been convicted of crimes they did not commit. It should be obvious that I, among many others even outside the Church, do not believe Pell committed these crimes. Therefore I do not see him as vile. Since I believe he is innocent I feel obliged to support his cause. You may disagree with me, think me even a fool, but it is itself vile to accuse me and other believers of Pell’s innocence of being party to a cover-up, of not taking the abuse crisis seriously or any other form of bad faith. It is ignorant.

As to the alleged victim, there is a grey area here. Since I do not believe Pell abused him (and since the other alleged victim for whom Pell was charged asserted that he had not been abused by Pell) then I do not believe this person was a victim of Pell. Archbishop Comensoli has allowed that the complainant may be have been abused by someone else whom the complainant has mistaken for Pell. If that is the case then he deserves full support and the real justice of the actual offender being identified and prosecuted.

However, given the evidence as presented, there is no way that Cardinal Pell could have committed the offences of which he has been convicted in the way he is alleged to have committed them. It does not add up. What does add up is that the toxic atmosphere that built up against Pell, especially with the Victoria Police fishing for anything they could get on Pell even without a single complaint or allegation being made, and especially with Louis Milligan’s poisonous book—all this made it almost impossible that Pell could get a fair trial in Victoria. As has been shown, in fact.

Those who blindly assert that Pell must be guilty simply because a jury has said so and because the media say so would do well to read around and beyond their own small radius of news and information. They would do well to read Justice Weinberg’s dissenting judgment. (Is he, too, blindly supporting a vile predator?) Those who are convinced of Pell’s guilt, for sound reasons or for poor ones, should have no fear of an appeal to the High Court. If his conviction is safe then the High Court would hardly overturn the decision. If his conviction is unsafe, then everybody wins if it is overturned. When justice fails so blatantly for one, then it could more easily fail for those who have no profile and no wide support—the little guy, who always gets trodden on when things go awry.

The Church continually prays for victims of abuse as well as paying compensation and providing other support, is highly active in ensuring people with such tendencies are not admitted to seminaries or religious orders, and deals robustly with even the merest hint of suspicion. There will be failures since no system is perfect, but the Church’s systems in the areas where I have lived and worked are very robust indeed and the risk of such failures is vastly reduced. But of course, if one is informed only by a biased press, limited reading and the content of headlines or 30-second items on news’ bulletins, then one would never know this.

Besides it is much easier to bash the Church. Hypocrisy found in it makes it easier to ignore the hypocrisy often found in state institutions, and in the family home indeed. Or even more disturbingly, in ourselves.

Victims are best served by true justice not the injustice meted out by lynch mobs, real and metaphorical. So let’s pray and work for justice, even when it hurts.

Join the Conversation

  1. Excellent reflection Hugh, you hit the nail on the head. I will share it on my Facebook page. It takes great courage to stand up for the Cardinal in the present climate. This case shows us the more than alarming state of Justice system and Ethics in Australia at the current time. Thank God for Justice Mark Weinberg. Is the full statement on line? I could only find a summary from the infamous ABC.

  2. I’m currently reading a very pointed book— a small book steeped in much wisdom— it is by American Bishop Barron— A Letter To A Suffering Church— it is indeed a balm— it doesn’t erase or sugarcoat a thing but states implicitly why “we” must not leave the Church

  3. Thank you Father.

    “Victims are best served by true justice not the injustice meted out by lynch mobs, real and metaphorical. So let’s pray and work for justice, even when it hurts.”
    We cannot emphasize this enough. True justice gets lost in the emotional reaction to the accused. In this case, Cardinal Pell is often the stand in for the Church. “Well, he may not be guilty but the Church is!” Fr. Gordon MacRae is another victim of injustice imprisoned for many years now but in his case the Church helped put him there.

  4. With all this running through my mind, the reports and the blogs and comments, it seems extraordinary to have this from 1 Corinthians 4 read today at Matins on this, the feast day of St Bartholomew:

    Mihi autem pro mínimo est ut a vobis júdicer, aut ab humáno die: sed neque meípsum júdico.
    Nihil enim mihi cónscius sum, sed non in hoc justificátus sum: qui autem júdicat me, Dóminus est.
    Ítaque nolíte ante tempus judicáre, quoadúsque véniat Dóminus: qui et illuminábit abscóndita tenebrárum, et manifestábit consília córdium: et tunc laus erit unicuíque a Deo.

    Oh, that we could hear better what God knows and we don’t!

    1. And this for the verse and response:

      R. Dum stetéritis ante reges et prǽsides, nolíte cogitáre quómodo aut quid loquámini:
      Dábitur enim vobis in illa hora, quid loquámini.
      V. Non enim vos estis qui loquímini: sed Spíritus Pátris vestri, qui lóquitur in vobis.
      R. Dábitur enim vobis in illa hora, quid loquámini.
      V. Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
      R. Dábitur enim vobis in illa hora, quid loquámini.

      R. But when they shall deliver you up to the judges, take no thought how or what to speak:
      for it shall be given you in that hour what to speak:
      V. For it is not you that speak, but the spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.
      R. For it shall be given you in that hour what to speak.
      V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
      R. For it shall be given you in that hour what to speak.

      Is it too late for the Cardinal to speak himself, and see what God will do?

  5. Readers outside Australia may (unlike Australian readers with any critical judgement) be surprised to learn that Australia’s counterpart of the BBC (the ABC, or Get Pell Central, or the Australian Bolshevik Collective) has produced not one single word of reporting on the Carl Beech case in the UK.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.