I Stand With Cardinal Pell
I honestly feel desperately sad for Cardinal George Pell as the news breaks that the 77-year-old will be held at maximum security prison until his March 13 sentencing on five convictions of sexually abusing minors, according to the Guardian. This despite the very real prospect that his convictions will be overturned on appeal, according to experts, because the jury delivered a verdict that was not supported by the evidence.
The Jesuit America Magazine reported that Pope Francis has reversed his earlier position and opened an investigation into allegations against Pell. The decision was made by Pope Francis given Pell’s high standing, apparently.
As you probably know well by now, dear reader, I am not one to hold back when it comes to prelates who teach error or men who abuse anyone - I abhor it. I can't really see what could be worse; especially in a Catholic context. It is a crime against the innocence which Christ calls us to emulate (Mt 18:3). It is the most fundamental betrayal of trust (Lk 17:2). It is a destruction of all that is good replacing it with selfishness, predation, power, and everything dark. It destroys faith and it destroys lives. The reality of affection for the sake of unconditional love is of fundamental importance to human relationships. Abuse is a betrayal of that reality.
But if I honestly consider that this is a wrongful conviction, and I remain silent about, what does that say about me? I believe it makes me complicit in a great wrong.
It was clear that McCarrick had been surrounded with rumour and innuendo for decades. Not so George Pell.
Pell didn’t have to go and face the accusations made against him, the fact that he did is evidence that he was confident that his innocence would be proven. As George Weigel writes in First Things:
"Pell holds a Vatican diplomatic passport and citizenship of Vatican City State. Were he guilty, he could have stayed put in the extraterritorial safety of the Vatican enclave, untouchable by the Australian authorities. But because Cardinal Pell knows he is innocent, he was determined to go home to defend his honor—and, in a broader sense, to defend his decades of work rebuilding the Catholic Church in Australia, the living parts of which owe a great deal to his leadership and courage."Very unfortunately I have first hand experience of child abuse. I have a deep understanding of how it works and what it does to a person. I have known quite a few people who turned out to be abusers, I knew something wasn’t right in every single case. I have met George Pell, and on a human level I have to say I found him to be one of the most normal men I’ve ever met. He is blunt, to the point, affable, open and down to earth. He is a man of conviction, he is a man of faith.
To think that this brave, loyal son of the Church has, in his later years, been forced to suffer such a trial and now imprisonment, is heart breaking, considering his contribution on a national and international level.
Don’t get me wrong, if he did it, then he must face the consequences, both in a temporal and a supernatural sense, and the seriousness of that terrifies me. But if he didn’t, and all my instincts tell me this verdict is unsafe, then what a terrible miscarriage of justice this is.
And the basic facts make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Anyone with anything surpassing a fleeting understanding of Catholicism would tell you that the idea that a Cardinal could slip away from his entourage to rape two boys in the open sacristy of a Cathedral where he has just said Mass is an impossibility. The Australian media are not blind to this and, despite the extraordinary anger that exists in Australian society surrounding the abuse scandal, many articles have appeared written by journalists who have examined the evidence and are confused, such this one:
"The prosecution case was that Pell at his first or second solemn Sunday Mass as archbishop decided for some unknown reason to abandon the procession and his liturgical assistants and hasten from the Cathedral entrance to the sacristy unaccompanied by his Master of Ceremonies Monsignor Charles Portelli while the liturgical procession was still concluding. Portelli and the long time sacristan Max Potter described how the archbishop would be invariably accompanied after a solemn Mass with procession until one of them had assisted the archbishop to divest in the sacristy. There was ample evidence that the Archbishop was a stickler for liturgical form and that he developed strict protocols in his time as archbishop, stopping at the entrance to the Cathedral after Mass to greet parishioners usually for 10 to 20 minutes, before returning to the sacristy to disrobe in company with his Master of Ceremonies. The prosecution suggested that these procedures might not have been in place when Pell first became archbishop. The suggestion was that other liturgical arrangements might have been under consideration.I ask you, given the clear and obvious problems with this account, can we state that this is a conviction beyond all reasonable doubt?
In his final address, Richter criticised inherent contradictions and improbabilities of many of the details of this narrative. I heard some of the publicly available evidence and have read most of the transcript. I found many of Richter's criticisms of the narrative very compelling. Anyone familiar with the conduct of a solemn Cathedral Mass with full choir would find it most unlikely that a bishop would, without grave reason, leave a recessional procession and retreat to the sacristy unaccompanied."
I have been a part of a number of conversations with Australians who have said that Pell was where everyone would expect him to be after Mass at the Cathedral, outside the front, meeting and greeting his flock! Many people took pictures with the Cardinal at the front of the Cathedral at Masses such as this. May I appeal that if you have pictures for the relevant time frame, you make an effort to find them and make that fact known?
What is also saddening and telling is the cowardice of his fellow prelates when the flock need reassurance that they had not allowed this to go on (at the very least). Who has led the defence? Who of them, who know Pell much better than I, has stood beside him? Visited him? Cared for him? Spoke out for him? The disgraceful distancing that has gone on has really shown much about being a Catholic today. If you stand up to be counted, you will be thrown to the wolves without support.
The Chairman of the Australian Bishop's Conference seemed to throw Pell under a bus, before it was revealed that he himself is also under investigation for covering up abuse yesterday.
And why is this? Because, I would argue, these men have no supernatural faith whatsoever. They have no relationship with Christ who they sell out at every juncture on secular whim. They serve their master Asmodeus and they look on when a man of conviction is torn apart by the mob. They are wrought by petty factions and rivalries and are not in solidarity with Christ and His Church, distracted and deceived by the lust for and pursuit of power.
They are easy to mark out, they wear the garb of shepherds, but their rhetoric is divisive, has no continuity with the faith taught by the Saints and Apostles, is logically inconsistent and has been demonstrated to lead people away from the Church. How long will we continue to allow these false prophets the honour and status they presently enjoy in the Church before we finally kick them out?
I have tried to post a few things on social media to give a counter-point to the main-stream media narrative which at this stage, mostly considers (wrongly) that the Catholic Church is the breeding ground of child abuse. I have received messages of gratitude for providing a counter argument, but I see NOTHING from priests, bishops or dioceses. I know you're scared boys, but souls will be lost because of your silence. You won't win in arguments if you hide away, and, more to the point, it is just one more capitulation in the face of the secular narrative.
Instances like this should provide impetus and opportunity to loudly condemn abuse, state the facts and support those who are falsely accused as well as insisting on zero tolerance and justice for victims. I fear that, though this is obvious, the truth is the hierarchy have not made good on historical pledges that they would adhere to such policies, and now they cower, waiting for their turn.
These statistics repeat over and over again, but as is constantly repeated, our leaders refuse to admit the evident link with homosexuality and lie to us about what is really going on, most recently our own Cardinal Nichols. That is why I take exception at clergy pushing the normalisation of homosexuality. Such a position is irreconcilable with the Catholic faith as presented for 2,000 years. We either accept that and explain why, or we walk away.
I think that Pell is hated in Australia because the Catholic Church harboured men who abused so many children and then callously covered it up. Whether that was, historically, because (as with much of the rest of society) we didn't want to believe it existed, or because we didn't know how to deal with it I cannot say. The fact is that anger is completely righteous and justified. I would argue that in this instance at least the target of that anger isn't. One only has to ask why Victoria Police established a "get Pell" squad which operated for a whole year before they even received any complaints and why such flimsy cases were pushed through to trial at all! It all makes little sense, unless someone in a position of authority was pushing for a conviction at any cost. Such obvious errors of judgement can often be attributed to one person's over-confidence in their power.
Some public figures have stood up for Pell at great personal cost. Former Prime Ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott have suffered an excoriating attack over their show of support for Pell in the wake of his conviction. Mr Howard provided a character reference for Pell following his conviction in December, in which he praised the cardinal as "a person of both high intelligence and exemplary character". Mr Abbott phoned Pell on Tuesday when the guilty verdict became public, and told 2GB radio the cardinal remained a "friend". He said it was possible to make "very harsh judgments" on Pell at this time but he would await the outcome of the appeal. My opinion of both men is greatly bolstered by this news.
Watching the video below, The Bolt Report on Pell, it struck me how much of a Christ like figure he cuts; a sorrowful servant, having given himself for the Church, often standing up and facing the secular narrative straight-on and now walking his own Via Dolorosa while abuse is hurled at him.
I will stand with Cardinal Pell and my heart breaks for him, alone, hated and in prison. I pray the Lord sends His angels to comfort him, and I implore you to pray for him.
This report gives some details about the situation, and some idea of the febrile atmosphere in Australia which makes a fair trial for Pell impossible:
When I met Cardinal Pell I told him about my concerns over the Pope. He told me to look after what I could look after and leave the Pope to those who had to deal with that (meaning himself and his fellow Cardinals). Now it looks like his honest and honourable approach has become the victim of more nefarious tactics.
Cardinal Pell stepped on too many toes...and then when the Pope himself doesn’t back you, it’s feeding frenzy. What a set up! pic.twitter.com/pX8Rwkrfmq— Catholic Deplorable (@RigidPelagian) February 27, 2019
We just prayed our family rosary for Cardinal Pell as he suffers his first morning in jail. We prayed for his protection and we prayed for his family who will be suffering with him— Nick Donnelly (@ProtecttheFaith) February 27, 2019
God bless Cardinal Pell and keep him from harm pic.twitter.com/AYn8qcmQxJ
So Catholicism is best judged by those who do it right, not those who abuse it. For every great sinner there is a greater saint. I’ll leave it there for now as that has been a long thread!— Ben Trovato (@CCFather) February 27, 2019
God bless ++Pell. Supposing (as seems rather obvious, to be frank) these are wholly trumped-up, worthless charges, he is truly a martyr: both to anti-Catholic sentiment, and to the filth of abuse and cover that has infiltrated the Church. The Good Lord has given him a huge cross.— Gary Paul H ن (@enternoon) February 27, 2019
Indeed, interestingly there is agreement across the Catholic world:For once #CatholicTwitter almost completely united, agreeing that Cardinal Pell has suffered a miscarriage of justice.— Eccles (@BruvverEccles) February 27, 2019
Another example can be found here. America magazine would be no fan of Pell, but as a friend commented, their muted, balanced tone suggests they understand justice has not been served.Just spoke to a friend in the Aussie Church. “I can’t help feeling that a terrible injustice has been done”. Disturbing that the victim’s psychological profile was excluded from the trial. “The likelihood is he’s mentally ill and may actually believe it happened.” #Pell— Austen Ivereigh (@austeni) February 26, 2019
Agree 100%. The chances of this happening are minuscule at best. Far from the beyond all reasonable doubt standard we expect. It’s a persecution not a prosecution and it’s political not juridical. https://t.co/QCdytLlWkK— Deacon Paul Conneely (@DeaconPaulC) February 27, 2019