For whom the Pell tolls


Something smells rather badly about George Pell.

Always has, for mine. Always will, and it’s a dreadful pong that will linger for a long, long time.

The High Court of Australia might have set him free but while it’s now not proven that he was a kiddie fiddler one particular Sunday at a cathedral in Melbourne, he protected kiddie fiddlers and that makes him just as bad in my books.

He consistently put his church before kids who were damaged in more ways than just physically by Pell’s fellow priests, Christian brothers and others.

I really would like the cardinal’s cloying claque – clowns the likes of Andrew Bolt, Gerard Henderson, Tony Abbott, John Howard and Paul Kelly (no, not the singer; he’s nice) who are now wetting their pants or filling them with half mongrels in their excitement over their acquitted hero’s release – to reread the cardinal’s creepy evidence at the royal commission into institutional responses to child abuse.

If nothing else, it might moderate their responses as they strut and preen and gloat and sneer and chant a holier-than-thou “we told you so”.

Pell tried to downplay his words in later testimony before the commission saying he was very confused and responded poorly (perhaps a hint there as to why he didn’t give evidence at his trial for fear of saying something he shouldn’t) but when asked early on if it was “common knowledge” that paedophile Gerald Ridsdale abused children, Pell replied: “It’s a sad story and it wasn’t of much interest to me.”

On what he knew about Ridsdale, Pell said: “I knew nothing about his paedophilia. I knew he was a somewhat difficult person and obviously he had been shifted about quite a bit.”

On Brother Gerald Leo Fitzgerald kissing primary school boys: “The general conviction was it was harmless enough.”

Asked if he would have removed a 14-year-old boy from  Ridsdale’s house if he had known: “You can’t wave a magic wand and correct every situation.”

Throughout Pell’s evidence, the general impression comes across crystal clear of a man determined to put his church’s reputation, resources, and real estate first. In early testimony, he declared:  “I must say in those days, if a priest denied such activity, I was very strongly inclined to accept the denial.”

Asked if he was told of abuse at schools, Pell replied: “I can’t remember any such examples but my memory might be playing me false. Because I don’t have perfect recall.”

On the Melbourne archdiocese under Archbishop Frank Little: “Counsel, this was an extraordinary world, a world of crimes and cover-ups and people did not want the status quo to be disturbed.”

When asked if he’d been concerned that paedophile priest (is that a tautology?) Ted Dowlan had been moved from place to place; “I didn’t know exactly what he was accused of, but 40 years ago . . . I did not think that was unusual or inappropriate.”

But here’s the real clincher for mine as to Pell’s priorities and total lack of Christian principles. He told the RC: “One of the other things I regret as a Catholic priest is the damage that these crimes do to the faith of the survivors, of the victims and their friends and family and generally throughout the society. I lament that.”

The royal commission exposed widespread paedophilia among Catholic Church officials and the good cardinal’s chief concern? How the exposure of this disgraceful criminal activity damaged the faith of not just those so abused but “generally throughout the society”.

At least you can admire Pell’s consistency: his concern, his profound lament, has always been his church’s reputation. His church and his God came first; his fellow priests and Christian brothers came second behind closed doors. He cared not a jot for how their victims came out on the other side of the terrible, degrading abuse they suffered.

Pell either turned a blind eye to paedophilia happening all around him, or back then saw it as no great crime that priests, Christian brothers and other lay people were up to their nuts in little boys’ guts.

The church came first; never the need – his absolute duty – to protect and care for young boys facing a life of mental anguish and depression and anal seepage.

I truly hope that after those silly, misguided nuns fuss over what left’s of his pitiful, pathetic life, Pell goes on to rot in a hell I unfortunately don’t believe in.

Bolt, Henderson, Abbott, Howard, Kelly and some others can join him.

Pell’s evidence and some accompanying words courtesy of SMH archives.