Why Australia hates George Pell
Cardinal George Pell is a household name for all the wrong reasons.
Why is he so unpopular?
Why do so many people spew hatred towards him at the mention of his name on the internet?
Ask ten people and you’ll get ten different answers.
It could be because Pell comes across on TV as emotionally detached, smug and defensive.
It could be because he said “It’s a sad story and it wasn’t of much interest to me,” when asked about Australia’s worst paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale’s sexual abuse of hundreds of children.
It could be because he lived with Australia’s worst paedophile and somehow wasn’t aware the man was a serial child sex offender.
Some people think he’s a paedophile and/or a paedophile-protector.
Some blame him for everything wrong with the Catholic Church.
Some people don’t know about Pell’s history, they just hate the man.
This is all we know at this stage, other than there are ‘multiple complainants’.
Pell says he is an innocent man. He complains he has been the target of “relentless character assassination.”
He lives in the Vatican, but will travel to Australia to face court despite allegedly being in poor health.
The Pope will not be protecting him.
He is handing him over to clear his name, if this is even possible.
But his name will never be cleared now, even if he is found innocent.
There is hardly any chance of Pell winning these cases.
He will face a 12 person jury of Melbournians. Right from the city where Pell spent years as a bishop, then as Archbishop.
The place where he masterminded the ‘Melbourne Response’ in 1997, a process for clergy abuse victims to complain and seek pastoral care from the Catholic Church. Not from the legal system, but from the Church itself.
The Melbourne Response was a way for the Catholic Church to manage the fallout, and keep the financial cost to the Church at a minimum.
There are no kind words for Pell’s scheme.
Except from Pell himself. He was the first Catholic bishop to set up a redress scheme. He deserves a little credit for that.
The purpose of the scheme was to keep Melbourne’s paedophile priest problem under control.
It wasn’t created to help support the hundreds of sexual abuse victims.
The Melbourne Response had one focus – maintain the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church at all cost.
Pell was Rome’s most faithful servant in Australia. He was the man the Pope could rely on to carry the flag. He is tough, intelligent and loyal.
Pell won’t be expecting a warm welcome when he arrives in Melbourne.
He will be in hostile territory.
This is not the Vatican.
This is Australia.
This is the country whose religious institutions have been infiltrated with the most sickening men in our religious history.
This is the country whose religious institutions have been proven to cover up child sex abuse allegations.
This is the country where 40% of one Catholic’s order was comprised of alleged paedophiles.
Australia is done with respecting members of the Church for respect’s sake.
Australia will not welcome Pell home with open arms.
Coming back to Australia in this way will be tough.
Pell’s trial will not be easy
The legal process will take a long time.
As always when a rich man is accused of criminal offences you can expect Pell will have the best legal team that money can buy. He has every right to do this.
You can expect the prosecution will have its best lawyers on the side of the State, perhaps with financial backing from the Commonwealth government.
The public won’t want a single cent of taxpayers’ money spent on Pell’s defence.
Any suggestion of Legal Aid for Pell will set off a public backlash against the Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria.
The political connotations for this trial are enormous. No politician wants to be seen to be fence-sitting or supporting Pell. Except for Tony Abbott, but even he is being careful in his responses when asked about Pell.
Every legal point will be tested.
This is what happens when a defendant can afford a proper defence.
Pell will have a full team of lawyers, experts, investigators and researchers at his disposal.
Pell will be like O.J. Simpson, the millionaire American footballer and celebrity who paid the best lawyers in 1995 to defend him against allegations of murder.
He was acquitted.
The murders are still unsolved. But O.J. had the money to put the prosecution to a thorough test. The prosecution’s fatal mistake of making O.J. try on the alleged murderer’s glove in open court is now famous.
And the present charges are not Pell’s only problem.
The police have yet to decide to charge him for protecting paedophile priests in Ballarat and Melbourne. This is another issue.
Did Pell play a part in concealing child sex offences? We will have to wait and see.
The future of George Pell
If Pell is charged again the years ahead will be overshadowed by the darkest clouds any man could face in a lifetime.
Pell will see out his last years in daily torment.
There will be no satisfying legacies for him.
No kind words from a grateful Pope. No hope to be remembered well in the history books.
Pell will not be like Washington, Lincoln, Churchill, Mandela and Mother Teresa.
Pell will go down in history as a villain, whether he is cleared of these charges or not.
Hopefully, the victims can finally be in peace, knowing he has faced justice.
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