….Within a hundred days of becoming archbishop of Melbourne, Pell appointed an Independent Commissioner to receive and evaluate claims of clerical sexual abuse, and worked closely with the Victoria police to avoid archdiocesan interference in their investigations and to seek their counsel in developing the protocols by which the Independent Commissioner would work. Neither the Independent Commissioner’s findings nor police findings were contested by the archdiocese.
Pell also created what became known as the Melbourne Response. The first procedure of its kind in the world, the Response was intended to facilitate financial assistance and counseling for abuse victims through a process that did not require them to seek legal representation or to establish the Church’s legal liability. At the time, the Victoria police welcomed the Response (which was led by lay legal professionals), calling it “a positive step in tackling this very sensitive community issue,” and similarly applauded the appointment of a distinguished barrister as Independent Commissioner. (Some 224 complaints of sexual abuse from the 1970s, 82 complaints from the 1980s, 12 complaints from the 1990s, and one subsequent complaint were upheld by the Response.)
George Pell took a similarly vigorous approach to Church reform when John Paul II transferred him to Sydney as that city’s archbishop in 2001, and two years later created him a cardinal. As in Melbourne, revitalizing the local seminary, strengthening religious education, and supporting lay renewal movements were Pell priorities. And in Sydney, Pell seized the opportunity to underscore one of his longstanding concerns as an archdiocesan ordinary: reanimating Australian Catholicism’s sense that its local Churches were component parts of a universal Church centered in Rome. Thus Pell asked, and Pope Benedict XVI agreed, that World Youth Day-2008 be held in Sydney. And contrary to the carping of the usual naysayers, it was a considerable success.
At the outset of his Sydney years, Pell was himself accused of acts of sexual abuse allegedly committed forty years earlier. Having established protocols for handling such accusations similar to those he had created in Melbourne, Pell, after vigorously declaring his innocence, stepped aside from the governance of the archdiocese until a former Victoria Supreme Court justice could independently investigate the matter – a step Pell took against the advice of an overwrought senior Vatican official who urged Pell to “sue him [the accuser]; sue him!” Justice Alec Southwell, Q.C., dismissed the complaint.
In the eighteen years he served as archbishop of Melbourne and archbishop of Sydney, George Pell’s reforming efforts in those two large archdioceses were subject to relentless criticism by the proponents of Catholic Lite, who found a ready megaphone for their anti-Pell attacks in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and much of the Australian print media. In those same years, Pell’s refusal to kowtow to political correctness lit up the Australian Left on a regular basis – and like his ecclesiastical critics, his political foes found ABC and many print outlets eager to amplify their complaints. Pell refused to bend to the gay insurgency and was thus regularly portrayed as a homophobe. He debated with relish the “new atheist” Richard Dawkins, in what ABC must have imagined would be Pell’s intellectual Waterloo; the cardinal more than held his own as Dawkins, presumably sharing ABC’s view that Pell was a pre-modern booby of a Catholic bishop, was ill-prepared and boring….
Thus George Pell’s dynamic Catholic orthodoxy and his refusal to concede the moral, social, and political rectitude of the hardened Left’s most cherished causes enflamed the minds of his critics and enemies, both political and ecclesiastical, generating pathogens. Those pathogens interacted to create the pathology of phobic Pell-hatred: in truth, a form of public mental illness, similar to what might have been found in Dreyfus-era France or Cultural Revolution-era China. This pathology often precluded rational judgment about anything involving Cardinal Pell. And whipped up into a public frenzy by ABC and others in the Australian media, Pell-hatred inevitably led to the determination, Pell delendus est: Pell must be destroyed….
The above comes from a May 25 story by George Weigel in Catholic World Report.