The ordeal of Cardinal George Pell, accused without proof of a crime impossible to commit and sentenced on two occasions in what more than a trial looked like a lynching, has finally ended. The seven (unanimous) judges of the High Court wrote in their conclusions: “There is a significant possibility in relation to the accusations that an innocent person has been sentenced.”
I believe it can be said with confidence that never in modern times in Western democracies can we speak with greater reason of persecution motivated by religion. If George Pell had not been a Catholic cardinal, at a time when popular hysteria against the Catholic Church is at its peak in Australia; if he had not been a man of the Church judged “conservative” and consequently an easy target of all progressive lobbies and the media subservient to them (does it remind you of something? the whole world is a country …), perhaps he would not have been chosen, targeted and trapped as a scapegoat for anger against abuse. And it must be said that the aplomb and the magnanimity with which he faced all this truly do him honor.
The low emotional participation of others arouses a little amazement. Take for example Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian bishops and archbishop of Brisbane. He said it is a sentence that “does not change the Church’s constant commitment to ensuring the safety of children and to giving a just and compassionate response to survivors and victims of child sexual abuse.” Speaking of the decision of the High Court, in a note published in comment Coleridge states that “this sentence will be welcomed with relief by many, by those who have always believed in the innocence of the cardinal throughout this process. But we also know that the High Court’s decision will be devastating for many others. Many suffered greatly in this process, which has now come to an end.”
Hence the assurance, on behalf of all Australian bishops, that the Australian Church will not fail in its commitment to ensure justice and protection of minors, reiterating once again the invitation to anyone who is the victim of sexual abuse by staff of the Church to “go to the police.” I mean: if one takes 400 days in prison for a charge that is probably false or invented a word of affection, do you mean it? Rather than appear sympathetic to the lynching crowd, or who launched a far-fetched accusation?
And if one expected that from the Vatican some extra dash of heat, well, he was wrong. “The Holy See, which has always placed its trust in the Australian judicial authority, welcomes the unanimous sentence pronounced by the High Court against Cardinal George Pell, which acquits him of the accusations of abuse of minors, revoking his sentence. Cardinal Pell – in referring to the judgment of the judiciary – has always reaffirmed his innocence, waiting for the truth to be ascertained. On this occasion, the Holy See reaffirms its commitment to preventing and prosecuting any abuse of minors.”
Cold, right? Never have the terms “ex officio,” “pragmatic,” “dutiful” seemed more appropriate … well, Cardinal George Pell hated a small crowd of prelates “handling money” in the Vatican, who had sworn at him for his strange requests for transparency and clarity on certain accounts abroad.
Comparisons are always hateful, we know that. But the same sympathy shown towards Bishop Piñeda Fasquelle, Maradiaga’s right hand in Tegucigalpa, forced to resign from a letter signed by dozens of seminarians molested, Pell perhaps could have demanded it.
Of course, not the understanding shown towards Bishop Zanchetta, on trial in Argentina and for which the Pontiff even created an assignment that never existed before. That Pell couldn’t have expected it! Pell had the courage to beat his fists on the table during the first Synod on the family …
The above comes from an April 8 story by Marco Tosatti in La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana (Italy).