Cardinal George Pell lives and works at the Vatican. He is Australian and looks after the Catholic money as their high-ranking Economic Minister. Pell was apparently too ill to fly home to Australia for a recent Royal Commission into past abuse by the Church; instead he faced the questioning from Rome via Skype.
Pell was not under accusations of sexual abuse himself. However, he was both a colleague and friend of priests who have been accused and convicted. Many Australians felt betrayed that he refused to come back for the inquest. A song was even written about him by Tim Minchin.
Not only that, but during the questioning, Pell appeared to lack empathy, even though he lived in a small town where priests with numerous victims also lived. When asked if he heard about the sexual abuse by another priest Ridsdale at the time, Pell said “it wasn’t of much interest to me.” I find this the most disturbing part of his testimony. Pell once accompanied Ridsdale to court. Who honestly could have a colleague accused many times of sexual abuse of young children and be not interested in this information? Ridsdale is now in prison and has confessed to the extensive abuse.
Pell was asked many questions about incidents and people he knew and managed to get through all of the questioning with shoulder shrugs. Fast forward a few months and now Pell, himself, has had accusations of sexual abuse lodged against him. The Pope has called for him not to be judged and that he will let justice take its course. Honestly, what options does he have? The Pope can’t override the law – thank goodness! The Pope also asks his Catholic followers and clergy to hold back judgment. Well they might not be permitted to say anything publicly, but we can all think whatever we like.
Whether Pell is guilty of sexual abuse is one thing and yet to be seen. It is his indifference to the suffering at the hands of others that I find so abhorrent. He once appeared on a Q&A with the esteemed Richard Dawkins. I was gobsmacked by Pell’s explanation as to why he believed there must be a hell and who it was for. Pell basically said there has to be a hell for Hitler, otherwise he “got away with it.”Right there is how ridiculous this whole belief system is. Even if there is a hell, Hitler still ‘got away with’ murdering millions of Jews. Going to hell will not undo the utter destruction he caused. Hitler’s soul being tortured eternally does not bring relief to anyone or make any sense. It is such a naive and childish view to hold — that wrongdoers will be punished for eternity by a celestial being. It is again pure wishful thinking on behalf of believers and a fear-mongering power technique of the Church.
I feel for the poor people of the past and present, who were bullied into fear by the Church, either because of loyalty to the faith or scientific ignorance of the time.
Sam Harris makes a great point about how the Catholic Church may not have meant to, but they did create the right conditions for pedophilia to rear its ugly head. This Church denies contraception, and as a result many orphaned children find themselves in the care of sexually unhealthy men and women.
At the very least, Pell witnessed many priests ‘getting away with’ horrors for years, being counseled and then moved on to other parishes, where the abuse would start again. He knew and he just turned a blind eye, stayed silent, because it was of ‘no interest’ to him.
Does that lack of action warrant hell?
It should at least warrant getting on a plane and looking at victims of your Church in the eye.