Monday, 29 February 2016

MOVIE MONDAY - CARDINAL PELL IN THE SPOTLIGHT

“The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.” - William Hazlitt

This is not a pleasant Movie Monday to write. It all stems from the fact that “Spotlight”, the 2015 Tom McCarthy film, won this year’s Academy Award for “Best Motion Picture”. It stars Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber and it is based on a true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child sexual abuse and its cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

I have not seen the film yet, but I was aware of the events in Massachusetts because they were referenced in the wake of similar events that have transpired here in Australia, with scandals involving paedophile priests in the Catholic Church in Australia. The tragedy is that this has been happening throughout the world and such cases that are now being exposed are only the tip of the iceberg. The Oscar being awarded to this film is highly topical as presently in Australia we have a Royal Commission in progress, which is investigating child sex abuse by members of the Catholic Clergy. Central to the investigation is Cardinal George Pell.

George Pell AC (born 8 June 1941) is an Australian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and the inaugural and current Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, since 2014. He previously served as the eighth Archbishop of Sydney (2001–2014), auxiliary bishop (1987–1996) and archbishop (1996–2001) of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. He was created a cardinal in 2003.

In June 2002, Pell was accused of having sexually abused a 12-year-old boy at a Roman Catholic youth camp in 1961 whilst a seminarian. Pell vigorously denied all the accusations and stood aside as soon as the allegations were made public, but he did not resign as archbishop. The complainant agreed to pursue his allegations through the church’s own process for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct, the National Committee for Professional Standards (NCPS).

Justice A.J. Southwell, hired by the church to investigate the matter, found that the complainant gave the impression of “speaking honestly from actual recollection.” Justice Southwell concluded, however, that notwithstanding this impression, he could not regard the complaint as established. Pell claimed to have been exonerated, while the complainant’s solicitor said his client had been vindicated.

On 27 May 2013, Pell gave evidence before Victoria's Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Organisations. “He admitted his church had covered up abuse for fear of scandal; that his predecessor Archbishop Little had destroyed records, moved paedophile priests from parish to parish and facilitated appalling crimes.”

On 19 February 2016, it was reported that Pell had been under investigation for the past year by Victoria Police over multiple child molestation allegations. Pell issued an immediate and vehement denial. Two days later came news that detectives in Victoria wanted to fly to the Vatican to interview Pell regarding the allegations, which were of the sexual abuse of “up to 10 minors between 1978 and 2001”, and were waiting for “senior figures to ‘give them the go-ahead’.”

Currently, George Pell is giving evidence to the Royal Commission now in progress about what he knew of sexual abuse by paedophile priests and brothers in Victoria in the 1970s. The cardinal, who is now the Vatican’s finance chief, was too ill to return to Australia for questioning and is testifying via videolink from the Hotel Quirinale in Rome in front of a group of survivors from Ballarat.

The Cardinal said he was lied to and deceived by a bishop and priests who knew about the child sexual abuse crimes of a fellow clergyman, who was repeatedly moved to new parishes where he continued to offend. Cardinal Pell told the child abuse royal commission that while he didn’t know why Father Gerald Ridsdale was moved on to new parishes in the Victorian diocese of Ballarat in the 1970s, Bishop Ronald Mulkearns and other priests knew of repeated paedophilia allegations. Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan asked: “You say the bishop deceived you, is that right?” Cardinal Pell replied: “Unfortunately, correct.”

In the most shocking revelation of Cardinal Pell’s evidence so far, he told the Royal Commission that he didn’t know if the offences of priest Ridsdale was common knowledge or not. Cardinal Pell said: “I couldn’t say everyone knew, I knew a number of people did, I didn’t know if it was common knowledge or not. It was a sad story and it wasn’t of much interest to me.”

At that point I did not want to watch any more as I became indignant, offended, dismayed, exasperated and extremely angry. The Cardinal struck me as a completely cold and calculating man who had put the interests of his powerless innocent and underage parishioners last on his list (had he put them there at all) and chose to ignore the crimes that he knew that his fellow clergy were committing. It is a disgrace and whatever punishment is meted out to all guilty parties within the Church is not severe enough…

I shall watch the film “Spotlight”, but I must say that it will be distressing, having known personally people who have been abused by the clergy.

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