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George Pell was an ambitious bully

It doesn’t matter whether you are a Catholic or not. George Pell is a success story. From humble beginnings to a Prince of the Church. You don’t have to be steeped in Roman theology to know that a cardinal is a person of great eminence and power.

But it is inescapable that Pell had a blind spot. He never liked children, and he did not seem to understand them. He clearly did not value them, nor did he see their innocence as fragile, or precious.

Pell’s attitudes were formed at school, and I have a special insight as to why he was so blind to children’s needs. I went to the same school, around a decade later than he did.

St Patrick’s College is in Ballarat, and it prides itself on a form of education closer to a gulag than a school. Pell himself personified many of the qualities that they valued.

Courage, resilience, toughness, a willingness to bear pain without showing it – these are their virtues. Add a rigorous education, with generous amounts of physical discipline thrown in, and you have the recipe for what Pell became – an intellectual bully, with a chip on his shoulder, and unlimited ambition.

Many of us have spent a lifetime undoing the harm that that form of education unleashed on us. Not Pell, though. He used it to get to the top of an international organisation.

We were schooled in mythology; the mythology of the downtrodden Irish, but no matter the odds, we would triumph through stubborn persistence and, a belief that we were on the right side of the religious divide. We were still taught Latin, and adherence to ‘the Faith’ was not optional.

Young people these days are blessed, in that they have not had to endure the prejudice that Irish Catholics underwent when I was young. We were even drilled in how to wear our school uniforms when we were in public. We had to present better than the Protestant students, because we were ‘the other’, and we were expected to be louts.

So we were in our own minds an oppressed community, but we would prevail because we were stronger, and better educated, and whenever we were presented with a level playing field, we would prevail. Society as battleground.

Pell was a ruckman in the First XVIII, and a feared and ruthless competitor. St Pat’s were perennial champions, and Pell was their captain and their enforcer.

In those days many Catholic families followed an informal policy of ‘giving’ a child to the church. This meant one, boy or girl, would be selected to become a member of the religious community.

This was an ancient tradition, and it saw boys choosing to become, if they were clever, priests. If not so bright, religious brothers. Girls were suitable candidates for nuns. The parents usually made the call; seldom did the child. This serves to remind us of the primacy of the Church in many Catholic homes.

When the horrors of the sexual abuse scandals broke, many of the victims were not believed by their parents. Many were sent back into the very classrooms they had escaped; sometimes they were abused by those they had complained to.

It does not matter that Pell escaped conviction for actual sexual predation. He was found to have facilitated the acts of others, by looking the other way. He knew about the abuse, but he was not that interested.

Presumably he believed that children who were raped would recover, as they would from a grazed knee in the playground. That can be the only reason he repeatedly moved-on those he knew, or even suspected, to be rapists. Send them to another parish, or diocese, and after a time spent offending in new pastures, move them on again.

How do you grow to be an adult and still not know that rape is wrong? How do you rise through the ranks of an organisation of educated individuals, and not know that not only is it against the law of every civilised nation, but that it is devastating to the victims?

How did this man, a Doctor of Philosophy, not understand that he was meant to regulate his staff, and to ensure the safety of their youthful charges?

Pell failed on every measure of a good life

Pell’s failures were not only moral. He failed in every aspect of his elevated career. He failed as a Christian, as a leader, as a priest, as an administrator, and as an adult.

He knew about children’s suffering, but he placed the reputation, and the finances of a corrupt organisation above those for whom we are all responsible. There can be no excuse, because he KNEW, and he did nothing.

The commission concluded that:

“… by 1973, Cardinal Pell was not only conscious of child sexual abuse by clergy, but he also considered measures of avoiding situations which might provoke gossip about it.”

Why is he supported by so many prominent Australians?

John Howard and Tony Abbott have both been conscious supporters of Pell. Both have served as prime ministers, and their opinions carry weight. It appears that the further you are to the right of the political spectrum, the more likely you are to support Pell.

Although Pell was acquitted of sexual assault, he was not found innocent. The charges were set aside by the High Court of Australia, as being “unsafe”.

Both Howard and Abbott have degrees in Law. They presumably know that, notwithstanding the High Court’s ruling, the Royal Commission found that Pell, at the least, knew, but did nothing. The fact that he was not crippled with guilt, and self-loathing, speaks volumes about his character.

The fact that these two eminent Australians continue to support him, suggests men who care little for what is right, but who continue the endless culture wars.

That leaves us living in a curiously barren landscape, where we forget the words of their saviour, “Let the little children come to me and do not stop them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”


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  1. Stephengb

    Pell is a sad story of which I have little interest.

  2. Al

    It is worth knowing about Pell, and trying to understand how and why he worked, because with understanding comes knowledge, and we might prevent another similar monster having such power. There are always monsters among us, but they can only be as monstrous as they are allowed. Working within a Church that has a high tolerance for other people’s pain and anguish allowed Pell to be very monstrous indeed.

    This was a very good article. Many thanks.

  3. New England Cocky

    It is time to remove government funding from any activity run by any church or charitable organisation that has been associated with individuals convicted of child abuse. Then it is also important to remove a ”charitable status” and local government rates exemptions so that those organisations are required to pay the various taxes on donation income. It appears that only by these hip pocket actions will children be protected from the paedophiles that infest these organisations.

  4. Clakka

    Well articulated.

    To me it speaks volumes of the abomination that is secrecies in ‘public’ power structures, particularly of church and state.

    It is arrogance and corruption, and facilitates the furtherance of corruption.

  5. Roswell

    Stephengb, Pell is gone but the issues he left behind will never go away. And neither should they.

    We must never let them be forgotten. Shame on us if they ever are, and even more shame if they are not addressed.

    It’s time to hang out the dirty laundry.

    Well-written, Mark, btw.

  6. Roswell

    NEC, the tragic irony is that some of these funds probably went to paying people to shut up.

  7. Kerri

    Good article. So many good articles on the now deceased litigant.
    Pell is a more opinionated, but very typically minded Catholic. The Catholic faith runs almost entirely on bullying. It is fear and guilt that drive the faithful to be so gullible as to rationalise the pleas of innocent children as less important than protecting the members of their faith who see themselves as being of a higher status. Pell ruled the church as though it were his imperium. The rest of the faithful were merely insects. Ants to be trod on, on the path to righteousness. He did not need self righteousness of course. He had that in spades. Paedophile priest’s were a nuisance. (“Gerry’s been rooting boys again.”) A necessary nuisance to support his inexorable and deserved rise. You can’t reach the top without underlings below you and as far as Pell was concerned there was no-one above him but god! And before too long god would probably need to move over as well. I am a complete atheist. When you die you die. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust and garbage to garbage. Pell will not “meet his maker”. Nor will he go to “the other place”. He is dead. Gone. Decomposing and no longer taking up valuable oxygen. Pell’s relationship to politicians will hopefully never be repeated in any other religious arrogant. We need to stop seeing religion as a charitable institution. No other charity has such real estate, artwork, gold, gold and more gold. Nor do other charities keep their senior personnel in such grandeur. Faith is a hobby. On a Sunday my husband likes to garden. I like to sew. When our Sunday pursuits are given the same privileges as religion then maybe we will have greater equality in the world. In the meantime, claim you talk to an invisible man who no one can see, hear, taste, smell or feel (with skin as opposed to soul) then you deserve nothing more than any other citizen with a Sunday, or Saturday, hobby. Amen

  8. Andrew Smith

    Good read.

  9. Tony Ryan

    This is the first time I have responded to anything like this. I am a lapsed catholic from Ireland. Pell reminds me of similar officials of the church growing up. He to me is a prick. browbeaten (kids) I was once one. I don’t believe for a million years he is a paedophile.
    He and other church officials went out of their way to protect the church.
    what I find annoying is journalists keep saying
    ” Although Pell was acquitted of sexual assault, he was not found innocent.”
    Does this means everyone who was charged with an offence and found not guilty, carry the slur they were not totally innocent.
    This is a terrible stain on innocent people.
    I believe pell is a nasty person,I do believe he is in hell now. He never cared for the common man.please journalist, don’t muddy the waters.
    Stick to the facts.

  10. Stephengb


    “Irony “

  11. Harry Lime

    Well well, Mark,I’ve shut up about this until now.I went to St.Pats at the same time as Pell,although quite a few grades lower.I clearly remember that George was generally regarded as an arrogant big prick by most of the students.He may well have intimated his desire to the brothers of a leaning for the priesthood,which would have ensured an armchair ride through school.It is obvious in hindsight that a lot of those men who gave up a normal life to pursue an unrealistic religious regimen..poverty, chastity, obedience, had a lot to do with the sexual predation of kids in their charge.It might not be common knowledge that Ridsdale was also a former student, a co seminarian of Pell, and at one stage,school chaplain.Most of the horrors that have come to light were after my time,but I had the advantage of being a ‘day rat’ rather than a border,which for certain’marks’, would have been sitting ducks.Needless to say, but I wasn’t a popular student with those brothers that were the most screwed up.I’ll qualify that by saying there were some seriously good men amongst them.Why Pell turned into such an abomination,who knows?
    There are plenty of other examples littered through history. Small world ain’t it? Maybe we’ll meet at an Old Boys reunion at the college…or not.
    As for the Lying Rodent and the Mad Monk..what was the question?

  12. Canguro

    Once again, AIMN and its contributors deserve the highest credit for their willingness to fearlessly publish a counter-narrative to that presented by the mainstream media; a narrative that purports to present the controversial cardinal as a misunderstood warrior for God’s cause, a man who through misguided sympathies found himself unfairly aligned with otherwise good men, priests who’d fallen through the cracks and succumbed to the temptations of the flesh and due to their vows of celibacy had unwisely targeted young boys to their ultimate regret but no big deal, not a sin of the greatest magnitude, abortion being a much more serious offence.

    The mainstream narrative, endorsed and abetted by the conservative cheerleaders of this country, championed Pell’s rise through the ranks and and fiercely opposed any questioning or criticism that suggested the ambitious son of Ballarat was anything less than what they saw and assumed; to criticise him was anathema, to suggest he had skeletons in his closet was heresy; he was, after all, a man to be admired and a man not be held back in his ambitious and urgent mission towards to highest echelons of the Catholic dynastic family.

    Such is the power of stories, whether they carry truth or otherwise.

    And such is the power of independent media, that it can act as a foil to the propaganda and falsehoods; for here we find that Pell was neither holy, nor truthful, not humble, not righteous, not honest, not celibate, kind, compassionate, empathetic, instead a ruthless thug, bully, a bulldozer in the same sense of the word as employed by the disgraced former PM, a man blinded by ambition and a conservative mindset that wished to dominate and commandeer. Not the sort of personality that Jesus would have endorsed as a true son of God, rather, as has been suggested, the Devil Incarnate instead.

  13. Phil Pryor

    It doesn’t matter if you are a catholic or not, says the opening sentence. So choose any personal superstition, fantasy, contrived lie, myth, fabrication, excuse, and, Pell was filth, a personal avoider of fact, responsibility, a smear of denial, a non-believer in all but fabricated falsehood, an unethical, unprincipled, immoral savage. Utter degraded similar filth supports him, usually upholders of romanist ratbag rubbish, the Sheridan, Abbott, G Henderson and Perrotet types, lower than Attila and Adolf in intellectual aridity and Saharan Scheisskerl Shameful Superstupidity, so, we are left empty of reserves of politeness and decencies as usually offered. What with modern times being corrupted, maggoted, parasitically infested with fatally flawed fuckwittery from fools, the long egofixated podpolishing political perversions of Trump, Morrison, Bolsonaro, Joris Jockstrap Jiggler Johnson, Eregogan, and a chorus of republican malodorous anuses in the USA, and murderous righteous filth in J Molan, a never-ending queue of operators lower than a flea’s fanny, and failures, we the people are doomed to bankruptcy of expectation, lost to dreams of progress, success, democracy, fairness, decency, some contol of our destiny.., for outrageous political perverted filth in politics, media, finance will kill us all, so they, the infesting intruders, can survive and prosper while life itself dies…and NOBODY can explain why in our setup the most ridiculous inferior loudmouth cavities get up and in …

  14. Max Gross

    Howard and Abbott are as loathsome as was Pell

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