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Pell at the RC: I don’t remember if I remembered…

I just spent the morning watching Cardinal George Pell give evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, from Rome, via video link.

You may recall that despite Tim Minchin’s musical appeal, Pell refused to return to Australia to give his evidence on the grounds of ill-health.

The Commission is attempting to ascertain what Pell knew and when he knew it. It is Pell’s task to thwart them at every possible opportunity.

Pell predominantly uses the “I don’t recall” defence in its many variations to achieve his goal. Gail Furness SC has the responsibility for persisting when possible, ironically thanking Pell when persistence proves futile, and weaving her web of questions in such a manner that Pell hopefully slips up,and honestly answers one or two.

Ms Furness is brilliant. Pell, not so much.

For most of the lengthy questioning (beginning at 2am Rome time) Pell was controlled and careful. However, now and again he became rather snippy, allowing his mask to slip and his arrogance to momentarily show itself in impatience and curmudgeonly testiness.

It is inconceivable that a man with the ambitions of Pell worked his way through the church hierarchies without acquiring considerable knowledge of the widespread paedophilic activities of priests in his parishes. Someone of such ambition would make it his business to know what was going on around him. It was politic for Pell, and continues to be so, to refrain from any kind of involvement or acknowledgment of these activities, even when living in the same house as one of the most infamous, Gerald Ridsdale.

When it became impossible to avoid acknowledgement of these crimes against children, Pell minimised them, as he did again in his evidence today, stating that he did not know if they were crimes or merely “misbehaviours.” He went so far as to accompany Ridsdale to court when he was finally charged, because he had no choice at that stage but to pretend disbelief of the priest’s crimes if he was to maintain consistency.

At one point in the questioning, Furness forces Pell to admit the “misbehaviours” of a certain priest were known to practically everyone in the community, except, apparently, Pell himself. This was explained by Pell as follows, and refers to several well-known abusers whose activities Pell denies knowledge of

No parishioners told me about problems with brothers. I was rarely in the parish. I did three masses on Sundays. I had Saturday off. I wasn’t around 
I heard they swam naked. It was common knowledge. It wasn’t uncommon but no improprieties were ever alleged to me

I didn’t hear anything at that stage except about Fitzgerald kissing boys, but that was done in front of everybody it wasn’t hidden. It was common knowledge he kissed the boys. It was harmless enough, he was an older man

No he didn’t mention any incidents of sexualised conduct by Christian Brothers to me 
I know next to nothing about him. I can’t remember him. I’ve never heard of any massages

It’s difficult to answer that absolutely. 

I can’t remember. 

I’ve no such recollection 
I can’t remember, not clearly, not definitively, but as a possibility

A woman in Mildura said Day was innocent & I was impressed by her view. 
I wasn’t around. I wasn’t in Australia

You’ll find all of this and much more on my Twitter feed, but you get the gist.

Pell is far from stupid. It takes some intelligence to focus on what you aren’t supposed to remember, and continue to get it pretty much right. He hasn’t slipped up so far.

The victims in this are the survivors, and truth. Pell cares little for either. If he indeed, by some miracle, did escape knowledge of  crimes against children perpetrated so prolifically under his nose, he is an appalling failure as a church leader and ought to admit that and cower in shame, not seek to publicly defend his ignorance and lack of awareness.

But for mine, any ignorance on the part of Pell was and continues to be wilfully and disingenuously chosen by him, inspired by rampant ambition, and persisted in to save himself.

To paraphrase Dylan, sometimes Satan comes as a man of god.


This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


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  1. Felicitas

    I feel so sorry for the witnesses to Pell’s pall. They will never get a ‘mea culpa’ from him nor will he ever face earthly retribution for his sins against his flock. Wonder if he even believes in a post-life retribution?

    Love the pic at the end!

  2. Dame Carolyn Janson (@CarolynJanson)

    I believe in post-life retribution, and Pell WILL face that. And if I needed to choose, earthly retribution would be far preferable. He will not escape.

  3. gangey1959

    Instead of the position of esteem and power he hols, georgie ‘porkpie’ pell should be ex-communicated by the catholic church, for either a) knowing about (and allegedly being a participant in) the abuses of children by church officials under his control and either denying the behaviour or ignoring it and just moving the priests around the various parishes and schools,
    or b) being, as he says, completely ignorant of the situation. Long may he burn in the fires of Hades.
    Neither is acceptable from someone in his position, and there is no middle ground.
    I am not religious. I believe there is a Heaven, but not in some bullshit god, whatever the godly on Earth might call him. If there is a god after all, I hope SHE is a REALLY ANGRY WOMAN.

  4. Garth

    I can only assume that pell doesn’t actually believe in God. If he did and followed the teachings of their professed Christ, then there is no way he could do what he’s so calculatingly done and think his God would be ok with it. Then again, he is simply a man and people can contort their thinking to rationalise all sorts of things. In Pells case though, I tend to believe he is just an ambitious sociopath and circumstance led to him choosing the church as his vehicle for personal success – and damn anyone he needs to walk over to achieve that goal.

  5. kerri

    Pell is the lowest of the low.
    Whilst we criticize (justifiably) politicians whose naked ambitions make them ignore and justify crimes against the most vulnerable in our community to achieve their ascent, surely a man held in the highest esteem in his chosen community who has wilfully ignored crimes against the most vulnerable in any community let alone his own deserves the harshest criticism of all!
    I am not religious but believe I could name a thousand good people and a thousand more much better than Pell.

  6. jim

    I wonder, do you think I’d be wise to join the group that wanted to ban Ice cream, the group that paid for and tormented and killed thousands of mostly women “witches”, a group that forbade you to eat meat only on Fridays, a group who’s members abused and tormented children for years and years , a group that says most people will burn in extreme agony forever and ever in hell. a group that says all people are bad to the core surely there is no such group, is there?. No gods please.

  7. Jones

    George Pell seems to be a dangerous “man of god.” His religious beliefs mean nothing to him. He is a sociopathic creature, who maybe once believed deeply in his catholicism, but he is a wolf in sheeps clothing. All the parading around with his pious mask to show he made it.
    He did nothing and said nothing, he protected the pederists, all for ambition and power. He is a pernicious, obfuscating, liar. He got where he was through his cunning and stealth. I’m sure on his death bed he will not confess these sins against innocence lost. He will not think of the victims.

  8. panzeroo

    Hopefully some day soon Pell and Eichmann will meet in the some sort of horrible after life and compare notes as to why they ended up where they did. Until then Pell is a man whom most Australians at least, are disgusted with

  9. Trevor

    I thought Pell’s admission that his memory may be flawed while not conceding that he had any “detailed knowledge” of the peadophile activities was too cute by half. It appears he is taking out some insurance. He will forcefully deny any knowledge, but if some evidence does turn up that he can’t duck he can make that insurance claim. It would be embarrassing, but he will still claim that he has told the truth all the way through. No one will believe him, but I don’t think he cares.

  10. Gerard

    Whether Pell is proven to be a peadophile himself or not, the reason he is evil is deeper than that. His past actions in dealing with both the peadophile priests who preyed on chidren and the victims of the abuse is starting to come to light. Pell is implicated in protecting child molesters, shielding them from investigation and allowing them to evade justice for decades as they went on continuing to abuse victim after victim. Even if it is proven he has never molested or abused children himself, he is still guilty because in his role as a leader in the Catholic Church he would move heaven and earth to protect those that did. Pell used the immense power and resources of the church to shield peadophile priests from the scrutiny of police investigation and helping them evade justice. In his dealing with victims of child sexual abuse and their families Pell acted disgracefully. Pell has an intensity about him, an intensity under which even the strongest willed would wither and begin to question their resolve. Pell turned his mature charismatic personality and sharp intellect to the task of denying, demeaning, manipulating, dehumanising and denigrating victims of child abuse and their families while knowing full well the truth in their accusations. He would verbally attack, ridicule, denigrate and emotionally manipulate anyone brave enough to step forward with allegations of sexual abuse of children by clergymen using his charm, intelligence and wisdom as a weapon against the victims of the abuse. He would deny abuse had taken place knowing full well the victim was telling the truth. In his dealings with victims and their families he inflicted even deeper emotional wounds and additional psychological trauma. From this man of religion these people trusted was a man of honour, a man of God, the victims seeking understanding, spiritual healing and an end to the abuse cycle discovered only scorn and contempt. He was in a position of trust, a position of power and he used that power to silence victims and their families and in so doing tormented them in an unimaginable way. Pell drove victims to suicide with his forked tongue, two faced lies, indifference and emotionless response to the accusations the children and their parents presented to him. Those that came to Pell and accused priest of abuse, withered under his barbed derision, his outright denials, his victim blaming, denigration and unfaltering defence of the accused. Instead of acting to protect children from abuse he instead acted to protect the abusers from prosecution. When accusations became so loud they could no longer be covered up, the priest at the center of the abuse allegations were transferred to a new parish far away from the rumors and gossip and threat of legal prosecution, to a parish completely unaware of their new priest’s black twisted sinful history of child abuse. In transferring priests accused of molesting children in their care, Pell helped set peadophiles free and unsupervised into the community, into parishes he knew were unaware of the accused priest’s deviant history. He moved these priests around in order to hide their crimes. He is guilty in what occurred, especially for not protecting the new victims these priests abused after they were transferred. The parishes these priests were transferred to were never informed about the history of these men. The parishioners of the parishes these peadophile priests were transfered to had every right to know so they could protect their children. They were not warned, they were told nothing. No restrictions were put on these priests in their new parish, they were not directed or ordered to never be alone with children, no one checked up to make sure they were behaving themselves, they were just cut loose into an environment where they could prey on new victims. Unconditionally released into a communities unaware of their previous predatory history. In transferring these priests to avoid them facing justice, Pell allowed active paedophiles additional decades to continue practicing their life destroying abuse. In continually transferring priests from parish to parish whenever the peadophile priests crimes began to surface Pell became a facilitator. Without the protection of the Catholic Church none of it could have continued to happened for so many decades. Pell helped created a culture inside the Victorian branch of the Catholic Church that not only allowed child molesters to act with impunity, but also flourish in an environment whereby if their crimes were about to be discovered the victims were silenced and the abuser relocated to a new parish and allowed to continue unchecked. This in effect caused the abusers to feel untouchable. Pell and the Catholic Church continually bailing these child molesters out of trouble, these priests were encouraged to continue their paedophile behaviour unchallenged and reinforced in the belief they would never be caught or face justice.
    Pell has no love. No one that can love would allow a situation where that can happen to not just one child but dozens and dozens of children over decades. He has feeling but they are all selfish and self motivated. Whether he was also motivated to protect peadophile preists because he was also a child molester himself is a another matter, a matter that is currently being investigated by the Victorian Police. If he is in fact innocent then his character and personality need to be questioned. His lack of love towards his fellow human beings allowed him to make a economic choice whereby he calculated a monetary value of child victims of sexual abuse by clergymen and he calculated potential financial loss that the church may be liable for and in his calculations he worked out it was cheaper to let the sexual abuse of children by priests continue because admitting the abuse would open the church up to possible massive financial loss. Saving the church money in expensive civil cases was his motivation, not to stop child abuse by clergymen, not the support of victims and their families. He chose silence and denial. Denial of the abuse and denial of justice. And that’s how he did it. Psychologists theorise that there are layers to the human phsyci. They reason that if you peel away the various levels of consciousness you will eventually get to a base level consciousness that is primal, which has only a base primal drive to survive, a consciousness that is driven to do only three things, feed, f*ck and fight, this base primal consciousness is often referred to as the lizard brain. The lizard brain has no morals, morals don’t help you survive. Pell displayed no love, no compassion, no empathy, no morality, just lizard brain logic and reasoning and a powerful will to survive. He chose Suffer the Little Children. The man is a lizard.

  11. Di Pearton

    Oh Dame Carolyn, sometimes I would really like to believe in post-life retribution, but I really think that it’s all up to us humans, and so, we have to fight for justice.
    Garth, Pell’s church tells him that he can have forgiveness, however late, and meet his God, squeaky clean. Not a very effective justice system, eh? Except perhaps for the powerful. Funny that.

  12. Jaq

    There are approximately 400.000 priests worldwide. It is estimated that at least 15% are paedophiles, which makes 72,000 at least. 72,000. What other institution that has caused so much harm has been allowed to flourish, unchecked in this way? This man Pell has risen to the top of the Vatican, is in charge of millions, tried his hardest to make sure that the victims were paid the least amount if money and gagged (it took the Fosters 9 years to sue, one of only a few families to do so) and yet there are still people out there that think Pell is the one being hard done by.
    72,000. There is no way I’d let any priest near my kids alone, let alone into my home. With “Spotlight” a light is being shone on this cult. Wonder how the Vatican will deal with that.

  13. MichaelW

    I did try to post a comment on Piers Akermans site about Pell. URL.blocked blah blah… about five or six times.
    Is Pell a protected species at the Murdoch press?

  14. paul walter

    Gerard’s comment is right. Unfortunately for Pell, the issue DOES have to be pursued, it is not the minor administrative matter he seems to dismiss it as, but to do vicious crimes, deep pain and no sense that people like him were even remotely interested in seeing things mended.

    If its good enough for footy players to be bounced for supplements, to the veritable death, surely the same must apply as to this infinitely more serious issue.

  15. gangey1959

    @Di P.
    I don’t know whether you remember an old tv series ‘Catweazle” The old wizard used to wander around muttering “Nothing Works” a lot.
    I reckon ALL of the micks, and anyone else who utilises any sort of ‘get out of jail’ card as part of their faith might be saying she same as their worst nightmares are visited upon them in the afterlife.
    Meanwhile, back in the real world, I can’t see why they shouldn’t be treated like ‘normal????’ child molesters, and locked up with the real hard-core crims for ever and a day. If they couldn’t keep Carl Williams alive in jail, what do you think might happen to poor old forgetful eorgie ‘porkpie’ pell?
    May he and his kind burn forever. And then die too.

  16. Garth

    I think one action alone says it all about pell (well two actually). When he arrived to give evidence at the hotel in Rome this morning he snuck in a side entrance to avoid having to face the public, who were primarily victims of clerical abuse or family of victims (in addition security that exited from pells car harassed and physically intimidated the media there). Then, when he walked into the room he didn’t acknowledge or even look at the victims (and families) that were there to hear his testimony – in fact, he sat down and pointedly looked at the video monitor and avoided any eye contact with the attendees. I can’t believe that anyone with an ounce of empathy would have done either of these things but George did. For him to be a senior member of an organisation that puts itself out as one of the vanguards of social values shows that the church just don’t get it! They just don’t get it!!

  17. RosemaryJ36

    One thing which I feel is being overlooked is the role of the police in Victoria. It appeared early in the piece before the RC was established, but has since seemed to have been overlooked, that they deliberately refused to take action against the priests – possibly because the police concerned were themselves Catholic and had too much (misplaced) respect for the priests.

  18. paul walter

    That was something Gerard touched on in that lengthy posting of his and it brought back memories of what’s gone on over the last thirty odd years- a long litany of prevarication, dissembling and obfuscation and also incredible psychological brutality involving people seeking redress in relation to what was done to them, in some cases culminating in suicide.

  19. kerri

    All George wants is his lavish Vatican lifestyle, gorgeous cloth of gold robes, smokey handbag, rituals, candles, songs and lackeys. How is it that nuns and monks swear to a life of poverty and service (Mother Theresa anyone?) whilst the Catholics live in luxury and financial (albeit corrupt) comfort? Gold and idolatry everywhere!
    Pell is a numbers man. How many priests are needed to keep the church running? How much money to make complaints go away? How many little children to satisfy ungodly priests? How many parishes can hide the miscreants?
    Clearly George Pell is the right man to be the Vatican Treasurer.
    Do George and his kind contribute to the world?
    Maybe George will ponder that whilst he is being served his gourmet meal and vintage wine in his luxury Vatican apartment?

  20. king1394

    Churchmen of Pell’s vintage seem to believe that if there were any victims, it was the holy perpetrators themselves, who were being tempted and proved weak. It’s the same attitude that leads to the requirement for women to cover themselves with burquas in another faith, because the glamour of the woman creates the temptation that distracts the otherwise devoted religious mind

  21. mark delmege

    It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a crime thriller – court room drama and murder mystery all rolled into one.
    The prime character being one, a Mr Peel, who after days in the dock wrapped in his own lofty evidence by a crafty set of barristers begins to unwind and then be shredded by a final blast of questioning laying waste his complete denials after the traps had been set.

    And then in the aftermath two competing hit teams planning his murder. One lot comprising his former colleagues plotting to re-activate the Keeper of Potions to provide a lethal dose while another mob composed of victims plan an equally dastardly but vengeful end …with the only clue being a yellow ribbon.

  22. Pilot

    George Pell and Tony Abbott, two peas in a pod.

    Bloody disgraceful

    Great stuff Gerard!!!!!!

  23. Peter F

    From the third day:
    Gail Furness completes her questioning of Cardinal Pell by asking, when he was auxiliary bishop, were there any areas of regret in how he handled complaints of abuse.
    Cardinal Pell says his only regret is allowing paedophile priests to resign under the smokescreen of ill-health: “I think the matters you raised about ascribing resignations to ill health, that is one area of regret. Other than that, I don’t believe there is.”
    He now says that he regrets ‘ascribing resignations to ill health’. Does he suggest that , in doing this, he was acting on advice regarding the ‘ill health’ of the priest who was resigning?

    It seems that the one consistency in his evidence is that ‘He wasn’t told’.

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