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Barry Soper: Pell has done monumental damage to the church

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 14 March 2019, 5:51a.m.
Cardinal George Pell entering court. Photo / AP
Cardinal George Pell entering court. Photo / AP

Comment:

Over the years seeing the Catholic Church increasingly painted as the devil incarnate has been unsettling for many and it most certainly was not my experience growing up as a communicant of the religion, including a period as an altar boy and a youth debater on issues with the church, mainly celibacy which I could never understand.

It was an honour a few decades ago to be invited to be the guest speaker at the centennial of the Catholic school I attended. I said at the time the Sisters of Mercy had to show a great deal of it when it came to trying to educate me.

The priests in my childhood were revered, they were always set on a pedestal, they could do no wrong. They were frequent visitors to my family home where on occasion they'd conduct a mass.

My family would most nights chant the rosary which, to a sprightly kid, was rather laborious. Mass every Sunday was obligatory, no argument - which was probably why I served at the altar to make it more bearable - and confession to cleanse the soul was always a welcome relief.

We weren't the most devout Catholics in our town by a long chalk. But the church was a very important part of our lives and the administrators of the faith, the priests and nuns, were kindly and caring.

Protesters gather outside the County Court during the sentencing of Cardinal George Pell in Melbourne yesterday. Photo / AP
Protesters gather outside the County Court during the sentencing of Cardinal George Pell in Melbourne yesterday. Photo / AP

I'm no longer a practising Catholic, haven't been one for many years, but watching the monumental damage done to the church by the likes of the Cardinal (who surely must be stripped of the title) George Pell is tragic.

Pell was first accused of abuse 17 years ago, dating back to 1961, when he was studying for the priesthood. The stench of abuse in the church was never far from this paedophile who was often linked to cover-ups but nevertheless, incredibly, climbed the ladder to become one of the Pope's closest advisers.

His view on leadership when abuse was occurring further down the pecking order was lamentable, exhibited when he appeared before Australia's Royal Commission into child sexual abuse.

Pell likened the Catholic Church to a trucking company, saying if a driver picked up some woman and molested her, he didn't think it was appropriate for the leadership of the company to be held responsible.

Pope Benedict XVI, left, and Cardinal George Pell bless the faithful in St. Peter's square at the Vatican in 2005. Photo / AP
Pope Benedict XVI, left, and Cardinal George Pell bless the faithful in St. Peter's square at the Vatican in 2005. Photo / AP

The Royal Commission into historical abuse in this country, which began last month, has been widened to include abuse in religious institutions - a move welcomed by them.

We can only hope, probably against all hope, that it'll be the end of a horrible chapter in what is this country's main Christian religion, the religion followed by our last Prime Minister Bill English and by a revered early Labour leader Mickey Joseph Savage.

It'll take more than the Pope's opening remarks at the Vatican to Catholic leaders from around the world last month to "listen to the cry of the little ones who are seeking justice.

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