Good riddance to an arch-tormentor
The death of George Pell, an undoubted paedophile predator and instigator of a slick financial cover-up that saved the Vatican millions in liabilities payouts, brings to an end a disgraceful and profoundly immoral chapter in the history of the Catholic Church.
Pell, 81 when he died yesterday, had been identified over the years by numerous young victims as being the priest who’d molested them. I myself have interviewed some of his victims, and to say their testimony is harrowing is to make the understatement of the decade. One of them recalled telling Pell that his local parish priest was abusing him, and could the then Archbishop of Melbourne, help him. Rounding on him in a fury, the imposing Pell told my client that he was a ‘dirty boy’ and not to repeat ‘filthy lies’ about good priests. My client was 12 years old at the time.
To add to Pell’s many sexual abuse crimes, including repeatedly exposing himself in public toilets in front of children, came the disgrace of what is known as the ‘Melbourne Response’. Set up in 1996 in response to widespread allegations of clergy abuse of children, the initiative looked and sounded like compassion in action — but in fact, it was anything but. Victims were listened to, but in private, sealed hearings, an apology of sorts was made and then they were offered a redress payout, usually a derisory sum of sometimes less than $10k, and then forced to sign a gagging order, preventing them from both talking about what happened to them, or taking the matter to civil court, where they would probably have won damages stretching into the hundreds of thousands. By this calculation Pell — who as Cardinal — was the Pope’s personal financial advisor, saved the Vatican untold millions in liability payouts.
George Pell claimed to be a devout Catholic, but in fact he was a determined, sophisticated and ruthless child sex predator. His victims will no doubt have very mixed feelings today. Relief that this arch tormentor has gone, but immense frustration that he was not brought to justice. My thoughts are with them today, and all victims of child sexual abuse.