Pell blew it, in more ways than one. Yes, on the surface, from his PR firm’s perspective, things went well. Their greatest fear was that Pell would lose his cool and get angry. When he is angry, his arrogance and disdain are harder to hide than his 5-o’clock shadow.
For most people, it would take rather large doses of beta-blockers and tranquilizers to appear this calm. It did appear that he was vague and a bit too relaxed, though. Still, he didn’t react even when a committee member referred to the $30 million mansion he uses when in Rome. (When in Rome do as the Cardinals do!).
He blew it in the Australian context in that he stuck to his usual line, and thus forever alienated most people here. He managed to slip in and out of the enquiry without facing a media scrum or protesters, apparently through the side door. However, where he really blew it was in the international context.
Overseas media, for example in Ireland, the U.K., the U.S. and Canada, did not see him so much as Australia’s leading Catholic as the man appointed by the new Pope to clean up the Vatican’s equivalent of a public service, the Curia. It is in his latter position that most reports used to describe him.
The international news agencies have partially ascribed the reason for Pope Benedict’s resignation to frustration with a corrupt Curia. It needed a younger, more active man to clean up the mess. This was the first other countries have seen of the man Pope Francis appointed to guide the reforms.
To non-Australian eyes, he would not have appeared up to the job of reforming the Curia. They would have expected someone a little younger, less “calm” and more zealous about reforms. Instead they have seen someone who represents the “same old same old” pattern. The Vatican may not be too concerned, in reality, about fixing the paedophile priest problem, but they certainly are serious about fixing up the Curia problem. Pell’s not looking too good to these people now.
So, yes, Pell’s PR people in Australia will be popping the champagne corks at their success in getting Pell to keep his cool (somehow or other!), but Pell’s pals in Rome will not be amused.
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)