The Serious Aspects of Pell’s Roman Holiday (Or: Where in the World is George?)

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Cardinal Pell, of Australia, is easy to lampoon. Combine this with his long holiday in the palatial Domus Australia (which was officially opened by the Pope himself), and his penchant for gaudy outfits, and there is automatically derisive humour to be had. The picture (below) of him being served by a young maid needs nothing more than to be shown, to demonstrate a caricature of the quintessentially arrogant man.

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Even his attendance at a serious event, a summit on priestly paedophilia (see below) is ludicrous of, and in, itself. He is a natural comic.

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However, his flight to Rome today for a three-month holiday (or “pilgrimage” as he prefers to call it – sort of like the politician’s “study tour”) is no laughing matter.

It means several things. Firstly, his role as CEO of the Sydney Catholics must be minimal if he can be away for so long. One could then ask why he has not got more time to meet with victims, counsel clergy to be transparent about abuses, and spend a lot of time apologizing to the public at large for his organization’s crimes.

The timing, also, has deep significance. For a start, he will be safely out of the country when his old house-mate, Ridsdale, comes up for parole. Where are his comments about whether or not he should be released? Melbourne bishop, Denis Hart, has said he has no opinion either way, but surely Pell should come out against Ridsdale’s release? Surely, Pell should be available for media scrutiny about the whole Ridsdale matter?

He will be AWOL for an equally important event shortly. That is the resumption of public hearings by the NSW government enquiry into clerical abuses in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese. His local bishop, Bill Wright, is expected to appear. Why can’t Pell be available to appear alongside Wright? After all, he also appeared with Hart at the Victorian enquiry, and that was not even in his own state of origin.

Pell should interrupt his Roman holiday for both events, by returning to Australia.

The new guy in the Vatican makes much of humility, reconciliation, and austerity in his PR thrust to the world. Surely, everything about Pell’s holiday goes counter to this image? Surely, the Pope should instruct his wayward cardinal to toe the party line on these issues by returning to Australia forthwith? If he does not, then does it not call the sincerity of his PR image into question? Surely, does it not also mean that he has little control over his cardinals in such important matters? Either the Pope wins or Pell wins – it cannot be both with regard to which is more important to the Catholic Church – a luxury holiday or clerical child sexual abuse.

The world will not care much about what Pell chooses to do about his dereliction of duty in the next three months, but the world may be interested in the Pope’s response to it. Such a display of contempt for victims by a cardinal, even a lowly Australian one, cannot go unrebuked.

Come home, Pell.

Read more here:

TOMORROW: Will Wright get it right?

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)

 

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