The Power of T-Shirts (Or: George Pell Is Easily Annoyed)


Image: Many thanks to “JohnB”

Cardinal George Pell and Catholic Church in Australia are very sensitive to criticism. They are also very influential in Australian politics, and have not hesitated to use that power. There are two glaring examples of this that have occurred in recent times.

The first was the T-shirt protest against Pope Benedict’s visit to Sydney in 2008 for the Catholic Church’s World Youth gathering. Although Pell specifically denied having an influence on the NSW State Labor government, the arrangement to have the then Premier, Maurice Iemma, pose for a photograph with the Pope, and Iemma’s family, indicated otherwise. Iemma was known as a very committed Catholic.

The upshot was an extraordinary law passed by the NSW Government, which made it an offence to “annoy or inconvenience” participants in the World Youth event. Even wearing a T-shirt with an anti-church message carried a fine of $5,500. Victims of clergy abuse were subjected to this law, along with those opposing the church’s social policies.

Police and volunteers from the State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service were enabled to direct people to cease engaging in conduct that “causes annoyance or inconvenience to participants in a World Youth Day event”. One on-line site was selling T-shirts with the message “$5500 – a small price to pay for annoying Catholics.”


The anti-protest rule applied to more than 40 Sydney locations, including museums, galleries and cinemas, as well as Darling Harbour, the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Randwick Racecourse and parklands.

More than 500 schools across Sydney and 35 train and bus stations were also listed as “declared areas”. People entering were subjected to vehicle and baggage searches that required them to remove jackets, gloves, shoes and headwear if requested. “Reasonable force may be used to effect the person’s exclusion” if they did not permit the search, the regulations stipulated.

The heavy involvement of the NSW government was indicated by having a World Youth Day Minister, Kristina Keneally. Ms. Keneally holds a Masters degree in Religious Studies and is a prominent Catholic. She was born in the U.S. and speaks with a marked American accent.

Ms. Keneally went on to become NSW State Premier, but lost the last election in the worst result for any political party in Australian history. During her time as Premier, she fell out with Cardinal Pell because he tried to make Catholic members of Parliament toe his line on social issues, such as abortion.

So, it would seem that Georgie is very sensitive to T-shirt messages. At some time, it is inevitable that more people will decide to protest against the cover-ups of paedophile priests by Pell’s organisation. It follows that the T-shirt protest, which is the mildest of all forms of protest, will also be the most effective in disturbing, and causing annoyance to, the good Cardinal. This time, he is very unlikely to be able to crack the whip over our politicians, to enact laws to save him from the annoyance of T-shirt-wearing protestors.

TOMORROW: Girls homes and boys homes

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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