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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Cardinal George Pell charged with sexual abuse

This picture of George Pell walking to court with fellow housemate Gerald Ridsdale in 1993 did him an enormous amount of damage.

Ridsdale turned out to be Australia’s worst paedophile priest and as they walked to court together, it cemented the idea that Pell was supporting Ridsdale and therefore complicit in covering up child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

In the minds of many, Pell was seen to be more concerned with protecting the church’s reputation than giving any sympathy to the countless children whose lives were ruined by paedophile priests.

He later made a comment about the picture.  “I intended no disrespect to the victims. I understand now that they perceived it — and probably rightly — as such, but I did not at the time.”

George Pell was always destined for better things.  He was tall, handsome, very bright, and an all-round sportsman.  He ran, rowed and played Aussie Rules football so well that Richmond offered him a contract in his final year.

He was born in Ballarat, Victoria to George Arthur and Margaret Lillian (nee Burke) Pell.  His father, a non-practising Anglican whose ancestors were from Leicestershire, England was a heavyweight boxing champion and his mother was a devout Catholic of Irish descent.

His parents owned the Royal Oak hotel in Ballarat.  George Snr was a huge, down-to-earth and Protestant.  Lil was fierce, gentle and made all the decisions that mattered in her son’s life and was devoted to the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Pell rose so high through the ranks of the Catholic Church that he became Pope Francis’ chief financial adviser and moved to the Vatican.  But two days ago, Australian police charged him with “historic sexual assault offences” and demanded he come home, charges charges he vehemently denies.

He was one of the first bishops in the world to create a compensation program for church sex abuse victims when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.  However, victims later criticised the scheme as a way to keep them from suing the church.

In a statement on Thursday, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said the archdiocese would support him with accommodation upon his return.

“The George Pell I know is a man of integrity in his dealings with others, a man of faith and high ideals, a thoroughly decent man,” Fisher said.

So we wait to see what happens.  Many believe he will never return  - his doctor will say he is too sick to travel, or some other excuse will be put forward – but whether he comes home or not, it’s a tragic end to a brilliant career.