Not just George Pell is on trial

Here is the lead role in the tragedy – Cardinal George Pell – having to endure the humiliation of facing charges for alleged sexual abuse.

The October 6th “mention” at the Melbourne Magistrates Court did not specify charges but reported that there would be up to 50 witnesses testifying in court proceedings.

The “mention” occurs to set a date for the committal hearing which establishes whether Pell has a case to answer and provides rules so that all parties have access to the available evidence.

The process is likely to drag on for a long time. After the committal hearing, trials may follow for each of the charges or clusters of them if there be a collection that can be broken up into different trials.

It’s a process that will attract intense, global attention from the media.

Cardinal Pell’s profile has been high for decades. Now he’s an object of international interest after his web televised appearance before the Royal Commission into the abuse of minors in institutions.

Whatever the outcome of the legal process, charges against clerics, whether proven or dismissed, stick in the popular imagination.

Once the finger is pointed at a cleric on sexual matters, the game is up and his life in the chosen profession is finished.

What’s more, for Pell, his life in the Vatican is over as these court proceedings will extend well beyond his current contract there.

When Cardinal Pell is charged, under the rules that now apply to Catholic clerics in Australia, he will not be allowed to operate as priest – celebrating a public Mass, bless weddings, etc.

What is tragic in the Greek sense of what is happening to Pell is that here is a person who for thirty years has created his profile.

He also linked his considerable ambitions to being the re-maker of Catholicism in Australia and, through his international alliances, in the global Church. Continue reading

  • Father Michael Kelly SJ is executive director of and based in Thailand.

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: , , ,