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Marring the Cardinal's image


Cover of David Marr's quarterly essay 'The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell' features Pell in bishop's raimentCardinal George Pell is an inviting subject for an extended essay. He is well-known, expresses strong views succinctly, and has equally strong admirers and detractors. That always guarantees a lively response.

David Marr is a splendid essayist, and his Quarterly Essay displays his habitual virtues. It is elegantly written, is structured around a strong and colourfully told story, and brings home powerfully the sufferings of the victims of clerical sexual abuse and the failures of the Catholic Church in meeting them.

It is unfair, but that is the nature of this kind of essay.

Marr follows the path of Pell from schooldays to seminary, study in Rome and Oxford, parish work and responsibility for Catholic education in Ballarat, through to his consecration successively as Auxiliary Bishop in Melbourne, Archbishop of Melbourne, Archbishop of Sydney, and Cardinal with strong connections in Rome.

He interweaves this story with the incidence and response to clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Pell was later accused of sexual abuse when he was a seminarian and the charge found unproven; he worked in the same circles as Gerald Ridsdale (the convicted child molester who abused children while working as a Catholic priest), met victims and heard accusations of clergy in his episcopal role, and introduced a framework for dealing with accusations and compensating victims in Melbourne.

The story Marr tells is of a man who was always committed to defend the Church and faith against its enemies, and whose main care was always to promote the church and its interests. He ruled his dioceses strongly, and consistently attacked what he saw as the evils of the day and the secularism from which they flowed. According to Marr, in dealing with sexual abuse his concern was to limit the exposure of the Church, and he displayed little empathy with victims.

Marr portrays Pell and the Church as terminally engulfed in the morass of sexual abuse, his campaign against the evils of secularist society now bereft of credibility. He sees his story as finally a tragedy flowing out of a blind commitment to celibacy.

The limitations of Marr's account are the obverse of its virtues. It is not a dispassionate judgment but a prosecution brief. It sifts Pell's motives and words but not those of his critics, and simplifies complexities. The details of the essay are designed to imply character. Churches are empty or full depending on the needs of the plot; Pell does not speak but booms. If a cock crows in a distant farmyard it crows for the Cardinal alone. This makes for engaging reading, but also asks for careful judgment.

As a Catholic priest I shall leave judgment on Marr's handling of Church sexual abuse to others more credible. But I am not convinced that the Royal Commission was seen as a cataclysmic defeat by Pell or other bishops, nor consequently that their agenda was quite as single-mindedly about control as Marr suggests.

Apart from Marr's concluding remarks about the effects of celibacy, which seemed to me gratuitous and to reflect Marr's own concerns more than Pell's, his account is confined to the public person. It is not empathetic. So it left me, as good essays should, asking a further question: what else must there be to explain the trust placed in Pell by bishops and popes, the responsible positions he has held, his hold on the popular imagination, the warm associations he has formed with so many significant Australians, the way in which he has polarised Catholics, and the directions in which he has wanted to take the Catholic Church in Australia?

To answer that question from the evidence that Marr provides, it may help to empathise with the vision that inspired Pell to become a priest. He was attracted to the warrior's dream of defending the Catholic Church and faith against its foes at a time of peril. In the 1950s the peril from Communism seemed real and the image of a persecuted church was resonant.

The single-mindedness of the warrior who leads people to war for a righteous cause can be an attractive one, especially to young men. In the Christian world it has been honoured in people like Athanasius, Thomas More and Joan of Arc, in secular terms in Bolivar and Mandela, and in sporting terms in indomitable players like Michael Voss and Darryn Lockyer.

In the 1950s Catholics could see Communism as an enemy. But in the churches that Pell came to lead, his identification of secularism as the enemy was not widely shared. Nor did many accept his diagnosis that the diminishment and discontents of the Catholic Church came from compromise with prevailing secular attitudes, reflected in disagreements over matters of faith and morals. But it is not difficult to see why he believed it.

Certainly he was right to recognise that the future of the Church could not be built on members of religious congregations or on the ageing educated Catholics who had been inspired by the Vatican Council. He saw the future to lie with younger clergy and with young Catholic leaders who shared his combative loyalty to the Church and identified with the struggle against secularism. He encouraged their growth.

Pell's vision and strategy were well received in Rome but they needed to be commended if they were to shape Australian church culture. That is always the challenge when fighting against the tide. Warriors seek followers and not a reflective community. They become impatient with people who seem to be half-hearted and to undermine the campaign.

But if a church culture is to be changed people need to be encouraged and persuaded. Indeed if Catholics feel disapproved of by their leaders they become timid and resentful. In Melbourne, at least, far too many Catholic conversations focused on the Archbishop and on his latest doings instead of focusing on what people could do without approval. These conversations took up all the oxygen that could have been used for living. Little changed.

If I imagine myself in Pell's position, I might be finally disappointed that after years of struggle, the city churches that he has led look so little different from the other capital city churches, and that the battle against secularism must now be fought from the lowlands of sexual abuse against artillery firing down from the high moral ground.

But as with other indomitable warriors I have great respect for a man who has shown such pertinacity and endurance in fighting a cause that has always been against the tide and the times.

Andrew Hamilton headshotAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, George Pell, David Marr, Gerald Ridsdale, clergy sex abuse



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Existing comments

Cardinal Pell is, as you write, very much a product of his era and the institutions which shaped him. I see him not so much as a warrior but more like the Richmond ruckman he might have been. He is extremely feisty and combative and totally dedicated to his team. I think the problem is that Australia and the Church are not what they were in the 1950s and 1960s. Paedophilia was something that was rarely spoken of then in Australian society. Likewise homosexuality was mainly underground for safety's sake and gay liberation a long way away. Pell has seemed, at times, to find it harder to understand and adequately deal with all the consequences of clerical paedophilia then some other clerics in a similar position both here and overseas. He also seems to have had more trouble dealing with the Rainbow Sash movement in Melbourne than his successor as archbishop there. Is it a matter of personality, or is he a suitable foil for the press, or a mixture of both? I have a great deal of respect for David Marr who is a master of the English language and whose stance on sexuality is radically different from Pell's. Having said that I don't necessarily totally agree with Marr's take in this issue of the Quarterly Essay. I think the Church should and will rise above and deal with the paedophilia mess in the way it genuinely should. Many Catholics may be quite critical of the way Pell and other Church leaders have dealt with things. Given the fact that the former Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, Peter Hollingworth, basically had to resign as Governor-General because of the same perceived inability to grasp and deal with paedophilia, neither Pell nor the Catholic Church are unique. It is, I think, not just a Church, but a generational failure across all Churches and many institutions. I think we have to accept what has happened, deal with it adequately and compassionately and move on and try to ensure it does not happen again in as much as it is possible to.

Edward F | 25 September 2013  

Any fine and ethical biographer/essayist (as David Marr undoubtedly is) would be concerned that the essay is factually correct. The interpretation of the data is another matter. Perhaps there needs to be an acceptance of the limitations and relativity of our perception of another person. That Marr and Pell are two disparate individuals seems a given to me. I agree with Andy that Cardinal Pell is an indomitable warrior and also that Marr is a splendid essayist.

Pam | 25 September 2013  

Marr forgets to say that he is using Cardinal Pell as a symbol for all the Bishops who failed to be good citizens of our nation using their culturally accepted and respected positions to protect innocent children and vulnerable teens and adults. I think the majority of Australians could accept (once) the Churches' desire to protect their place in society and in the hearts of their members, but the un-Australian behaviour of Bishops in not calling in the police when they became aware of crimes being committed has left Australians speechless. Marr, Schwartz, the Royal Commission are being welcomed by citizens as a means to an end, getting to the truth and making decisions about the safety of children and vulnerable teens and adults. Until the Bishops admit they failed to be good citizens they won't be allowed to participate in the cultural redemption necessary.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 25 September 2013  

Ah, we surely live now, Andrew - your suppositions - cruel and so sadly wrong!

folkie | 25 September 2013  

A charitable and balanced essay. So many gems of Christianity-based good judgement in it. Knowing Hamilton and Marr and knowing something of Pell as a major public leadership figure, I think this essay will stand the test of time. I am glad Marr's QE (which I look forward to reading) and this essay appeared after Pope Francis' recent statement on refocussing Church priorities, a statement which I find really inspiring, and important for Catholics and others to think about. .

tony kevin | 25 September 2013  

An insightful and in a sense, courageous contribution Andrew. A kick against another tide. David's essay is excellent, a combative one. But is there not a larger battle implicit here? Sexual disasters offer clear and perfectly justified targets to be expunged. As tips of another agenda, they also act as distraction. Is there not a worry here that what Pell stands for, despite his failings, may conceal mastery of much deeper, numinous mysteries of life? David’s assault on celibacy is not so much an assault on celibacy as lifestyle as much as what it stands for. David's essay should help us dig deeper beneath the sordid grounds of sexual exploitation to reconnect with mysteries those grounds still so tragically conceal.

Jim Bowler | 25 September 2013  

Father Hamilton, the choice of a title for your article seems inappropriate. Cardinal Pell has marred his own image. I've read only half the essay, but Marr's quoted comments are credible and he is a writer with an ethical foundation,. I do not trust Cardinal Pell; much that he states, regarding the Catholic Church and himself, appears to be expedient and self-serving. The Age front page, some months ago, had, in large headline, a quote from the Cardinal exemplifying that criticism. In answer to a reporter's question about confession and paedophile priests (I cannot remember the headline verbatim, except what I place in quotation marks)... If I suspected him, I would never hear the confession "of a man like that." I researched Canon Law, finding that a priest who has received the faculty of hearing confessions may not, except for one or two quite specific reasons, refuse to hear a confession. A large photo of Cardinal Pell accompanies his statement that he would disobey Canon Law.

Caroline Storm | 25 September 2013  

Australia, as well as its Catholic Church, has come a long way since the 1950s and 1960s and not just in its awareness of paedophillia. The dreadful sectarianism of those times, where Catholics were seen and saw themselves as a (largely) Irish descended minority on the fringe of society, with all that entails, is now well and truly over. It would be inconceivable, in the '50s and '60s, to have a Coalition government of this country, not just led by a Catholic, but with Catholics in many of its most powerful offices. There is no longer a presumed Protestant Establishment ruling this country. Catholics are now certainly as much a part of the Establishment as anyone else. With that must come the realisation that we no longer can afford to have our own psychological laager but are very much part of mainstream society. We should, I think, as others have said, take David Marr's intellectual blow to the chin. Having said that, I don't think we need to take that Quarterly Essay uncritically. We can take what we consider as valid criticism on board and leave what we don't consider valid. That would be a sign we, as a group, have reached some maturity.

Edward F | 25 September 2013  

May I add as an obiter dictum to Mr. Marr's Essay: Due, I propose for reasons of robust orthodoxy, I was a definite persona non grata under the pre cardinal Pell's bureaucracy[resulting in my being a "beached whale",without a ministry, though never ever canonically suspended from priestly faculties![such requiring reasons to be given] I therefore, welcomed with great joy the new Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop Pell in 2001. Never before invited by a Cardinal or bishop for tea and bickies, I was gob smacked to find His Eminence pouring me a cuppa at the Cathedral Presbytery with great biscuits-"At last", as I said to fellow 'clerical ultramontanes',"We can walk Sydney CBD with heads high and clerical collars straight! The feeling of liberation akin to Perestroika days" [I admit to not being a former 'church mouse', In Fact.David Marr had noted in his SMH article in 2000 re Sydney proposed heroin injecting rooms "Father John George, was perhaps the first to complain to Rome and to the United Nations. In the politics of the church these days, dissidents[sic] don't bother making a fuss to bishops at home. They go direct to Rome." So for an ordinary run o' the mill priest like myself, Cardinal Pell was and is a God send![I have no toadying hidden ambitions, being a hemiplegic stroke case, in recovery from cancer!].

Father John George | 25 September 2013  

Father Mick Mac Andrew has hit the nail on the head, with his comment focussed on the weeping sore of Australian Catholicism.

Ian Fraser | 25 September 2013  

When was paedophilia not a crime against the law, be it of man of God? As Fr.Mc Andrew notes, Marr is using Pell as a symbol. But it's more than that, he was part of the problem. Christian principles went out the window as the Church went out of its way to protect it's image. The Church became a safe haven for a wide range of individuals who were embarking upon some of the most despicable acts one human being can inflict on another. I have serious doubts that I want to continue describing myself a Catholic. It seems that the notion of rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesars and to God the things that are God's. does not apply when applying the law of the Sate against clerics who actions, if exposed to public scrutiny, would damage the Church's reputation.

Tom | 25 September 2013  

The Church in which Pell decided to ply his warrior trade was once described as "firing into a forest from which the enemy had retreated 400 years before". If a leader adopts a crusading style the consequence will be a "fight flight" dynamic within his or her group and in the group's relationship with the world. "Goodies and Baddies" labels, dogmatism, denial, glib slogans, playing the person and charges of disloyalty all follow. This has meant that Pell will have energetic supporters and critics. Unfortunately it also means he has supported people who traduced "unorthodox" clerics per kind favor of Opus Dei etc. The sexual abuse matters have created much needed space to impugn the institutional church. However many other individuals and institutions inside the Church are equally culpable. Likewise celibacy a great topic but one where many priests are not waiting for the green light from Rome to act as they see fit. The real and serious omission from the Pell mission is the need to critique the forces of the big end of town, who are responsible for current and future crimes against humanity and who pollute the world and political forces. Granted Pell's 1950's formation, such a commutative justice stance could be considered Communistic. And he does seem to enjoy a privileged lifestyle.

Michael D. Breen | 25 September 2013  

One of the most relevant criticisms of Cardinal Pell, as far as this discussion is concerned, is that he is not sympathetic enough to those molested by paedophile clergy and their families and more concerned with institutional damage control and the reputation of the Church being preserved at all costs. He is certainly a cleric in the Prince of the Church mould of the late Archbishop Daniel Mannix. He also had a dreadful example in the Diocese of Ballarat under the still extant, but supposedly too ill to testify, Ronald Mulkearns who was, charitably, totally clueless as to how to deal with paedophile clerics, whilst having a magisterial and overweening personality. Pell is not, I think, as clueless as Mulkearns, but is very much one to stand on his dignity at all costs and of a combative nature. I don't see him as "a soldier of Christ" like Ignatius of Loyola: he is not a big enough man. He is more a dated "footy warrior" type of the somewhat blinkered kind: very much someone of his era and place. I think the Pope will accept his resignation when he turns 75. The real reconciliation and rebuilding will be left to his successor who could do well to follow the example of the current Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, Phillip Aspinall, who had a completely different approach to his predecessor, Peter Hollingworth.

Edward F | 26 September 2013  

Given the accolades heaped upon Pope Francis constantly in ES, one notes in stark contrast the high level of vitriol generated by Mr. Marr's 'Essay' re His Eminence Cardinal Pell. Marr's essay in my kindle library, and some ES readers' acrimonious posts here, are in grim contrast to the enormous credence in His Eminence, evidenced by the globally popular, and highly influential, can-do-no-wrong Pope Francis, [rendered further infallible now by secular society: from both savvy potentates groveling to meet him in orderly lines, and worshipful crowds[ creating a near unruly neo-papalolatory.] Nevertheless, it is this very idol of sound church and secular savvy that promulgates: "Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop of Sydney George Pell and seven other Cardinals to advise him on how to reform the Catholic Church."[ABC News]. Come on guys what gives?

Father John George | 26 September 2013  

I expect essayists to be objective and fair. Clearly Marr has no sympathy with Cardinal Pell's vocation.

Peter | 26 September 2013  

Thanks for the article we hear all the platitudes about Mr Marr who has no qualms in writing essays about His Eminence George the Cardinal Pell who has been a most sagacious, inspiring kind, innovative caring and compassionate priest a most able leader. Bet there are many out there who would solike to see someone write an essay about Mr Marr! See it looks like he Marr likes to write the essays about our high profile leaders ... So perhaps its time Mr Marr be subject to the same level of essay writing well since we are told he is so good at it sure he Mr Marr wont mind a bit so the general public can make a far better assessment of all Mr Marrs flaws and foibles too! How edifying that would be for the readers it would be a long read for sure!

Catherine | 26 September 2013  

As a journalist, author (including the authorised biography of Patrick White) and public commentator of note David Marr's life is as public as that of Cardinal George Pell. I think some people (without, I suspect, reading the relevant QE) are all too quick, in this instance, to shoot the messenger, rather than to read his message with discrimination and take it from there. If the flamboyant Catholic controversialist, Christopher Pearson, were alive today, I suspect he would have penned a strong critique of Marr's essay. Perhaps Andrew's reflective, insightful and thoroughly Christian critique of Marr was not strong enough for some readers? I thought it excellent. I disagreed with some of it, as I disagree with parts of Marr's essay, as well as disagreeing with what I have read and heard of Pell's comments on and approach to the recent, long going clerical paedophillia scandal in the Catholic Church. There are Catholic leaders, both in this country and abroad, such as the former Archbishop of Brisbane, John Bathersby and Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, who, I consider have handled the matter far better. That is, essentially, my point.

Edward F | 26 September 2013  

Catholicism has a mandate to uphold the covenant of faith between God and humanity however the news this week of a Melbourne priest being excommunicated (for proposing the ordination of women) proves that the prime concern for our Church is a mandate to uphold its own doctrines. Cardinal George Pell may be a gifted administrator and warrior for the Vatican but where is his compassionate heart, his personal acts of love and mercy for those who live with the enduring wounds of trashed childhood innocence? With so many ordained men in the church so few can demonstrate the personal convictions and qualities of Jesus of Nazareth. They have little freedom to be compassionate followers of Jesus, they either serve the Pope and his decrees or they are made into scapegoats. Jesus shared himself personally with communities who struggled for recognition, he welcomed the psychologically damaged citizens who were outcasts of society, he had no bias against women or the ritually unclean and he made it clear that they were individually each loved by God. This is what ‘living the covenant’ means for God’s people. Where is the healing liturgy with prayers of concern for the pain of the victims of clergy abuse and the dysfunction caused to their families? I believe that Cardinals and Archbishops are so drilled with formation they have no ‘inner freedom’ or the heartfelt capacity to transform the way they think.

Trish Martin | 27 September 2013  

#Trish your access to batteries of global scientific psyche tests re freedom in cardinals and archbishops worldwide is staggering. #Jesus did say "go teach all nations",so begrudge not RCC doctrinal mission,backed by that Petrine Commission [Mt:16]: 18."And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" #The Church has 2000 years of social outreach to damaged men and women through its hospitals,social outreach schools,universities etc #Every global daily Holy Mass is offered, for healing salvifc graces for all victims of sin,personal social etc! #Jesus never countenanced ordaining women at Last Supper or anywhere for that matter!

Father John George | 27 September 2013  

I think the problem is not that the Catholic Church has a great and glorious Commission. It does. The problem is that some of those who were consecrated as "Fathers in Christ" in it have failed in their individual commissions. Failed appallingly. Obviously there are those who disagree with what I say. The difference between the two viewpoints is very great. I think, unless we can reconcile these viewpoints and see some common ground, from which we can then move on positively, we will merely keep squabbling amongst ourselves. That represents a no win situation. I suspect Andrew and others were trying to help get us out of such a situation.

Edward F | 27 September 2013  

ABC RN sought a reaction to their related interview with David Marr. The Cardinal's astringent response simply - "A predictable and selective rehash of old material. G.K.Chesterton said: 'A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. Marr has no idea what motivates a believing Christian." source - http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/statement-george-pell-responds-to-david-marr/4976998 That reiterated, Christian charity would seem to have seen better days. Marr has Not written a Novel. I would far sooner chat with Marr (as an 'out' homosexual), than even to be in the same room with His Eminence. More John 8:7, anyone ?

Jay Douglas | 28 September 2013  

When beingquestioned in the Melbourne enquiry Fr Pell was asked who would make sure the priests would follow the procedures designed to prevent abuse. He didn't seem to understand the question, Surely someone in authority should understand that procedures do not leap of the page and enforce themselves. Some understanding of organisational systems is needed.

Rose Drake | 28 September 2013  

Trish, as Magdalena's heart burned within and a tear of joy was seen on her cheek. Christ's cross triumphs in the breast of believers living enduring wounds, when their eyes are directed to the power of His Resurrection..."Go tell the psychologically damaged, the outcasts of society and the sexually abused", she heard Him say, "He who endured the most agonizing of all deaths is alive again. Tell my brothers and sisters, I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die....but do you believe this"? "Yes", she replied, "this is the good news of the Gospel. 'This' is what ‘living the covenant’ means for God’s people". http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d8/Alexander_Ivanov_-_Christ%27s_Appearance_to_Mary_Magdalene_after_the_Resurrection_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Myra | 29 September 2013  

Well, I am an atheist and I find Marr a smug character who gets far too much air time on the tax-payer funded ABC. I have heard./seen him about 7 times in 7 days - enough already. I keep having to switch off. He wouldn't have an agenda of his own now, would he?

Fran Lane | 29 September 2013  

@Fr John George Don't think Jesus would have been supportive of excommunication for someone advocating for equal rights for women. Also don't think Jesus would be too thrilled by the brutal sacrifice of the children to preserve the image of the church. Pell's actions and utterances in relation to the catastrophically and criminal failings of priests and the church are the antithesis of Christ-like.

Gabe | 29 September 2013  

Gabe re "Pells..utterances the antithesis of Christlike". Marr notes: "He[Cdl Pell] apologised:   'On behalf of the Catholic Church of the archdiocese of Melbourne I would like to make a sincere, unreserved and public apology, first of all to the victims of sexual abuse but also to the people of the archdiocese for the actions of those Catholic clergy and others who have betrayed the trust placed in them by their parishioners.' Marr, David (2013-09-21). Quarterly Essay 51 The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell (Kindle Locations 658-660). Black Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Father John George | 29 September 2013  

SMH response to 'Marr'tyrdom of His Eminence: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/all-smoke-and-no-smoking-gun-cardinal-pell-was-quick-to-act-on-abuse-claims-20130930-2uomh.html

Father John George | 30 September 2013  

DEUCE ! Yon good Father John George hastily commends a short SMH novelty by Gerard Henderson. So, I bid and raise the bid from $50,000 capped and silenced to today's ACT Damages of $75,000 plus $60,000 Costs against RCC's Marist College - see -http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/man-molested-at-marist-college-receives-payout-20131001-2upda.html

Jay Douglas | 30 September 2013  

I'm really disappointed that retired bishop Pat Power contributed to this article about Cardinal Pell. For Pat Power to use his 'inside knowledge' to settle scores with Cardinal Pell is reprehensible.

Veritas | 30 September 2013  

Jay Douglas re figures: Cdl Pell asserted “We have always complied with the law of the land, and we will comply with the law of the land in the future.” The size of the cap does not trouble him. He told the inquiry: “I have acted compatibly with the general standards of the community and I have tried to be generous.” The cap had been raised by 2009 to $ 75,000 Marr, David (2013-09-21). Quarterly Essay 51 The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell (Kindle Locations 979-982). Black Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Father John George | 30 September 2013  

Religion, politics, religion, politics, politics, religion - bah-humbug! Little wonder organised religion is now almost totally irrelevant and even a hindrance to the spiritual life.

AURELIUS | 30 September 2013  

VIVA EMINENZA! http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/70217000/jpg/_70217000_019502365.jpg

Father John George | 01 October 2013  

As the commentary of congratulatory cross-referencing continues, some might like to read the Jack Waterford analysis which actually led me to this site to read Father "Andy' Hamilton's critique of Marr's current "Quarterly Essay". Waterford's piece is at - http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/santamarias-warriors-pell-abbott-on-a-real-mission-20130927-2ujxx.html Wayerford cites Mark 8:36 (and Matthew 16:26). Regarding Aurelius's three-all count on Religion versus Politics, I'd certainly give the majority to the latter; consider the direct involvement of Kennett, the Victoria Police, Gillard's creation of the Federal Royal Commission, as well as the NSW enquiry, and our new Prime Minister's past personal involvement, for example; and that's of course, not to ignore the 'political' obligations that fall upon Religious' shoulders. Lastly, harking back to His Eminence's reported 'novel' characterisation of Marr's work using Chesterton's arch cynicism, perhaps we might also consider GKC's "Men do not differ much about what things they will call Evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call Excusable." Marr's essay quotes examples of what notable calls Pell had made in his various roles and capacities, but Marr worries about the seeming excuses (and the politics), contrasted with the compassion shown for the victims of unmitigated Evil. Hamilton's concluding phrase about his respecting "fighting a cause that has always been against the tide and the times" makes the cause sound almost noble, but was it all really so excusable?

Jay Douglas | 02 October 2013  

Cardinal Pell may well be a Catholic, but he is most definitely NOT, by definition, a CHRISTIAN. Any Christian, meaning "Christ-like", would NEVER put the interests of the "Church" , ahead of the rights and well-being of our most vulnerable children . This man, and others in authority, should have been shouting from the rooftops, about the most heinous crimes that were committed by "men of God", and hauling them before the courts, but no, they tried to hide these most appalling facts, and because of that, I, and countless others, will forever condemn them - little children, now adults, do NOT forget how they were treated by the Catholic Church - this is beyond shameful.

Lola | 03 October 2013  

Today's NSW Police non-MOU news revelation - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-03/catholic-church-tried-to-strike-deal-with-police-over-child-sex/4997774 ... This may be another 'novel', this time for ABC TV Lateline by Steve Cannane and Sashka Koloff, and includes stories from 2003-04 derived under those pesky FOI laws. LOLA, His Eminence has always only been a man, and he was/is not the RC Church. I do look forward to Pell's (and my) discovering that God is 'whatever' you'd Least want to be judged by ... 'peace be upon God'. In dark moments, I sometimes almost believe that God may Not be a fairy-tale. I once declined a once-only offer of salvation from two callow young chaps in white shirts, ties and dark trousers, who claimed a unique personal association with [their] God.

Jay Douglas | 03 October 2013  

Frankly Jay I believe Atheism is a fairy tale and am amazed how atheists cant stop yapping about God! http://bloviatingzeppelin.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Atheism.jpg

Father John George | 04 October 2013  

As a retired Catholic primary teacher, I feel such a sense of freedom that I don't have to answer to any corrupt priest or bishop ever again! But I feel such sadness that the church is still in the hands of dishonest people such as Pell and other lying priests and bishops who think they are 'above' us ordinary people and can do no wrong! I wish I had had the courage to stand up to the bullying I saw happening in the parishes in which i lived and worked....alas I needed and loved my job. Until the people IN the parish have some say in who they want as their priest not much will change. Until Pope Francis (god love him) does something to rid us of these evil men, we must watch them closely and try to make them accountable. I now belong to our local, welcoming Anglican parish, with our lovely female pastor!!! OMG! and I experience such true Gospel values each time I attend. At the heart of this though - is the abuse of little children, which is totally against all Jesus taught!!

Marianne Harris | 06 October 2013  

Father John George, On 1 Oct you included these words attributed to Cardinal Pell "We have always complied with the law of the land, and we will comply with the law of the land in the future.” As a lifelong practicing Catholic I agree with the 'laws of the land' but what about the 'LAWS of GOD"......are these NOT more important, what about the homilies at Mass interpreting the Gospels, and are not the clergy our religious teachers and moral guardians? Should we not expect and have expected more? I am totally revolted by it and utterly disgusted by what I have heard across the past year. Child abuse is in my mind the worst kind of crime and all this garbage about laws of the land is just a cop out. Our Catholic leaders should admit it happened and help heal the victims. I have also heard blame put on the press for raising it, but we should be thankful for our free society and digital media where information is readily available to all. Please, lets get above 'the laws of the land' rubbish.

Laurie | 06 October 2013  

Obeying those civil laws supporting Gods law is necessary [eg reporting child abuse to police!]

Father John George | 06 October 2013  

'True Priests, he said, and Preachers of the Word, / Were only Stewards of their Sovereign Lord, / Nothing was theirs; but all the publick Store, / Intrusted Riches to relieve the Poor. For Priests, he said, are Patterns for the rest: / (The Gold of Heav’n, who bear the God Impress’d:) / But when the precious Coin is kept unclean, / The Soveraign’s Image is no longer seen. / If they be foul, on whom the People trust, / Well may the baser Brass contract a rust.' Dryden (1631-1700)

Ginger Meggs | 06 October 2013  

18. Daily Prayer For Priests (St. Therese of Lisieux) O Jesus, I pray for your faithful and fervent priests;/ for your unfaithful and tepid priests;/ for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields./ for your tempted priests;/ for your lonely and desolate priests;/ For your young priests;/ for your dying priests;/ for the souls of your priests in Purgatory./ But above all, I recommend to you the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priests who absolved me from my sins; the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priests who taught and instructed me; all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way (especially …). O Jesus, keep them all close to your heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen

Father John George | 06 October 2013  

I was trying to give up this 'he said - no, He said' stuff, but now 'Father John George' says - "Obeying those civil laws supporting Gods law is necessary [eg reporting child abuse to police!]." Of course, Marr pointed out just how utterly contemptible (that's my word) the Melbourne Response has been (op. cit. Marr pp 62-63) in that prticular regard. As that other true Novelist wrote, that civil society's obligation has been "... more honoured in the breach than its observance ...". Previously, on 1 Oct., FJG also was chuffed to reiterate a Marr excerpt quoting that His Eminence "told the [Victorian] inquiry: 'I have acted compatibly with the general standards of the community and I have tried to be generous.' The cap had been raised by 2009 to $75,000." Surely, to grasp the magnitude of that RCC 'generosity', the best of the outcome detailed in Marr's sentences deserves my re-quoting: "... but that modest maximum seems to have been paid rarely. ... [with] 287 victims ... [their] average payout is risible: about $32,500." {p. 64] In the circumstances, I must suggest that FJG has been so selective in his various whitewashing comments, that he has taken a stance vis-a-vis Father Andrew Hamilton's position, that it is now become painfully unhelpful to Victims and their families and friends. (Re FJG's 4 October's slight riposte, personally, I just enjoy trying to appreciate others' religious stances.) Father Hamilton does nail it with his: "if a church culture is to be changed people need to be encouraged and persuaded. Indeed if Catholics feel disapproved of by their leaders they become timid and resentful." The many vindicated Victims seeking consideration under the Melbourne Response, to my undersyanding, became timid being gulled and cajoled (and out-bankrolled) so as not to resort to the Courts. No wonder many Victims, and Catholics, and non-Catholics are resentful of the RCC hierarchy who seem to disdain their duty of care.

Jay Douglas | 07 October 2013  

So, can someone kindly quote for us the text of the Daily Prayer for Victims of Religious' Child Abuse ? Presumably, it will be rather less prolix than for Priests'.

RE: Daily Prayer For Priests | 07 October 2013  

Precisely Jay, FJG is another one, who like George Pell, 'just doesn't get it'. This is illustrated by the prayer that he offers in response to my quote from Dryden. FJG's prayer is all about the shepherds and silent about the sheep. He has ignored or failed to see the lines 'Nothing was theirs; but all the publick Store, / Intrusted Riches to relieve the Poor' in Dryden's poem. Further on, Dryden says 'The Prelate for his Holy Life he priz’d; / The worldly Pomp of Prelacy despis’d. / His Saviour came not with a gawdy Show, / Nor was his Kingdom of the World below. /  Patience in Want, and Poverty of Mind, / These Marks of Church and Churchmen he design’d, / And living taught; and dying left behind. / The Crown he wore was of the pointed Thorn: / In Purple he was Crucify’d, not born. / They who contend for Place and high Degree, / Are not his Sons, but those of Zebadee.'

Ginger Meggs | 07 October 2013  

Mr Meggs there is less likelihood that a Catholic priest will be a pedophile (0.3 %) than a married man. This statistic comes from the best and most current study of this issue, Pedophiles and Priests by Philip Jenkins (Oxford University Press, 1996). Jenkins shows that true pedophilia, that is, sexual contact between an adult and pre-pubescent child, is very rare in the Catholic priesthood

Father John George | 07 October 2013  

Eureka Street's consulting Editor laments Marr's thought-provoking Essay by observing "It is unfair, but that is the nature of this kind of essay." Well, oh dear, how very sad ! Marr himself was limited to only about 100 times ES's Comments' suggested limit. Marr's other substantive biographies demonstrate his capacities for such work. Apart from His Eminence's own essentially irrelevant and snide retort in his quoting Chesterton's cynical observation about Novelists' products, the reactions variously given above here, show just how wide and deep is the rift between those who Religious who "just don't get it", across such a Grand Canyon from so many whose faith and trust in any Religious who betrayed the young in their sacred care. To my reading of Marr, Pell's brim-full Cathedral was being contrasted with the local parishes' dwindling numbers, almost reflecting the contrasting positions of the Prince's ardent followers and sycophantics contasted with the growing numbers of ordianary faithful who cannot understand how Christian compassion seems to have fallen a poor third after the conservation of Churches' assets, and obtuse religious doctrines. As a consolation (for many, a quite unpalatable one), we have today's news of WA's (Perth) Anglican 'synod [voting] by a two-thirds majority to call for legal acknowledgment of civil unions between people of the same sex' (ABC News). So, Change IS Happening; albeit at a maddenlingly glacial pace, depending upon the dogma that is at stake. For victims of child abuse and of paedophiles, Australian society is now better informed than in past times, and public sentiment clearly sides with those victims. Trying to mitigate damage to the Church by shooting Marr as one of the current messengers, seems to be at best misguided, and at worst, truly wicked.

SOB, SOB: 'BUT IT'S NOT FAIR !' | 08 October 2013  

To be fair, for my part I must note that for Lent, Cardinal Pell was, primus inter pares, the first Signatory (with his fellow Bishops of NSW), to the following - "... going forward we call for prayer for the following intentions: * the success of the Royal Commission [into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse] * justice and healing of victims *wisdom and compassion for leaders and carers * repentance by perpetrators * grace for those tempted to lose faith or hope *safety for all young people * consolation for all affected. This Lenten Message is eight pages long. Admittedly, I stumbled when reading what to me is the truly ironic and (Vale GKC's) "novel" touch of His Eminence (inter alios) seemingly acknowledging just 'Being Here' and 'Chance' - that is, he of the Garden's simple faith in Nature: "After pruning comes new growth, ..." leading into the Bishops' optimism for Psalm 125:6 -bringing in the sheaves. One cannot do justice to this RCC_NSW Message (in fewer than my now 187 words). So I sincerely commend it all, in that that others might well read -http://www.sydneycatholic.org/justice/royalcommission/download-the-lenten-pastoral-message-of-the-bishops-of-nsw.pdf

Jay Douglas : going forward ... | 08 October 2013  

'SOB' your "glacial" is fortunately an understatement -the SSU Titanic has hit a providential iceberg: "THE Anglican Archbishop of Perth has hinted that he will reject a proposal to recognise same-sex relationships within his diocese. It was backed by the synod but vetoed by the Archbishop." [Perth News]

Father John George | 08 October 2013  

FJG, this article has nothing to do with the likelihood or otherwise of priests offending cf anyone else. It has everything to do with the hierarchy's secretive and mean-spirited response and its refusal to even go the full mile, let alone the extra one.

Ginger Meggs | 08 October 2013  

Father John George briefly cites the Statistical likelihood of Religious' v. biological-Fathers' paedophilia, as if that's relevant. That 'best and most current study' dates before 1996! Hardly "current", and obviously a Stat., and topic worthy of objective study given everything now revealed from among the Churches' secrets, since 1996. Adding to my misgivings, is that at the time he penned this "study", Jenkins was [apparently] the 'Edwin Erle Sparks' Professor of Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. He was then a Professor from 1993 (and soon after, Distinguished Professor, from 1997) of History and Religious Studies there. (source - Wiki). I found a lay comment at http://www.goodreads.com - a Sarah Terzo's short review (Dec 2011) who only gave it two stars (of 5) - "I thought this book was going to be about priests who molested children, but instead, it is about the way the public looks at the priest sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church." I observe that one sentence, like much of what all-too-briefly is written here, hardly constitutes a 'Fair Comment'; but I fast approach my 200-word-quota here. Father John George, your quickie-citation seems to me yet another example of "not getting it". Those (woo-hoo!!, very-few) Religious who molested and raped children in their pastoral care are Not to be statistically-excused by other Men.

Jay Douglas | 09 October 2013  

Andrew, I'm very late with this response. I've been away. Thanks for the compassion and clarity of your article. Marie

Marie O'Connor | 11 October 2013  

FJG's citation of Philip Jenkins' 1996 study would be more credible if he had also cited some of the learned contrary responses. See for example Isley 'Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic church' in Pastoral Psychology 45.4 (1997).

Ginger Meggs | 11 October 2013  

Being very interested in the assertion by "Father John George" on 8 October 2013, above, I went web-surfing to see if the 1996 book was still available. I found exactly that text of that whole entry after his salutation "Mr Meggs there ...". The source seems to have been, without attribution, from "It's Not About Celibacy" by "Deal W. Hudson {who] is the director of the Morley Institute, and is the former publisher of CRISIS Magazine, a Catholic monthly published in Washington, DC. [USA]" Check - http://www.catholicity.com/commentary/hudson/00192.html Deal Hudson's commentary on Professor Jenkin's book, concludes in part - "A statistical defense of the Catholic clergy, however, is not enough to address the present crisis. There must be serious rethinking of how to identify potential pedophiles before they enter the priesthood, and how to deal with them once an incident occurs. It is clear such a priest can never again to be assigned to duties that put children at risk." Of course, if Father John George didn't copy his seeming plagiarism from Hudson, then I do sincerely commend that 'catholicity' text for cosideration. Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. (Now did I steal that memory from Wilde, Oscar; or perhaps it was Marx - Groucho Marx.)

? OOPS - PLAGARISM ? | 11 October 2013  

Dear panic stricken posters on Jenkins-please rationalise 4,5 million kids molested by non priests: "In 2004, Shakeshaft published Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature for the United States Department of Education.[2] The report indicated that nearly 10% of U.S. public school students, or 4.5 million students, had been the victims of sexual harassment, rape or sexual abuse. The review described the prevalence of educator sexual misconduct, offender characteristics, targets of educator sexual misconduct, and recommendations for prevention of educator sexual misconduct.[2]"[wiki] [Ever hear of this horror in media-focussed[indeed obsessed] with priests? Are non catholic children molested a non issue dear posters? Perhaps such mundane news doesnt sell like priest scandals shhhhhhhhh! 'dads the word'

Father John George | 12 October 2013  

Thank God for Joanne McCarthy !

Marred lives | 13 October 2013  

Andrew Hamilton writes: "As a Catholic priest I shall leave judgment on Marr's handling of Church sexual abuse to others more credible." Since the whole focus of David Marr's essay was George Pell's handling of sexual abuse, that put paid to any serious commentary of Marr's essay.

Frank Golding | 14 October 2013  

I have been spurred on to read more of past Eureke Street essays and their associated 'comments', beyond Father Hamilton's consideration of 'MARRing the Cardinal's Image'. I have found that some who commented, reappear and now lately repeat themselves 'broken-record' style. For example, in comments relating to Fr Peter Day's July 2012 essay on a 'new conversation on Church sex-abuse', a Father John Michael George was then clutching at statistics about other non-Religious who abused and raped children. Whatever, I was particularly taken by Fr Day's understanding - "Just think: priests and others vested with authority in our Church and trusted as its representatives have raped children; caused emotional trauma that has led to suicides; and covered up or remained silent, and in so doing have protected paedophiles. Yet amid the thousands of shattered lives, the institutional church is tending towards resuming normal programming while this overwhelming problem corrodes from within." So taken, that I cannot resist quoting him here. Separately, I read other FJG's "+ Bill Morris" assertions in comments on a Frank Brennan SJ essay about that Vatican sacking. I must say find it rather confusing that Morris's demotion (?) was so swift, when others' action(s) against paedophile priests has sometimes seemed so tardy, and yet for victims has been so parsimonious? I wonder if 'resumption of normal programming' is contrary to what the current (ex-SJ) Pope will require.

Essays and Comments | 14 October 2013  

Obsessed? Who's obsessed FJG? For the umpteenth time, this article is not about abusers, it's about cover up. Cover up by the hierarchy and, dare I say it, cover up by all those priests and religious who over many years have known or suspected what their colleagues were up to and yet remained silent. What was it that our defence chief said? Something about the standards that you walk by are the standards you accept?

Ginger Meggs | 15 October 2013  

'Father John George' (whom I acknowledge also has stated that he is afflicted by a stroke and is a cancer survivor) asks "Are non catholic children molested a non issue dear ['panic stricken'] posters?" The gist of this comment really seems quite Off-Topic, to me. Of Pell's focus, Andrew Hamilton says - "Certainly he [Pell] was right to recognise that the future of the Church could not be built on members of religious congregations or on the ageing educated Catholics who had been inspired by the Vatican Council. He saw the future to lie with younger clergy and with young Catholic leaders who shared his combative loyalty to the Church and identified with the struggle against secularism. He encouraged their growth." I trust that those 'young' will not be swayed by Father John Geoge's seemingly combative claim that a parallel gross wrong that sadly also does afflict our (sex-obsessed) society, somehow might excuse or diminish the responsibility of even a few men of religious authority? Andrew Hamilton may not agree much with Marr, but he does admit that Marr's Quarterly essay "... left me, as good essays should, asking a further question: ...". Personally, I can only question "Father" George's combative stance.

Getting Off-Topic ? | 16 October 2013  

It is hardly "combativeness" to request concern not simply for catholic children but for millions of molested non catholic children, [the issue is ecumenical, way beyond anticlerical myopias ]. Such does not diminish or trivialise responsibility but encourages a wider responsibility versus cpmpassion burn out or, god forbid, any agenda driven provincialism .

Father John George | 16 October 2013  

38 Minutes of David Marr interview http://www.themonthly.com.au/video/2013/10/21/1382338864/david-marr-prince-faith-abuse-and-george-pell

David Marr interview | 01 November 2013  

Keith Slater resigned over his mishandling of abuse claims at [an Anglican] children's home in Lismore. The church offered a public apology to victims who had come forward to tell their stories of abuse but were turned away. Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-18/sarah-macneil-first-woman-to-lead-diocese-in-australia/5098032

Name | 17 November 2013  

20 Nov. 2013 : "The new Catholic archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn says the church could do more to support victims of child sexual abuse." READ MORE at Source - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-19/archbishop-calls-for-greater-support-for-child-sex-abuse-victims/5103294?section=act

Newly installed Archbishop Christopher Prowse | 20 November 2013  

"A businessman accused of sexually assaulting under-age boys he met through Bondi's Yeshiva Centre was expected to return to his family home in Los Angeles after $1 million was posted for his bail. Daniel Robert Hayman, 49, was granted permission to leave the country despite being charged with a third offence, relating to the indecent assault of a 12-year-old. … Despite complaints, the accused was never reported to police and was able to leave Australia to live in the Los Angeles Jewish community, where leaders shielded him." Read full report : http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/yeshiva-accused-daniel-hayman-free-to-return-to-la-after-posting-1m-bail-20131120-2xv5x.html

Yeshiva-Camp accused | 20 November 2013