As a Catholic, the persecution of George Cardinal Pell is (to say the least) disturbing. Gerard Henderson has made a convincing case that the media’s well-known anti-Roman bias has influenced the Royal Commission’s proceedings. The Church has been subjected to far more scrutiny than any other denomination. That’s not wrong from a justice standpoint, but the implication – that abuse is more common among Catholics than Protestants – is factually wrong. It serves no purpose except to perpetuate ridiculous stereotypes about “paedo-priests”.
Worse, it could mean that Catholicism itself has come under fire. As Henderson says:
Justice McClellan and his colleagues believe that the Royal Commission is entitled to look into such teachings and practices with respect to the Catholic Church as canon law, clericalism, celibacy, the confessional, psycho-sexual development, seminary training, the Vatican, church history and lay leadership.
… child sexual abuse, person to person, was probably greater in the Uniting Church – an institution which has married clergy, no compulsory celibacy, no sacrament of confession, female ministers and in recent times has supported same-sex marriage.
Secularists have always resented that the Seal of the Confessional is protected by law. They’re desperate for a pretense to revoke that privilege. The Royal Commission is giving them one, even though there’s no reason to believe it would reduce the instances of abuse. That should disturb anyone – Catholic, Protestant, atheist, whatever – who values freedom of religion.
Almost more disturbing, though, is the treatment of Cardinal Pell. Let’s be clear: he’s guilty, as he’s admitted, of not being aware of the abuses by priests under his charge. That’s a serious ministerial lapse – one that Church authorities should consider carefully. Yet, somehow, I doubt the anti-Pell crowd is up in arms because he’s an inadequate prelate. One suspects they’re not concerned about a marked aloofness in the Catholic hierarchy. Indeed, as Yost points out, Archbishop Frank Little – Pell’s superior when the abuses took place – is known to have actively covered up abuses. Is it worth noting that Little was a progressive, and Pell’s a conservative? Julia Yost makes that transpaently clear in First Things critique of ABC operative Louis Milligan’s recent hatchet job.
The whole thing’s giving me flashbacks of the Barry Spurr saga, which I wrote about in these pages in 2014. What struck me most about the anti-Spurr student protests wasn’t the nature of their grievance (“flimsy” would be an understatement), but the sheer glee they took in assassinating his character and destroying his career. As I wrote:
There’s an inescapable sadism in the behaviour of the university’s far Left. We’re watching an old-fashioned bear-baiting: they’ll make the grizzly seem nasty, until you see the rope around his neck and the pack of dogs closing in around him.
The sweet, intoxicating, self-righteous hatred was already fermenting in their hearts. It just needed an object. So they descended on that white, middle-aged Eliot scholar like seagulls on a rubbish barge and stuffed themselves sick.
The same is true of Pell. You can tell his persecutors want him to be guilty of protecting rapist priests. (If he himself did a bit of raping, so much the better.) They want all their darkest fantasies about conservative Catholics to be true. They already hated Pell for his orthodox beliefs; but if he’s a paedophile or paedophile-enabler, they can hate him openly without drawing accusations of intolerance. It’s like manna from heaven!
I was stunned by the cowardly non-response by conservatives to the Spurr affair. No one wanted to defend him, or at least point out that his treatment was grossly unwarranted. No one wanted to be implicated in his sins against political correctness. And Pell’s ordeal is but the next wrung on the ladder. If we don’t start standing up for the victims of this progressive inquisition, there’s no telling who will be next.
First they came for the academics, and I did not speak out because I was not an academic. Then they came for the cardinals…