The Gympie Times columnist Colin Claridge shares what's on his mind this week in the lead up to Christmas.
The Gympie Times columnist Colin Claridge shares what's on his mind this week in the lead up to Christmas.

Pell behaviour riles

IT'S Christmas time. A time one prays for peace, happiness, joy and all good wishes to our fellow God's creatures. However, there is sadly one creature who purports to be one of God's most superior creatures who isn't giving any presents to Australians this year. In fact, many of us were highly anticipating his arrival last week, only to be severely disappointed by his no-show.

We were expecting the appearance at the Royal Commission investigating Institutionalised Child Abuse of Cardinal George Pell. However, survivors have again been dealt a cruel blow and denied the opportunity of seeing this bloke grilled in a forum where he would be regarded as being no better than anybody else.

After the previous week, where we saw counsel for one institution accuse one survivor of "making it up", we were hoping that the appearance of Pell would be a better week. Because let's face it, accusing a survivor of abuse of "making it up" is an attitude that clearly points to why we are having this inquiry in the first place. Isn't it? I'm actually dismayed that the Commissioner didn't pull counsel up on that statement.

So, after we were hoping that it would be Pell to be the one being the subject of a grilling. Now, I must confess that I have never liked the bloke and it had nothing to do with his close personal friendship with a recently deposed PM. Deep in my heart, I have always had this gnawing feeling that there was something not quite right about that chap.

I constantly have to remind myself that he hasn't been found guilty of anything in a court, yet. However, one just can no longer dismiss (as sadly they have been in the past) all those people who have come forward at this inquiry detailing the treatment they received when they went to Pell.

He may be the most incredibly naive cardinal the Catholic Church has ever had, or he may be a dangerous sociopath, as the parents of two abused girls described him.

When it was announced very early this year that Pell had taken up a new appointment in Rome, making him the third most powerful man in the church, all my alarm bells went off in unison.

The results of my research confirmed my intutitive response: Australia does not have an extradition treaty with The Vatican. If Pell was allowed to leave Australia, then our authorities would have no legal way of forcing him back. No Royal Commission subpoena, no arrest warrant would be effective. I quickly sent off communications to the Foreign Affairs Minister, the Attorney-General's office and even to the close personal friend of the Cardinal, the recently deposed former PM, with my concerns. Not of course, that any of them actually replied. I doubt I would have been the only one to have raised these concerns.

So, Pell was allowed to leave for Rome and all we had as a guarantee that he would come back if called by the Royal Commission was his word. I would have thought that with all that we have heard from survivors, that the word of George Pell would have been worth absolutely nothing. Looks like I have been proved correct.

I find no joy in this. Only fury. Only exasperation that once again, the Catholic Church has been allowed by our secular authorities to just move a "problem" to another location instead of properly addressing it. How can our government be so naive as to take that man at his word?

Heart condition, my foot. He's not coming back to face his accusers. He'll spend the remainder of his years safely holed up in The Vatican where we cannot get him.

The maddening thing about this is it's all happened before. Surely, the government should be legislating to withhold the passports of anyone who is either having charges pending against them, or is likely to, where they intend travelling to countries where we don't have extradition treaties in place. It's just so obvious to normal people what the intention would be, isn't it?

In these latest events surrounding George Pell and a government's unwillingness to quickly respond, we sadly see precisely why this Royal Commission was needed in the first place. I hold no hope of Pell ever returning to front the inquiry. But perhaps that isn't where I should be focussing my hope this Christmas.

After all, Christmas should be about sharing love and joy with those who matter. Pell certainly isn't on my Christmas card list.

Gympie Times

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