The “better late than never” performance by Archbishop Denis Hart has set the scene for Cardinal George Pell’s appearance before the Victorian Child Abuse Inquiry, writes Tess Lawrence.
But the community at large has got Pell's number. We know his modus operandi.
Yesterday, in a welcome and extraordinary plea to Pell, Victoria's Premier Denis Napthine pulled no punches.
He was quoted in The Australian as saying:
"It's time for George Pell, on behalf of the Catholic Church, to be open and frank, not only with the inquiry but with the people of Victoria and Australia."
You betcha. Better late than never. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
Given that Cardinal Pell is a close friend, confidante, perhaps even confessor to Premier Napthine's brother Liberal and potentially Australia's next Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, Napthine has made a stand for proper non-partisan politics on this long standing national weeping sore.
Regardless of what Pell says before the Inquiry this afternoon, to use the phrase often used by victims “the fuck stops here” ― that is, with Cardinal Pell. The buck stops with him as well.
Pell continues to labour under the delusion that he is above the law and Parliament. With good reason, since he has been able to manipulate both in the past to his advantage.
I know few people who have any respect left for this man. Here I include fellow priests.
He is a Cardinal in name only.
It beggars belief that Pope Francis appointed Pell to his special advisory panel representing the region of Oceania.
It has ominous connotations given the Vatican is well aware of Pell's role in endless cover-ups of sexual abuse and his animus towards victims and their right to justice and compensation.
Pell was a man with a plan.
Hart's subsequently ill-rehearsed role at the inquiry was to deflect and defray everything away from the former Archbishop of Melbourne, now Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell.
Hart's brief was to 'man-up' and publicly assume full responsibility for the Victorian Diocese's disgusting cover-up of the thousands of cases (including non-reported) of child sex abuse and the Catholic Church's nurturing of and collusion with the perpetrators.
He would thus set the scene for this afternoon's appearance before the inquiry by George Pell, who today was scheduled to use the lame excuse of Sgt Hans Schultz in Hogan's Heroes:
“I know nothing.”
Not now, methinks.
In turn Hart was then to sheet home all the blame upon Pell's dead predecessor and scapegoat, Archbishop Sir Frank Little, who also notoriously participated in cover-ups of sexual abuse.
After all, dead men don't talk. Or do they? And Denis surely couldn't be held responsible for Frank's slack record-keeping, or his conduct, or any misconduct and mishandling of sex abuse allegations.
“Archbishop Little kept all these things to himself and there were no records,” Archbishop Hart bleated.
Bollocks. Even if this were true, there are all sorts of records and evidence that can be gathered and substantiated.
Alas for Denis and George, and their well-paid communications consultants and in-house advisors, Hart blew it. Church donors should ask for their money back from the consultants.
Subjected to clever questioning, Denis the Menacer, known for his anger management issues and ferocious temper, lost his cool and dropped the mask he was wearing.
When asked why it had taken 18 years for the Catholic Church to petition for a paedophile priest to be defrocked ‒ to the audible collective gasp of a dismayed public gallery ‒ Hart outrageously responded with the contemptuous “better late than never”.
We ought not to forget this is the man who screamed at a woman who had been abused by a Catholic priest to “go to hell, bitch”.
This same woman also tried to kill herself in Hart's office.
Pell's appearance this afternoon is a triumph to the outstanding courage of victims and supporters.
The time is well overdue for Pell's resignation.
We know he thinks he is above his God.
Few of us can forget the sight of him accompanying the notorious paedophile priest and his former flatmate, Father Gerald Ridsdale to Court. Can't recall Pell accompanying a single victim to Court. Perhaps it's just me.
Oh, yeah, I forgot. Pell used the old Sgt Schultz line ‒ “I know nothing” ‒ about Ridsdale's sexual abusing too.
It will be standing room only this arvo to see Pell give testimony.
This is a chance for him to redeem himself to some degree. To be, as Napthine has implored, frank and open with Australians.
It has come to this and we all know it; when a lay person and a politician at that should be imploring a priest to tell the truth. It says it all.
If he doesn't tell the truth, it will spell the end for Cardinal Pell. I doubt whether Australia's Catholics will tolerate anything less from him this time.
If he is not prepared to answer to a higher authority, then he will surely have to answer to the Australian people regardless of their religious disposition.
As God is his witness.
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