“If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea.” The gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 18, Verse 6.
In December 2018, a jury found Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic official in Australia and the third most senior official at the Vatican. guilty of sexual abuse of minors. The judgement was suppressed until February 26 as a second case against Pell had to heard and the judge felt that announcing the guilty verdict could influence the direction of the second case.
But given that Pell is a globally known individual, numerous foreign newspapers reported the verdict right away as they were not in any way bound by an Australian suppression order. Some Australian newspapers carried big headlines to the effect that a big story was being suppressed; many of these publications now face sanctions from the judge.
Now two former Liberal Prime Ministers, John Howard and Tony Abbott, have added their voices to the group supporting Pell; one has given him a character reference and the other has said he called the Cardinal after the suppression order was lifted. Both indicate that they believe an appeal will go in Pell’s favour.
The spectre of people of this status expressing support for a convicted paedophile does not do their reputations any good. There are some crimes that do not merit any sympathy and abuse of children is squarely among them.
It says a lot about Australia that people of this kind gain such high office.
The current prime minister Scott Morrison, also a Liberal, has said he will tell the Governor-General to strip Pell of his Australia Day honours if the appeal fails.
Both Abbott and Howard go to church, the former being a staunch Catholic and the latter a nominal Christian. They seem to have forgotten the injunctions of one Jesus Christ with regard to children a few centuries ago.
But then so too did Pell.