On Tuesday, April 7, Cardinal George Pell was declared innocent of all charges and released from prison. As you may know, the Australian prelate was accused of a heinous crime of sex abuse from over 20 years ago. The Church stands with the victims of sexual abuse.
Those who commit sexual abuse, be they bishop, priest, or deacon, religious or layperson, need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Victims are to be believed, and all credible accusations need to be investigated. We pray for all those whose lives have been destroyed by the evil of sexual abuse, particularly diabolic when perpetrated by a cleric, whose hands have been consecrated to bless, sanctify, and heal.
However, in the case of Cardinal Pell, these alleged crimes could not have taken place. From the evidence put forward, there was no way that, in full Mass vesture, he could have abused these minors.
For 13 months, he was mostly in solitary confinement. He, a priest and bishop, was not permitted to offer Holy Mass,
which is the main prayer of all prelates. One hopes that he was allowed to have a copy of the Divine Office in his cell, the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer book that at ordination to the diaconate, all Catholic clerics promise to pray in its entirety.
The highest court in Australia had to hear this case and — in a decision shocking to many, and unpopular in many circles — they examined the facts, not merely the sentiments, however justified they may be against the manner that the Catholic Church handled the cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.
Cardinal Pell’s case became, in many ways, not really about him, as much as it was about the Church. And, having examined the case, they found him innocent.
We recognize the suffering of those abused by representatives of the Church. For this, we are ashamed and we need to
continue to do penance.
We pledge to do better and, by most estimations, we have been creating a safe environment for all people in Church-related institutions.
For Cardinal Pell, a 78-year-old man, a bishop, and priest, who has been found innocent in a court of law, we pray that he will be able to begin his life again. In words offered on April 11, 2020, in the newspaper The Australian, in an article entitled “George Pell: In the Suffering, We Find Redemption,” he writes:
“I have just spent 13 months in jail for a crime I didn’t commit, one disappointment after another. I knew God was with me, but I didn’t know what He was up to, although I realized He has left all of us free. But with every blow, it was a consolation to know I could offer it to God for some good purpose like turning the mass of suffering into spiritual energy …
“Kiko Arguello, the co-founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, claims that a fundamental difference between God-fearers and secularists today is found in the approach to suffering. Too often the irreligious want to eliminate the cause of the suffering, through abortion, euthanasia, or exclude it from sight, leaving our loved ones unvisited in nursing homes. Christians see Christ in everyone who suffers — victims, the sick, the elderly — and are obliged to help.
“That is part of the Easter message of the Risen Christ.”
May the Easter message of peace be given to Cardinal Pell and to all who suffer from the plague that is sexual abuse in the Church and the world.