The Devil pounced on Cardinal Pell last week and dragged him down to the infernal level prepared for him by his own actions.
Except of course that’s just a picturesque metaphor. A modern Dante might place the Cardinal in the Eighth Circle because he was a hypocrite and a thief, but the judgement has no power over him.
A hypocrite? He advocated spiritual values, while ensuring that the material wellbeing of the Catholic Church would be preserved by not actually exercising those values. Moreover, the same attention to the Church’s material interests gave him a career path that lifted him high into the Vatican itself.
A thief? He didn’t steal money or goods. Instead he stole the joy and innocence of the children entrusted to him; he stole their very future, which is to say, he stole everything. Whether or not he thrust his own greasy body at them, he enabled other fiendish priests to do so, and protected those rock spiders and his precious Church in order that they could do so again and again.
The higher one rises in a hierarchical regime the less likely it is that you will believe the ideology of the group. If you have risen to great eminence there will have been victims along the way, defeated enemies, deceived friends, rewritten histories. Hard to believe the hymnbook when you’ve fought your rivals beak and claw. The top of the tree rarely has room for genuine songbirds; it is a place for the clash of vultures.
Like most people familiar with George Pell’s career, I would have been content to note his death with civility, while refusing to celebrate a life so utterly devoid of human decency. There was no need to dance on his grave.
But the trolls and orcs are not satisfied with the respect of silence. Those with a secret paedophile itch, or those who will support a right-wing opinion even if it proceeds from the anus of a diseased demon, now claim Pell as a saint crucified by anti-Christian forces.
Against their absurd sanctification are the five years’ work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the findings that Pell’s role in the cover-up of ecclesiastic crimes against children is not a matter of dispute. In the high court case he was eventually given the benefit of the doubt on charges of actual molestation because there was no circumstantial evidence and only disputed testimonies.
As for his definitive actions: turning a deaf ear to suffering, exacerbating harm by denying it, putting victims through labyrinthine legal hoops – these are not the usual marks of sainthood. All that Pell can claim from his sojourn on earth is that he saved the Church a lot of money.
The hagiographers busy ignoring the 17 volumes of the Royal Commission in favour of an air-brushed Cardinal Pell with a shiny plastic halo will fall silent soon enough. It is unfortunate that their noisy lies once more disrupt the recovery of his many victims.