As Cardinal Pell goes on trial, the Australian Church must hold its nerve


Catholic Herald, 6 July 2017

The Church’s enemies are thirsty for blood. A failure of nerve now will be catastrophic for the Catholic future in Australia

The sexual abuse charges against Cardinal George Pell by the Victoria police are a test for Australian criminal justice, the Australian Church and for the cardinal himself.

We already know the result of the first and the third tests. Australian criminal justice has already failed, and the cardinal, even if wrongfully convicted, will further demonstrate the character and virtue that have marked his years of dealing with public vilification. How the Church in Australia will fare is the great unknown.

I first met George Pell when he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1998, interviewing him in the context of the Synod of Oceania then taking place in Rome. After that synod, the Holy See convened all the bishops of Australia in an attempt to fashion some doctrinal and pastoral unity in a local Church that seemed unable to escape the 1970s. Pell welcomed it, many of his brother bishops did not.

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