My friend George Pell was freed from prison today, after Australia’s High Count unanimously quashed his convictions for sexually assaulting two altar boys twenty-five years ago while he was Archbishop of Melbourne. The Court ruled that there was “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof.”
Indeed! The evidence was so scanty and the charges so physically and temporally implausible, that only a fierce hatred toward Cardinal Pell among certain Melbourne police officials and prosecutors can account for his coming to trial at all. Similarly, his conviction by a jury came as the product of media frenzy, where—as in Jerusalem two thousand years before– the mob demanded the brutalization of a righteous man.
I first met George Pell in 1994, when he was the Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne. I had come to give several talks for a conference of the Australian Family Association. Bishop Pell was an imposing man: tall and muscular, in a physical sense still very much the professional Australian Rules Football player that he had once been. He was most personable and engaging, with a delightful sense of humor. And he was intelligent, presenting in his own talk a remarkably compelling and Christian account of the natural family… its strength and gifts, and the enemies that it now faced. We met again at a regional World Congress of Families event in 1999, and two years later he arranged for me to give the keynote address for the inaugural conference of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family–Melbourne. On my subsequent visits down under, we always got together…. Including his participation in the grand World Congress of Families VII, held 2013 in Sydney.
I mention these matters to explain, in part, the animosity shown by Australian officialdom and “the street” toward this holy and good man. The sexual left is prominent in Australia and found with particular strength in the LGBTQ “communities” of Sydney and Melbourne. Because of his effective witness to the truths of Christian marriage and family, George Pell became their primary enemy: he must be stopped. In 2002, allegations emerged over reputed actions in a Catholic youth camp, forty years before. On scrutiny, they disappeared. And now, another set of allegations have been exposed as, at best, hallucinations; most probably, as deliberate lies. Already, though, his enemies are hopeful that “further allegations against Cardinal Pell” will come to light and “that he ultimately would come to trial again” [The New York Times]. His burdens here may not yet be over.
All advocates for the procreative natural family should take heed. At the last possible stage, Australia’s High Court just managed to salvage some small element of fairness and justice for Cardinal Pell, but even then only after his reputation was smeared and he had spent 400 days in prison. In many other lands, the sexual left is also corrupting the legal process, turning the courts into weapons against marriage, babies, and family bonds and jailing good parents and church leaders. The need for courageous and coordinated defense of the natural family has never been greater.