WE ALL DESERVE TRUTH IN SCANDAL
GEORGE Pell knew the charges were coming.
The cardinal and those closest to him formed the view months ago that police would charge him with historical sex offences. This was based in part on detectives’ lengthy questioning of him in Rome last October.
But at no point has Pell wavered from his insistence on his innocence.
The sense that charges were inevitable did not lessen the global shockwaves that resulted today.
History will judge the laying of these charges as the church’s biggest scandal in the modern era, and quite possibly since the first public mass was celebrated in Australia.
As well as stalling — and quite possibly halting — Pell’s Vatican career, the charges will continue to thwart the church’s attempts to move on from the child abuse scandal.
No one within the church who has any credibility underestimates the damage caused by clergy abuse. It is a stain that could last decades.
This is the broader challenge facing the Catholic hierarchy.
An 18-month or two-year court battle in the Pell case, regardless of the result, will mark more lost time as the church tries to deal with the aftermath of the abuse scandal.
This negative publicity will be compounded by the continued reporting of the child sex abuse royal commission, which is still to hand down major reports on the Melbourne and Ballarat case studies.
Pell, being the divisive figure that he is and has been, is supported by many of his senior peers.
But the church is also home to many who believe the institution can only move forward when it sees the cardinal’s back.
Perhaps a fairer perspective is to withhold judgment until the evidence is presented to the court.
It has often been said, but it is worth repeating: the least the victims deserve is the truth, which has been in short supply for too long.