Cardinal George Pell makes his way to the court in Melbourne on February 27, 2019. Picture: Con Chronis
Cardinal George Pell makes his way to the court in Melbourne on February 27, 2019. Picture: Con Chronis

Pell’s words that expose the core of the church’s problem

GEORGE Pell didn't take the stand at his own trial, but when the police first came to interview him in Rome, he had plenty of words for them - including making the detectives sit through a prepared statement before they even got to a question.

And it's in those words that we find something that goes to the core of the problem with he church and their cover ups of child abuse.

Pell was defensive and arrogant, but it's what you'd expect from any person in that situation - guilty or innocent. As it turned out, he was guilty.

But the old priest - then surrounded by the comforts of Rome - told the cops that "immeasurable damage will be done to me and the church by the mere laying of charges".

You can't see the faces of the detectives in the videoed interview, but you can imagine the twitch of disbelief that would have come with throes words from Pell.

Did the Cardinal truly believe that they would gather up their files and notepads, apologise and bow, and get the next plane back to Melbourne now that they were aware of the damage that could be done to the church?

Pell is a clever man, and he has an incredible understanding of power. He would know that words like this have been very effective for his church over the centuries. They had worked on children and their families, business leaders, politicians, and even other coppers.

So why wouldn't he give it a go this time? You know, just for the sake of old times.

In those few words, we get a real lesson into what really matters to people like Pell.

There seemed to be no thought for the victims or the process of justice. It was just about saving the institution that had elevated him and brought children to his workplace where he could molest them.


Charges and verdicts against George Pell
Charges and verdicts against George Pell

If we ever wanted to know how the church has wrestled itself from the hold of justice ever since it began, the answer is in this statement.

First they convinced their followers that they were the only thing preventing them from an eternity of flaming torture, then they said all that was needed was "faith", and then they told them there was only one true church and it must be protected.

Charge 5 against George Pell
Charge 5 against George Pell

With this plan, the church almost survived the scandal of the mass rape of children. Almost.

John Howard, in his now famous character reference, described Pell as being a "lively conversationalist" (as though the crime of child ripe could be dulled by a witty anecdote from the priest about his last trip to Peru), but the former PM didn't mention that Pell also has an ego the size of two cathedrals.

And we saw that ego soaring in that room with the detectives.

The world has now seen his trial and the verdict, and they've seen that interview tape. The fact those words didn't work on the police should be seen as evidence that the church's oppressive old magic tricks just aren't working anymore.

At that moment, the only person who didn't know it was George Pell.

And now, it gives others the confidence to push for justice - Pell is now being sued in the Victorian Supreme Court over allegations of abuse at a Ballarat swimming pool in the 1970s.

The victim - now in his 50s - had his trial dropped by the prosecution due to lack of evidence, but the guilty verdict in the choir boys' trial gives him a heavy rock to throw at the church and Pell.

In his cell, Pell must now feel like a failed superhero, who's confronted by his foes and when he reaches for his special powers, they are gone.

Above everything else, the downfall of Pell has given justice to his victims, and it will prevent him from creating new ones.

But it's done something more - it's allowed us to witness the execution of the church's power.