He is a blunt speaker, a tough and practical manager, a theological conservative, a supporter of the Pope, and an outspoken critic of contemporary social mores. He was the plumber of the Australian Catholic Church, the man who fearlessly waded into the sewer of its sex abuse scandal and cleared the blocked drains.
So Pell has no shortage of enemies. When Australia had a referendum on changing the head of state from the Queen of England, he was a leading supporter of Australia becoming a Republic. That was divisive. He opposes homosexual activism, which is divisive. He strongly opposes same-sex marriage, which is bitterly divisive. He supported John Paul II to the hilt and amongst his clergy that was divisive. He set up his own sex-abuse protocol and amongst the Australian bishops that was divisive. He shook up the Melbourne seminary and that was divisive. In his role in the Vatican, he has worked hard to set finances right and root out corruption and that was divisive.
Now he has to “prove his innocence.”
The attacks on [him] ultimately stem from a loathing of the Church and its moral teachings amongst the left-leaning Victorian political establishment. At the moment it is in government, noisily campaigning for euthanasia and transgender rights and quietly gloating over the possibility of destroying Australia’s best-known Catholic.
It has been Pell’s misfortune to be a good man, an effective manager and a loyal priest. In today’s world that is a dangerous combination. Ensuring that he gets a fair trial will be the ultimate test of the fairness of Australia’s courts.
We may hope they are up to the task.