Dear Cardinal Pell,
It is with grave disappointment that I read over the weekend that you are apparently too unwell to fly back to Australia from the Vatican to face questioning from the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse in the Church. If you are genuinely unwell then I wish you a speedy recovery.
However your cited illness, according to reports in the Herald Sun today (9th Feb 2016), suggests that it’s not an illness that usually precludes travel. I also noted that the Doctor who is treating you is a Vatican Doctor. The cynical side in me suggests you are the religious version of Christopher Skase and the Vatican is your Majorca. It appears that you are doing all you can to avoid coming back to Australia to face the music about the failings of the Catholic Church, which you lead, and also your personal failings in not removing paedophile Priests from church leadership and possibly even being complicit in their relocation.
Your return, your brutal honesty at the Royal Commission, your genuine remorse and weeping over the pain that the victims of paedophile Priests have had to endure for most of their lives, would be a most significant step forward in the gruelling journey that these people are on toward health and wholeness. Your refusal to attend is dismissive, hurtful and deeply concerning. Unfortunately it reinforces people’s perception that you and the Catholic Church hierarchy, are far removed from understanding the desperate anguish these people live with on a daily and long term basis.
I am married to a woman who was sexually assaulted as a child, not by a Priest, but by significant people in positions of trust and power in her life. I have, over 25 years of marriage to this woman, experienced the destruction and devastation that child abuse causes for decades into the future. Yet I have also seen the healing that comes when people who were part of her world at that stage of her life, simply acknowledge what went on and that the perpetrators were weird, suspicious people: even to outsiders. (I will add here that I have also seen the healing the comes through relationship with Jesus Christ.)
You Cardinal Pell, hold within your grasp a whole world of healing for these abused people. To acknowledge the failures of the Catholic Church toward vulnerable children would be a powerful balm to these now adult people. To be broken at their pain and genuinely listen to their stories would make all the difference.
You Cardinal Pell, hold within your grasp a whole world of healing for the church who has suffered much damage through the inactions and/or indeed the cover-up of the leadership of the Catholic Church once a paedophile Priest was exposed.
Unfortunately it appears that the only thing you see within your grasp is the pen to sign the ‘Inability to Attend’ card for the Royal Commission.
So I am asking you to reconsider your decision to not return to Australia. Your decision in my thinking, makes you look like you are hiding and scared, your decision in my thinking shows little regard for or understanding of the pain sexually abused people feel, your decision in my thinking is self seeking and shows little concern for the damage to the broader church and finally your decision in my thinking reflects poorly on the Pope who has positioned himself as a champion of the downtrodden.
For a moment, let me address the victims of paedophile Priests.
I too am a Priest although in Pentecostal circles we use the term Pastor and for what it’s worth, if any of the victims of clergy sexual abuse read this, on behalf of decent and godly clergy everywhere, I say that I am sorry that apparent men of God used their positions within the church to abuse and damage you. You should have been safe. You should have been being taught about a loving and merciful God who only wants the best for you. You should have been part of a faith community. But you weren’t and for this the church has failed you. And as a Pastor, I hang my head in shame at that failure of the church. It’s a different day now and I trust and hope that the church has learnt from it’s errors of the past. I certainly know within the Church Movement that I work in, they work very hard to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable people.
I pray for your healing and I pray for Cardinal Pell to revise and reverse his non attendance decision.
Ps Peter Pilt
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Categories: Church related, Current Affairs, Leadership, Open Letters
Well said, Peter. The whole church (not just the Catholic Church) has suffered as a result of this. We have the poor suffering souls who were abused and destroyed and may never darken the doors of a church again (and who could blame them), and the rest of us who have to defend our faith to those who rightly point the finger and say, if that’s the church, I don’t want a bar of it. So sad to see that the Vatican is not demanding he return to Australia and “do the right thing”. What a travesty!
Good on you Peter. You have so well verbalised the feelings of all who call them selves followers of Christ & long to see victims of abuse set free. Mr Pell (I refuse to use his title for obvious reasons) certainly has a case to answer. Shame on him.
Good article Peter! I do point out that Pentecostal churches are by no means unstained. Be very careful not to point blame just at the Catholic Church which I respect and admire.
Steve, no arguments from me in terms of Pentecostal Churches being unstained. Hopefully all churches are doing much much better in this area now.
Well expressed, Peter.
We all feel the pain and loss resulting from institutional abuse, and particularly in churches that are meant to be safe haven for the broken.
Well said Pete, as always you pick your words well and show much grace. I may not be so forgiving, Pell is going to be judged by Father God I know as I too will be. But after going to a Catholic school as a kid and seeing the abuse and hipocracy first hand I’m jack of how the Catholic church covers itself and all it’s clergy who have abused the trust of parents who sent their kids to the schools but even worse they betrayed the children who trusted them. It SUCKS
What Australia needs right now is for all parishoners to actually write their letters to the various newspapers or whatever public media they use.
Keeping your attitudes and/or feelings in house will again be swept under the carpet.
You have to name & shame publicly to have any impact.
I am even more disgusted than the above comments seem to portray…and I’m an athiest.
Will there be any justice in the end?. I don’t imagine for one second that there will be.
compensation dollars will not take away the past or absolve the perpetrators.
What a mess!!
What qualifies as a response? In the past I have responded to your blog but I have never had my comments posted.
You have a post from an atheist stating that perpetrators should be named and shamed and although you see fit to post that, you don’t post any of my responses that show your own abusive leadership.
Your letter to George Pell would appear to have come from an honest pastor who seeks to expose injustice and yet you are fine with what has been done to us.
What do you suggest we do to obtain justice and stop your ministers damaging everything we try to do. We have tried to move on and rebuild our lives so many times that we are simply exhausted as we know that somehow your church will tear down whatever we build.
We have never made public the recordings or the many letters and statements that we have in the hope that one day someone from within your executive will take action. Is that what we need to do?
Or should we simply continue to allow your senior ministers to break our lives and hope that one day they will stop.
It’s easy to pass judgement on what the Catholic leadership should do, what do you suggest your leadership should do?
And as victims, what do you suggest we should do?
You have stated that George Pell holds the power to heal and end abuse, what will you do with the power in your grasp?
Will you brush it aside and tell yourself that you can’t deal with us?
We submitted to your church leadership in an inquiry conducted by your ministers Peter and welcomed your pastor into our home to take down our story, hardly the actions of someone who can’t be dealt with, it was your executive that chose to ignore your own protocol so that they could cover up what had been done. As we stated at the onset regarding the conflict of interest that you had as pastors, how you adhere to your own safechurch policies and procedures will judge you. We all know how that went.
One of your ministers who was included in the inquiry has since spoken to us and stated that we have a substantial case and that the executive must answer for what has been done.
You have an opinion on everything Peter. In your opinion what should we do now?
I do not accept for one minute that this is the appropriate forum to discuss this which is why I have not published your comments before.
From what I understand INC had a process of investigation which I believe involved David Schaeffer.
You should be aware, David Schaeffer was removed from the process before it was completed.
Despite the allegations being disputed, your executive refused to have the matter investigated by an independent professional investigator as required by the INC/COC safechurch policy and explained in detail to us at the initial interview with Pastor David Schaeffer.
Santo Gullo, who is the current NQ area chairman as has been the case for many years was found guilty of initiating an attack on us while supposedly participating in the inquiry, but your senior legal counsel decided that no action whatsoever would be taken against him.
Your senior legal counsel happens to be Pastor Santo Gullos nephew and had assured me personally that he would stand down before he would ever pass judgement on his father or uncle.
I specifically asked in writing if the decisions made by those conducting the inquiry had the approval of yourself and all other members of the executive and it was confirmed.
Apart from that it is your policy that you must have the final say.
So I asked you what you felt we should do now? You still haven’t answered.
You are a member of the executive responsible for ensuring your churches and schools are safe.
What forum do you suggest would allow us to have this matter dealt with.
The president of INC/COC claimed I had initiated an affair. He quoted Australian pastors Kevin and Bev Dales as his source. Kevin was invited to my home to discuss their testimony and when made aware of the accusations he flatly denied Ashley Schmierer’s claims.
The president of COC/INC claimed before a room full of senior pastors and told Australian pastors and members that I was involved in witchcraft. He offers no evidence to his claims.
Pastor David McDonald admitted to involving himself in the prevention of mediation to resolve this matter and yet no action taken and no alternative offered.
Pastor Ashley Schmierer stated that he had to sack us and remove us from the UK.
Despite admitting that we had in fact resigned and returned to Australia as a consequence of his behaviour he refused to retract his statement publicly. As a consequence members of your church in Australia told a local businessman during your safechurch inquiry not to do business with us as we were untrustworthy and had been removed from the UK due to our bad behaviour.
In case you have any doubt. We have never been removed from the UK.
Pastor David Mcdonald oversaw our repatriation to Australia in which all our belongings were stolen by the executive of COC and kept for themselves yet although this has been confirmed by Pastors Ashley Schmierer and David Harland we have never received so much as an apology, they simply stated that a senior member of the Australian COC church had compensated us for it.
Pastor Ashley Schmierer quoted David Harney and stated that I had inherited demons from my late father. No apology. No action taken.
We have a recording of Pastor Ross Abraham casting judgements on us yet he refuses to have the matters appropriately investigated
As I said Peter, what do YOU suggest we do now ????
Rob, my email address is email@example.com. What do you want as a resolution to this?
Rob if you are going to email me I suggest you lose the personal attacks directed at me.
If you give me a way to communicate with you I would be happy to. I agree this is not the forum to communicate these matters but you offer nothing else.
Just to clarify, did you participate in the safechurch inquiry into our allegations and if so could you please clarify what your role was.
No i didnt
I see you have been on this page today and yet you still offer no forum or solution.
It gives the appearance that you were just crowing with no substance to your plea and when I consider that you used your wife’s pain to bolster your credentials, if you are just crowing you should be ashamed of yourself.
You have no power over the actions of the Catholic Church ministers and as such your rant was always going to be a win for you regardless of Pell’s response but you are an executive of INC / COC and as such, not only can you do something but you are obliged to keep your churches and schools safe.
Are you a hypocrit Peter?
Rob, I gave you my email address, but I tell you one thing….this is your last warning from me regarding your personal attacks of me. Your aggressive tone is completely unhelpful here and if I cop any more verbal abuse and name calling from you then that will be me done.
You may choose to read the transcript of the inquiry as you were chosen by mutual agreement BY INC / COC and ourselves as one of the executive members with the least conflict of interest in our case and we were told that you were one of three ministers that would sit in judgement of the evidence in our case.
You just exposed more lies from the executive during the process (farce) that was the COC / INC safechurch inquiry.
Sorry about the mixed communication as there is a delay in the response and it has come through to me out of the order they were sent.
We were told that you as a member of the executive of COC / INC received a full copy of the allegations made by us and against us. In fact the inquiry was held up at times while we waited for the entire executive to meet and discuss our case.
The policies and procedures that we had agreed to were very quickly discarded and changed to suit those accused. They were allowed to meet and discuss all aspects of the case and only after they had months to align their stories were they ” officially given the accusations” .at which time your policy requires them to respond in three days. You can see how this would corrupt the integrity of the process.
Despite this they still needed to avoid the inquiry and for all the extreme cases of abusive behaviour that was proven, not one minister was even made to apologise let alone reprimanded and ministers who have held executive positions for decades were beyond the reach of the executive that grants them their credentials.
We were told that the area chairman of North Queensland was beyond the reach of the executives powers because he was a volunteer. The majority of Red Frogs and Global Care leadership are volunteers. Most of your children’s ministries are volunteers. Your schools are full of volunteers and yet we are meant to believe that they are beyond the power of the governing body charged with the safety of the people who engage in these groups.
You have one safechurch policy and it covers volunteers as well as employed members.
You have kindly asked what we want. Thank you.
We want what we have always wanted. We want the executive of INC / COC to honestly and with integrity afford us our rights as laid out in both your constitution and your safechurch policy.
We want a forum in which the accusations made against us and the accusations we have made can be investigated openly and without bias or prejudice.
If allegations are found to be true then the pathway for possible outcomes are laid out in your safechurch policy.
We cannot nor have we ever demanded an outcome. We first want the truth and as you stated in your letter to Pell, that will be powerful in itself.
Thank you for offering you email, my wife just made me aware of it as I wrote this letter
I just read your reply that stated that if I didn’t change my tone and stop abusing you you would “be done”
I just wanted to acknowledge your statement and assure you that I will keep my tone civil and ask that you act on the information you have been given.
If you read the final response and correspondence between Pastor Ashley Schmierer and those conducting the inquiry you will see that although he refused to participate in the hearing, the Australian INC / COC executive were able to determine that he had nothing to answer to.
This was one of our fears when we were asked to sign the documents and participate in your safechurch enquiry but pastor David Schaeffer explained that if there was a dispute of the facts in our allegations, the executive would contract the services of an independant investigator who would take it out of the hands of those who may have a conflict of interest. David went on to explain the caliber of investigator and stated that they would cost over $100,000. You can see how he gave us confidence in the integrity of the safechurch process.
Successive COC / INC executive members have made promises to us and to date they have all lied. They will tell you that we are impossible to deal with. Look at the facts and you will see that is also a lie.
It seems the whole country think that it is beyond belief that George Pell is refusing to return to Australia and participate in the inquiry and yet the executive of COC had no problem with Ashley Schmierer refusing to participate in an inquiry conducted by the organisation that he is the president of.
Pastor Ashley Schmierer has used his influence as the president of your churches to directly involve many Australian leaders in his campaign to destroy our credibility in his quest to silence us. Pastor Kevin and Bev Dales, Adelaide,
Pastors Santo Gullo and Lance Dodds, Pastor David David McDonald, pastors Charlie and Jenny Dalla Vechia, pastor Dan Offarrell, pastor Neil Miers just to name a few. He has caused immeasurable division in my immediate family and as a consequence I have not had any social contact with my brother for nine years.
Despite the fact that Ashley Schmierer has caused immeasurable damage to the lives of those involved he is still prepared to hide behind others.
Peter, if you and your wife could have this inquiry dealt with in a just manner and find the truth regardless of who is embarrassed, we will be forever grateful.
Rob and Carol Harney
Please understand that everytime we have the opportunity to bring an end to the ongoing abuse we are made to endure, simply because Ashley Schmierer was embarrassed and afraid of being exposed we want the person who is acting as an advocate for justice to know how we think.
If that makes us appear desperate, so be it. We are!
When you raise these matters with the executive, listen to who is standing against a fair hearing and then ask yourself, what is their interest in this case and should that disqualify them?
According to your safechurch procedure we had reached the stage of an independant investigation and then it was derailed. Why?
If Brian Housten and the ACCC could turn back time, you can be sure they would pay a lot more attention to any conflict of interest those dealing with Frank’s abuse may have had as well as their adherence to ACCC policy and procedure.
Why do INC pastors get to decide that we are of less value than them?
Why do they get to break up my family to hide their own shame?
Why do my children have to miss out on their extended family and their only living grandmother, when all we did was say yes to the leadership of COC when they asked us to serve overseas?
Dave Harney’s daughter was our flower girl and we didn’t even know she had been married, Why?
When we phoned David Harney for help stop Ashley’s abusive treatment of us in the nineties, Dave told me that he was going to fly over and sought Ashley out as Neil Miers had told him that he had witnessed how abusive Ashley was toward us and that there would be a blow up.
How was this ever allowed to excalate into the destructive force that it is.
What special anointing from God allows Ashley to break our lives for twenty years and be fully protected by COC / INC. He has masterfully implicated anyone who had the power to stop his abuse and rendered them powerless to expose his corruption.
Please stand apart from the crowd and show mercy and deal justly as your creed suggests you will.
I am not sure Rob why you are continuing to communicate in this inappropriate forum even after I have given you my email address.
From now on I will communicate with you on your email account. Sorry for any inconvenience?
I thought you would also communicate with us but when there was no email to acknowledge what we had told you or even that you were prepared to look into it I rightly or wrongly felt this was a safer forum.
Please acknowledge our letters. It is quite severe on us every time we go through this and to have our comments acknowledged is very powerful and removes a considerable amount of anxiety.
We look forward to your email.
Rob and Carol Harney
I have read your comments
I have read your comments, “and what?????”
Rob, clearly you want to keep using this public forum even though I have said multiple times not to. I was in conference all last week and then flew to Melbourne, I just got home and have been on the phone all arvo co-ordinating Global Care’s disaster response to Cyclone Winston. Frankly I have found your impatience, your aggressive comments and your name calling of me to be somewhat of a disincentive to progress this any further.
I don’t understand your reference to my tone or impatience. I wasn’t asking for an inquiry to be held over the weekend but simply the courtesy of telling us if you intend to do anything.
You have also kept corresponding on this forum and as yet have not chosen to use our email.
I have not threatened you in any way and those who have read the blog responses have not found my comments harsh, rude or aggressive, I guess it must be a cultural difference in the way we speak. Sorry if it appears rude or aggressive or anything other than factual.
I hope you are able to give us some idea of what you plan to do regarding the information I have given you and I would appreciate it if you would send your response to firstname.lastname@example.org so that I know you have not just forgotten about us.
Thank you for all you do as an executive and your patience in these matters.
Rob and Carol Harney