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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