Last evening, "60 Minutes Australia" aired a segment about Cardinal George Pell, whom Pope Francis has brought to the Vatican to clean up the Vatican Bank. In light of allegations made in hearings of the Australian royal commission into child abuse, "60 Minutes" interviews papal abuse commission member Peter Saunders, an abuse survivor. The interview is online here.
Peter Saunders says about Pell:
He has now a catalogue of denials, he has a catalogue of denigrating people, of acting with callousness, cold-heartedness, and almost sociopathic, I would go so far as to say, this lack of care.
And Peter Saunders also says about Pell:
I would go so far as to say that I consider him to be quite a dangerous individual. ["Why is he dangerous?" interviewer Tara Brown then asks Saunders, who replies:] I'm interested in supporting survivors and protecting children and people who have covered up, people who have denied, people who have got their stories mixed up around these issues to do with survivors and child abuse, they, to me, represent a danger to the whole progress of child protection.
Cardinal Pell's response via his spokesperson (this is appended to the video linked above):
Cardinal Pell has been informed of the contents of the "60 Minutes" program this evening. The false and misleading claims made against His Eminence are outrageous. . . . In the circumstances, the Cardinal is left no alternative but to consult with his legal advisers.
And all of this creates, of course, quite a quandary for Pope Francis, who appointed Peter Saunders to the Vatican abuse commission and, of course, who also brought Cardinal Pell to the Vatican to be a part of his advisory circle and to oversee the operations of the Vatican Bank — a position of great power. How Francis chooses to respond will prove everything about whether he really intends to be an advocate for real reform of the Catholic church.
This creates a serious quandary for Pope Francis, I underscore, given Peter Saunders's closing remarks in this interview:
I think, given the position of George Pell as a cardinal of the church and a position of huge authority within the Vatican, I think he's a massive, massive thorn in the side of Pope Francis's papacy, if he's allowed to remain. And I think it's critical that he is moved aside, that he's sent back to Australia, and that the pope takes the strongest action against him.
When Pope Francis comes to Philadelphia in September, he will be visiting a local church under the pastoral leadership of Archbishop Charles Chaput, who is, in very many ways, joined at the hip to Cardinal Pell. Both men have been staunch, persistent (and, in my view, conspicuously mean-spirited) culture warriors against LGBT human beings.
So that when I hear Peter Saunders speak of Pell's cold-heartedness and his callous denigration of abuse survivors, I think immediately, too, of how he has treated LGBT human beings including his lesbian cousin with whom he was raised. And I wonder all the more what Pope Francis will say about family matters at the World Meeting on the Family when he comes to Philadelphia.
I have an inkling. I hope that inkling is proven wrong. (And, yes, how the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church have treated and keep treating LGBT human beings is related in the most direct way possible to how they have treated survivors of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic clerics.)
(Thanks to maggie crehan for pointing us to the forthcoming Pell interview in a number of remarks here in the past few days.)
The trailer for last evening's "60 Minutes Australia" program about Pell at the head of the posting is from the network's You Tube page.