I have been deeply concerned by the malicious attack launched on Archbishop George Pell of Sydney by the 60 Minutes program. My first response was daily prayer for His Grace. My second was that all Catholics have the right and duty to express anger over this public attack on our leadership.
I have written letters to the editors of newspapers which published unbalanced articles (none that I read offered any defence of Archbishop Pell, or fully reported his response to the allegations).
I would like both to encourage everyone to do the same and offer suggestions about what to say.
Firstly, I read what Archbishop Pell had to say in full. His statement is available on the Sydney Archdiocese website [and in the present edition of AD2000]. I was looking for what the news reports didn't bother to report.
Archbishop Pell, upon being made Archbishop of Melbourne, made addressing the problem of sexual abuse by clergy a priority and within three months announced the appointment of an independent commissioner to hear complaints, set up a compensation panel and established a counselling service for victims. As a package, this was pioneering work in the world.
The Archbishop also pointed out the implausibility of the accusation since that as an auxilary bishop (as he was at the time of the alleged "bribe") he simply had no power to disburse funds or purchase property. This point was not made in any report that I read, either.
It is incumbent upon ordinary Catholics to come to Dr Pell's defence and demand that our media (the media that we all pay for!) treats our leadership with proper respect and is fair in column-inch terms - if nothing else - in printing responses to the slanderous accusations.
Clemton Park, NSW