Having listened to Cardinal George Pell's evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse during his appearance via videolink from Rome, we at the Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) are both disappointed and saddened.

Disappointed that the most predictable and dominant feature of Cardinal Pell's testimony is… the lack of it:

  • He doesn't remember.
  • He can't recall.
  • He wasn't privy to those matters.
  • No-one told him.
  • Everyone around him deceived him.
  • Those documents weren't brought to his attention.
  • The allegations and complaints weren't raised with him.
  • It wasn't seen as that serious/extensive back then.
  • It was all a long time ago.
  • He had no reason to turn his mind to it, it wasn't of much interest to him.

Saddened for the victims and survivors that Pell's evidence is like a slap in the face, a reminder of the abuse they endured and of the disbelief and disregard with which their pleas for help were met. Apparently, they remember it like it was yesterday. It is and was tragically serious for them, and their trauma continues to this day. We acknowledge and support them all, including those who bravely travelled to Rome to face Cardinal Pell in person, as he gives evidence.

With exquisite timing, the film Spotlight, about clergy paedophilia and cover-up in Boston, won the Best Picture Academy Award on the first day of his testimony. The producer's acceptance speech was supremely relevant to Cardinal Pell's Royal Commission appearance:

"This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican… Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith."

Cardinal Pell says that he wants to answer the Royal Commission's questions. He may have even prayed for his God to help and guide him with his evidence.

AFA President Michael Boyd asks:

"Why does George's God appear to have answered those likely prayers by doing… nothing at all, including and especially to jog the Cardinal's memory so that his testimony might provide some answers and closure for survivors?

If a caring God existed, wouldn't he have helped George Pell to give victims and survivors the truth and accountability that they clearly need and want, to help them heal and move forward?

Pell characterised the church he was an officer of in this way – 'Counsel, this was an extraordinary world. A world of crimes and cover ups and people did not want the status quo to be disturbed.'

Could a loving, caring and all powerful God be the creator of such an institution?"

The AFA calls on George Pell (as no prayers appear to have been answered by any god) to do his very utmost to help the victims and survivors heal.

A good start would be to abandon the Melbourne Response and commit to full and fair compensation to all victims with no requirement for confidentiality on the part of victims. Let them be compensated – let their stories be told.

Michael Boyd

Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
PO Box 1062
Lane Cove NSW 1595

Phone: (02) 8007 4503
Email: [email protected]

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