“Cardinal Pell on the Bolt Report attempted to turn the reality of victimhood on its head”

Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, President of Blue Knot Foundation National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma, provides her commentary in relation to George Pell’s exclusive interview with Sky News, broadcast on Tuesday 14 April:

The interview with Cardinal Pell on the Bolt Report attempted to turn the reality of victimhood on its head – focussing on Cardinal Pell’s suffering and impugning the motives of a swathe of institutions and individuals – the irony being that The Royal Commission inquired into such institutions and found 4,000 of them had reported allegations of child sexual abuse against them.

Cardinal Pell posited an alleged bias of the Royal Commission, a conspiracy of the Victorian police force and its Premier, of the ABC and of the victim who gave evidence the on which the jury originally convicted him… and all against him, with no inkling as to why, seeing himself as the “scapegoat that’s copped most of this.”

Both Andrew Bolt and Cardinal Pell used a presumption of innocence, not a failure to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, to sanctimoniously judge and patronise the “poor fellow” – the courageous victim who spent five years reliving his trauma, telling his truth about one of the most powerful Catholic leaders in the world, and propose that he had been “used.”

Almost 2,500 survivors told the Royal Commission about sexual abuse in an institution managed by the Catholic Church. This was 61.8 per cent of all survivors who reported sexual abuse in a religious institution. It was 36.2 per cent of all survivors who attended a private session.

While Pell did not defend the actions of the convicted serial paedophile, Gerard Risdale – a man he had accompanied to court and allegedly played a role in moving him from parish to parish – saying that Risdale “regrets” his dastardly crimes is beyond minimising.

Once again Cardinal Pell celebrated his Melbourne Response which for many victims was a legalistic re-traumatising, disempowering mechanism to protect the Church’s coffers in the first instance.

When asked about the hopefully soon-to-be released unredacted reports by the Royal Commission into the goings on in the Ballarat diocese and Melbourne archdiocese, Pell smugly claimed that he would be very surprised if there were “any bad findings against me at all.” Many predict that its findings will be damming.

The Commission identified numerous cases where senior officials of Catholic Church authorities knew about allegations of child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions but didn’t act. This is not likely to be any different in Ballarat – nor arguably did Pell’s testimony at the Commission do him any favours.

The Commission identified the need to take allegations seriously, to listen to and hear the testimony of victims, to empathise with their suffering and provide support, and ensure a fair and equitable justice process.

It did not question survivors’ motives for coming forward. It did not demean them. And above all it focussed on those who had suffered – victims of child sexual abuse.

It is time for the abuses of power, cover of secrecy, and systems of betrayal to end. If there are other charges against Cardinal Pell, they must be investigated. If other victims come forward, they must be heard. The redactions in the Royal Commission reports must be reversed.

Justice must apply to everyone equally and under all circumstances, always.

About Dr Cathy Kezelman AM

Dr Kezelman AM is a medical practitioner, mental health consumer advocate and President of Blue Knot Foundation National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma. She worked in medical practice for 20 years, mostly as a GP. Under her stewardship Blue Knot Foundation has grown from a peer support organisation to a national centre of excellence combining a prominent consumer voice with that of researchers, academics and clinicians advocating for socio-political trauma-informed change and informed responsiveness to complex trauma. Dr Kezelman was awarded an AM “for significant service to community health as a supporter and advocate for survivors of child abuse” in 2015.

About Blue Knot Foundation

Blue Knot Foundation is Australia’s National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma, empowering recovery and building resilience for the more than five million adult Australians (1 in 4) with a lived experience of complex trauma, including childhood trauma and abuse, their families and communities. The organisation played a pivotal role supporting the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, in advocating for fair and equitable redress, and now in supporting people applying for redress, as well as engaging with the Disability Royal Commission. 

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