The faithful reflect at St Mary's after a week of Cardinal Pell's testimony

By Stephanie Wood
Sydney Morning Herald
March 6, 2016

Monsignor William Mullins leads mass at St Mary's Cathedral.
Photo by Michele Mossop

St Mary's Cathedral.
Photo by Michele Mossop

Alan and Geraldine Lee from Brisbane after mass at St Mary's Cathedral: "I don’t think the man was evil, I think he just wasn’t able to show any empathy.”
Photo by Michele Mossop

As Monsignor William Mullins led Sunday mass at St Mary's Cathedral, some flapped the order of service booklets before their faces to keep cool; others absorbed the words on the pages in their hands.

If they'd started on the first page, they would have read an attention-grabbing introductory missive from St Mary's Dean, Father Don Richardson. "I prayed six exorcisms last week," the dean wrote.

It wasn't just Cardinal Pell's testimony that put the Catholic Church in the headlines last week: according to an ABC news report, the Psychology Council of New South Wales is investigating a Wollongong psychologist and priest for comments about exorcism he made to triple j broadcaster John Safran.

It was, thought Father Richardson, "an opportune teaching moment".

What he was talking about and what he had prayed were "minor exorcisms", the type performed at the celebration of Baptism – simply, prayers "that the candidates be kept safe from Satan".

"My advice is not to give Satan a foothold ... Try to have a healthy spiritual, mental and physical lifestyle. Don't be complacent about sin and evil."

If he had chosen to use the other, arguably more significant news event of the week as an "opportune teaching moment", his words about complacency, sin and evil might have had equal application.

But the news event in Rome was only hinted at in the mass. Alongside prayers for the Fijians affected by Cyclone Winston and "for families divided over issues of inheritance or relationships", prayers were offered for "those whose lives are overshadowed by enduring painful memories of sexual abuse or physical violence ... may all members of the church be instruments of healing."

"Lord hear our prayer."

For at least some of the gathered faithful, the reference was likely wasted. Outside the cathedral, one softly spoken Irish woman said she was visiting on a cruise ship and knew nothing of Cardinal Pell or his testimony.

Nor was Lisa Park aware of the cardinal or his appearance from Rome. But the visiting pediatric cochlear implant audiologist from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine noted that, in the United States, the church's response to abuse continued to grow as an issue. "It's still very polarising."

On the way home on the plane, she planned to watch the Academy Award-winning Spotlight, which tells the story of a team of Boston Globe reporters and their investigation into a cover-up of sexual abuse within the church.

But Brisbane visitors Geraldine and Alan Lee had been following Cardinal Pell's testimony all week. "It certainly does make you feel very sad and disillusioned with what went on," said Mrs Lee.

"I just think that Pell was a man who had a very unfortunate personality; he couldn't show compassion. I don't think the man was evil, I think he just wasn't able to show any empathy."

Mrs Lee said she thought the cardinal's testimony was plausible. Still she said, it had shaken her confidence in the church's structures. "I think they probably need to do a heck of a lot more. They're going to have to rebuild from the bottom up."

Some of the child abuse survivors who had travelled to Rome to witness Cardinal Pell's testimony, David Risdale and Andrew Collins, returned home to Melbourne on Sunday.



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