Alan Jones Defends Cardinal George Pell on Q&A
By Kate Aubusson
Sydney Morning Herald
March 8, 2016
What is the minimum age of moral culpability?
Somewhere north of 28-years-old, according to Alan Jones.
|Alan Jones pledged his belief in gender equality on Monday night. Photo: ABC|
On Monday night's Q&A, the radio presenter appeared to absolve all those aged 28-years-and-under of moral and ethical responsibility as he defended Cardinal George Pell's response to the sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Church.
The shock jock was responding to an audience question which suggested Pell - now one of the highest ranking Vatican officials - should be removed from his post over his lack of action on reports of abuse.
Jones called the discoveries of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse "almost too grotesque to even define" and agreed Pell's choice of words during his evidence to the Royal Commission were "appalling".
But he defended Pell's unresponsiveness to cases of abuse during the cardinal's early career within the church.
"I think there has been a fairly unfortunate focus on Pell in the sense that he was 28 years of age in 1969 when all this happened.
"And there is a presumption in the way in which this has happened that then Pell was the Cardinal and should have done something," Jones said.
"I hope they don't ask us what we were doing at 28 years of age. I can't even remember what I did last Monday," he said, prompting a stinging response from fellow panelist, media commentator Josh Zepps.
"Well, we weren't covering up rapists," Zepps said.
"It's so disingenuous to imply that the structures, the power structures in the church are just sort of accidental and don't serve the people who are in power," he said.
"I tell you what, if there is a higher court, which the church seems to believe in, you would imagine Cardinal Pell is going to have his day," he said.
|Josh Zepps responds to Alan Jones' defense of Cardinal George Pell on Q&A. Photo: ABC|
Federal government frontbencher Michaelia Cash also weighed in on Jones' comment: "I think despite what you've said, Alan, about he was only 28 at the time, what we've all seen over the last few weeks, over the last few years … was that complete lack of empathy".
The moment was not missed by followers of the #qanda Twitter feed, with users pouncing on Jones' comment.
On his second day of questioning by the royal commission, Pell drew an audible gasp from those listening to his testimony when asked about convicted paedophile, former priest Gerard Risdale.
"The suffering, of course, was real and I very much regret that but I had no reason to turn my mind to the extent of the evil that Ridsdale had perpetrated," he said.
Cardinal Pell has repeatedly denied knowledge of Ridsdale's offending in the 1970s, saying it was a "gross deception" that the then Bishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns and other senior members did not inform him of the claims in his then role as a consulter to the Diocese.