Pope Francis, an ex-bouncer football fan, and Cardinal George Pell, an ex-Australian footballer, appreciate a good match, by Church rules of course. In a modern David and Goliath scenario under Australian Royal Commission rules, Peter Saunders, a courageous UK priest sex abuse survivor and devout Catholic, has boldly taken on Pell, the second most powerful man in the Catholic Church, before a crowd of over a billion Catholics. Pope Francis wanted a “mess”, and now he has created a big one by picking both Pell and Saunders to serve under him. Given the upcoming US papal visit aimed mainly at influencing Catholic and evangelical voters to elect a new “Vatican friendly” US president in next year’s elections, the “Saunders-Pell match”, over holding bishops accountable for protecting priest child abusers, has worldwide implications.
The pope seems too savvy not to have seen this mess coming. He knew both men’s history and enough about their temperaments. He also knew making bishops accountable for protecting priest child abusers was the most important challenge he faced worldwide. And, as a realist, he also knew and knows that robotic and compromised bishops appointed by his complicit predecessors were not, and are not, up to the task of policing themselves, as is still shown almost on a daily basis at ABUSE TRACKER .
Judy Courtin, from Australia’s prestigious Monash University’s law faculty, has extensively researched abuse within the Catholic Church and has been following closely the Royal Commission’s extensive investigation into institutional child sexual abuse there. She recently noted that the Saunders-Pell conflict was problematic for the Vatican, given that both men were appointed by Francis. “Problematic” may be an understatement!
“It will have set the cat among the pigeons,” Courtin recently said. “They’ll be running around in the Vatican with their advisers about how to manage this. Pell and Francis are supposed to be buddies, they like each other, but Saunders was also appointed by Francis, …”, she also noted. Saunders would be viewed by victims as a hero for his comments, she added. Indeed, Saunders is already viewed as a hero by millions of concerned Catholics worldwide, not just by abuse survivors and not just in the UK.
Cardinal George Pell has now been asked to give evidence to the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse at its second hearings in Ballarat (his original diocese) later this year. The announcement of Pell’s new testimony scheduling follows a call by Peter Saunders for Pell to be removed by the pope in Saunder’s remarkable recent interview here on Australia’s 60 Minutes.
Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.