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Published: 01 March 2019
Author: Ian Dallas

Pell verdict: have we learnt nothing from the Royal Commission?

Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty, and the news and opinion sites are filled with commentary about the perpetrator. Was he unfairly convicted, will he succeed on his appeal, what will life be like for him in jail? Former prime ministers are falling over themselves to say what a fine fellow he is, and how they cannot believe he would be guilty of such behaviour.

And through this screeching airing of opinions from those who either did not attend court at all, or only heard some of the evidence, do we hear anything about those so grievously harmed by the conduct a jury unanimously decided he had committed?

Two 13-year-old boys, who like so many other children, felt unable to tell anyone at the time of what they had endured. The courage of the survivor who did give evidence, knowing his friend suffered an untimely death, is extraordinary. He has endured the long process of the legal system to tell his story, and yet we hear nothing of his evidence or the impact on his life.

The complainant has made a statement, and asked that his privacy be respected. We should honour that request. But if the next few months are all about George Pell, and whether justice has been done, we will have ignored and dismissed the prime lessons of the Royal Commission.

The Royal Commission taught us to listen to children when they had the bravery to speak up about traumatic experiences. And it taught us that “pillars of the community”, “good blokes”, and otherwise trusted and respected members of the community, often in positions of authority, are capable of the most repulsive behaviour.

We would all be well advised to take a moment to reflect, and to consider the position of this complainant, and others like him, who have had the bravery to speak out against those who have abused their authority and power.

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