Last night, I watched a mumbling, forgetful old man in front of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
To begin with, he acknowledged that his recollections would be imperfect – that his memory might fail him in this hearing.
Then his evidence was punctuated with:
“I can’t remember.”
“I’m struggling to remember.”
“I can’t clearly recall.”
“I have no clear recollection of my knowing.”
“It’s difficult to answer that absolutely.”
“My memory is not infallible.”
“I don’t have perfect recall.”
“My level of recall is not sufficient.”
“It’s over 40 years ago and I can’t recall.”
It’s amazing that there is so much he can’t remember. It’s the same old dodgy tick, “I’m not saying it didn’t happen, I’m just saying I can’t remember that it did.”
Notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale with his friend Cardinal George Pell
I had to remind myself that this is the man who is the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy for the Vatican which makes them their top financial whiz and the third most powerful man in the Vatican. No one really knows how much the Catholic Church is worth but the American Catholic church alone – which has the fourth largest follower base by country, behind Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines – spent $170bn last year. The Australian Federal government spent around $430 billion last year, probably well short of total Catholic Church spending worldwide.
So George is probably one of the most powerful people in the world economy. But how does he do the job when his memory is so fallible.
The saddest aspect of this testimony was that he blamed everybody else, Bishop Ronald Mulkearns and the Catholic Church in particular. No mention of the fact that he held the office of Archbishop, the place where the buck stops.
What George Pell should do is walk into the interview room at Rome’s Hotel Quirinale, go up to the group of survivors of sexual abuse who travelled to Rome, take each one by the hand in turn, look them in the eye and say “I have failed you, I am sorry, please forgive me.”
Is that really too much to ask?