Suddenly George Pell was full of indignation because he is not being treated fairly. And then he destroyed the last remnants of his credibility by claiming that the Victorian Police and the ABC were in league and conspiring against him.
It was obvious from the ABC 7.30 program that the allegations that George Pell had sexually molested young boys were being made by the boys (who are now adults) themselves. Real-life people standing up and making real live accusations. Not leaks from the police to the ABC as the 7.30 reporter made quite clear.
Cardinal Pell now has a massive credibility problem.
The Victorian Police Commissioner has confirmed there is an ongoing investigation into complaints about the Cardinal and that there is a possibility that charges will be laid. If charges are laid, there will be renewed calls for George Pell to return to Australia. There is no doubt he will refuse on the grounds of ill-health and this will only confirm the public perception of his guilt.
People are entitled to the presumption of innocence. The problem for Cardinal Pell is that the allegations, however baseless, confirm a widely held narrative. And that narrative is that his defence and protection of the paedophile priests was done out of sympathy for and understanding of them. There might even have been a niggling suspicion that he was one of the offenders. This latest incident will only have confirmed this in the public mind, however unfairly.
His continued refusal to return to Australia, for whatever reason, will only serve to confirm public perceptions of his guilt.
Things weren’t helped by his friend and colleague Archbishop Dennis Hart saying he had known Cardinal Pell for more than 55 years, and the 7.30 allegations did not reflect the man he knew or the behaviour which he had observed over the years he has known him.
But then Dennis Hart was not at the Eureka swimming pool where the alleged sexual assaults took place.