Yesterday in Melbourne, George Pell was found guilty of child sex abuse.
Nearly two decades ago, I worked in administration for a Catholic adoption agency. My role mainly revolved around preparing documents for those adopted prior to the Adoption Act 1984, who were seeking information regarding birth parents, or knowledge of their birth family’s medical history.
It was a job fraught with many different emotions. Some adopted persons knew nothing of their start in life, so presented with shock or rage over what they perceived to be a lie. Birth mothers, still with simmering anger over the forced relinquishment of their baby, either through actual pressure from religion or family, or societal pressures of the era, would phone the agency, demanding full disclosure of their child’s new name, family, everything. The laws prevented this level of information, unfortunately, which only increased a birth mother’s anger and powerlessness. Of course, there were happy stories too, many of them. Stories of birth mothers meeting their relinquished child, introducing them to their siblings and becoming a new, meshed family.
The records themselves were harrowing to read. Catholic nuns describing birth mothers as ‘of dull intelligence’ or background information along the lines of ‘BM’s third pregnancy. A soul lost to the dark ways of the world’. One relinquishing mother had several pregnancies, the first of which at age 14. She later she wrote to the agency requesting no contact if any of her children tried to reach her. She had been abused by her father and the pregnancies of course were his. Facing those children was beyond painful, bringing up terrifying memories that I can only assume she tried to bury deep within. At the time of her abuse, there was no attempt from the nuns to understand the reasons behind the pregnancies, only assumptions and judgements. Which is, basically, organised religion’s MO. And, sadly, the way life worked back in the 1950s and 1960s.
Back to Pell. I have met him. It was the time when Pell was the head Catholic guy in Melbourne (I forget what it’s called…arch something?? Bishop, maybe?) During my role at the adoption agency, I had to attend a function at the Melbourne Archdiocese and he was present. He wandered from person to person, shaking hands and making small talk. When he approached me, my hackles rose. There was something off, not-quite-right, about him. He gave off vibes of being cold, distant, arrogant.
When the news first broke last year that charges had been laid against him I cheered inside. All those years ago, I had guessed there was something inherently evil about the man. I know it’s easy for me to lay claim to these feelings now, years after meeting him, and the day after he’s been convicted for child sex abuse. But I always felt he was not a nice person.
And yesterday, the city saw how he’d ruined at least two people’s lives. He made them feel at fault for his own perversion and wrongdoing. He took the trust that families held in him, due to the nature of his position, and without care or regard, threw it back in their faces. Honestly, how did he think he’d get away this evil behaviour…in this life or the next.
I hope he goes to jail. Or suffers a cruel, painful death. Or burns in everlasting hell. Or all of those.
My heart goes out to the victims of sexual abuse. All victims. May you find peace in your life, and the knowledge that the fault lies with others. Not you.