George Pell’s sentence handed down earlier this week has polarised the nation, and some say, the world, with many saying the decision is fair and others calling it ‘soft’.
Mr Pell was given a six-year sentence, eligible for parole in just over three years. He’ll turn 78 in protective custody, where he’ll remain relatively safe from many other inmates who were victims of paedophilia, child sex abuse and friends of those who may have also fallen afoul of the corrosive cancer eating away the Catholic Church.
He may die in prison, but his accuser – in his own words – will not rest.
It’s easy to be angry about this whole affair, but as Waleed Aly sagely points out, that is why justice is not put into the hands of victims. Mr Aly praised the judge for his handling of the sentence, writing:
“We’re in an era where anger dominates our sense of morality. To be angry is to be righteous, while to temper that anger is to be somehow morally complacent, apologetic, complicit even. Of course, there’s nothing new – or wrong – in anger as a moral response. It’s a crucial part of our moral vocabulary, particularly in the face of something heinous.
“But there is something new – and wrong – in it being our only moral resource, our only way of demonstrating moral seriousness. That’s why the phenomenon of outrage culture is so runaway: we find precious few alternatives for expressing our moral agency, so we get angry at the minor and the momentous alike. The result is that we’re forgetting how to hold our anger in tension with anything else, especially in serious cases.”
During Mr Pell’s sentencing, County Court chief judge Peter Kidd highlighted the heinous deeds committed by the former cardinal, but also intimated that part of Mr Pell’s punishment would have been, and will be, his public vilification.
Many are satisfied with the length of the sentence, but others say it is not reflective of the crimes committed which could have put Mr Pell away for a maximum of 50 years.
One wonders if his position saved him from such a sentence. Let’s not forget that it would have been more a symbolic sentencing – regardless of his standing in the church and in the eyes of the ‘big man’ upstairs, he will not live that long.
In an article on ABC News, Louise Milligan, author of Cardinal, The Rise and Fall of George Pell and a witness in the case, said when she saw Mr Pell in the sentencing hearing, he looked as if he’d aged years in a matter of weeks. He was no longer the man of power, but a feeble, greying man in a beige jacket and black shirt – sans collar and Order of Australia pin.
A sentence has been handed down, but this whole affair isn’t over. Mr Pell still maintains his innocence and intends to appeal his conviction. If it happened that his conviction was overturned, we will no doubt see a public parade of pitchforks and firesticks. This case has become a litmus test for what many would like to see happen to a plethora of priests accused of the same inexcusable crimes.
Many are disgusted with the church, but is it a fair assumption that all people leading or involved in the church are bad? No. The church, with all its failures, has helped millions throughout history. It’s still helping millions today. There are phenomenal people of faith who are doing wonderful things in the community.
And while that doesn’t excuse past atrocities and ongoing acts of sexual abuse, we shouldn’t paint all people of faith with the same brush. Church is separate from faith. The same goes for all religions. Everyone has the right to believe.
Still, if Mr Pell has committed these crimes, he should be put away for life – however long that may be. He should receive the same treatment as those on the lowest rung found guilty of the same crimes. If guilty, his public vilification is not punishment enough.
We just shouldn’t forget that until he is truly found guilty, he should be treated like a human.
What do you think of Mr Pell’s sentence? Was is just? Do you think there’s a chance that his conviction overturned? Tell us what you think in our Friday Flash Poll.
And, of course, we welcome your opinion in the comments section below.
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