The calls for Pell's resignation show the double standard of media judgment

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 04, 2016

In four days of hostile questioning, an Australian investigating commission produced no evidence that Cardinal George Pell had covered up sexual abuse. Could he have been more diligent in following up on complaints? Absolutely; he admitted that himself. But among the many bishops who mishandled the sex-abuse problem, Cardinal Pell barely merits a mention. He may have been negligent, but he was not complicit.

Cardinal Pell did not knowingly transfer an abusive priest to new parish assignments, to keep him out of trouble. He did not lie to parents of molested children, telling them that their complaint was ludicrous. Sad to say, dozens of bishops have been demonstrably guilty of these greater offenses.

Yet in Australia, and now in Rome, there is a chorus of calls for Cardinal Pell's resignation. Why? Isn't it obvious to a dispassionate observer that liberal media mavens, who have despised Pell for years because of his rock-ribbed defense of Catholic orthodoxy, are pouncing on an opportunity to bring him down? The wisps of evidence of negligence on the part of Cardinal Pell are insignificant in comparison with the thick dossier of evidence against Cardinal Godfried Danneels. But there were few howls of outrage when that Belgian cardinal came out of retirement to play an active role in last year's Synod of Bishops. Why not? Because Cardinal Danneels has long been a darling of the liberal press? Is there any other plausible explanation?

Here in the US, the Oscar win for Spotlight has prompted a new round of calls for the head of Cardinal Bernard Law-- who is now 84 years old, living in quiet retirement in Rome. The investigative campaign launched by the Boston Globe drove Cardinal Law to retire in disgrace (and in this case there was ample evidence to justify the public anger against him). But in the months after the Globe prompted similar investigations all across the country, many other prominent prelates were exposed as guilty of the same sort of callous negligence and dishonesty. Where were the calls for the resignation of Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, or Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles? 

I do not mean to suggest that Cardinal Law should not have stepped down. (For the record, I was among the first to suggest his resignation.) But to this day I find it hard to believe that, in the disatrous debacle that exposed the corruption of the American Catholic hierarchy, his was the only head to roll. What is the message here? That only conservative bishops will be held accountable? 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Ken - Mar. 04, 2016 9:58 PM ET USA

    Yes.

  • Posted by: Mike in Toronto - Mar. 04, 2016 5:22 PM ET USA

    And in any case, Cdl Pell is orthodox, not "conservative". God's blessing on his ministry.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Mar. 04, 2016 12:55 PM ET USA

    I am reminded of St. Alphonsus Ligouri's forced resignation from his beloved Redemptorist order, which contributed to his own sanctity and to the continued viability of the Redemptorists. This is to say that, irrespective of what happens to Cardinal Pell, we must remember that he and we have no lasting earthly city, and let God be God in all things.