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Pell's answers made his lack of empathy for abuse victims apparent

Cardinal George Pell was punctilious in his responses. Occasionally his irritation surfaced, the response of a man who doesn't answer to earthly authorities given he has a direct line to God.

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George Pell in his own words

We look back at some of the Cardinal's most remarkable utterances over four days at the royal commission into child abuse. (Video courtesy ABC News 24)

The thing that amazed, even after all these years, was his lack of affect, his inability to show tenderness to the victims of rape, beatings and other, more imaginative forms of torture by priests, like, say, the stabbing of a live bird with a screwdriver in front of the children who are your defenceless charges.

The alleged bird-stabber was Peter Searson, a Melbourne priest who was almost certainly a psychopath as well as a paedophile.

Asked about the bird incident, Pell told the royal commission: "I don't know whether the bird was already dead but at some stage I certainly was informed of this bizarre happening."

Counsel assisting the royal commission Gail Furness, SC, spoke for anyone who has ever possessed an ounce of empathy and/or a beating human heart when she replied, incredulous: "Does it matter whether the bird was dead?"


Complaints about Searson were legion. He pulled a gun on students. He held a knife to a victim's chest and threatened to plunge it into her. And of course, he sexually abused kids, although they didn't call it that then.

Those were different times, "people had different attitudes then", as Pell reminded us.

That was one of his defences. But the problem was each of the cardinal's defences was logically incompatible with the others.

"I don't think I was obliged to do anything more," he said when questioned about his anaemic response to a delegation who came to him with complaints about Searson.

Which was funny, because in earlier evidence, Pell presented himself as a sort of crusader, a superman in swirling priestly skirts, a young Turk who "was known to be capable of being outspoken".

That was the reason why his superiors and peers had hidden from him the rampant paedophilic activities of priests in his orbit. They were afraid Pell would make trouble.

The thing that amazed, even after all these years, was his lack of affect, his inability to show tenderness to the victims of rape, beatings and other, more imaginative forms of torture by priests.

But another defence Pell pushed was that he never made further inquiries about any of the dodgy priests because the children and parents who complained to him never asked him to take any action.

"Why was it necessary for people to ask you to do something rather than for you to accept the information and do something?" asked the commission's chair, Justice Peter McClellan.

Listening to these horrors – the birds stabbed and the children raped, the tales of tiny trusting people being made to sit on the lap of this foul priest to say confession, or groped by that foul priest after vespers, story after story of the institutionalised, sociopathic coldness of the church which ignored these children and sent them away to be violated again – were the victims who travelled to Rome to hear the cardinal's evidence.

A ragtag and deeply damaged band of Davids fronting up to Goliath to look him in the eye. Deep in enemy territory, they sat with straight-backed resilience, bearing witness.

They were eloquent and full of grace in the most difficult of circumstances.

They deserve a medal, a ticker tape parade, an award.

Better still, justice.


Former prime minister Tony Abbott this week denied he was behind the leaking of classified defence documents.

He insisted that he doesn't leak, and he doesn't "background against colleagues". Who knows what the latter actually means? Does it mean he never talks to journalists off the record? That seems implausible, particularly given how often he pops up in the pages of The Australian.

Whatever the case, it is clear Abbott and his supporters will continue to dance with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in this way, soaking up oxygen in the political debate and doing everything possible to show him in a poor light.

Abbott has said he thinks he would have won the election had he been kept on as leader.

That's as good as saying he thinks he could win one again.


The greatest love story of our time belongs not to Wills and Kate, or to Kanye and Kim.

It is closer to home. Shane Warne, formerly a cricketer, and the celebrity representative of a nicotine-replacement product until he was busted smoking a durry in a Barbados bar while on tour, has a reputation as a lover of women.

Now he is retired, Warne roams the world as a sort of free-range bogan-ambassador for the plucky Australian spirit. Nowhere was this more apparent than when he won the hand of Elizabeth Hurley, an English actress who is beautiful, posh, and (we can say this because he's ours), way out of Warne's league.

The two enjoyed a paparazzi-sponsored courtship, most notably when Warne was spotted kissing Hurley at the races in an open-mouthed style that looked like he had mistaken her for a beer and was trying to skoll her. They were engaged but in 2013 they broke up. Since then Warne has displayed a severe case of mention-itis when it comes to his former fiancee.

This week, during his appearance on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, Warne said of Hurley: "I've never got along better with any female in my life". He also revealed that she kept the engagement ring when they split. Previously Hurley has said that "of course" she still loves Warne, and he said on radio that he hasn't moved on. It is a romantic cat-and-mouse game just like in the classic novels, but with Twitter and Hello! magazine standing in for maiden aunts.

Take him back, Liz! You can keep him if you like.


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