BOOK REVIEW: The Pell Diaries: Volume III – Hope Reborn

27 Oct 2022

By Contributor

Australian Cardinal George Pell speaks during Phoenix Diocese’s White Mass annual banquet 18 November, 2021. Photo: CNS/Jeff Grant, The Catholic Sun.

On the 7th of April 2020, seven High Court Justices with over 160 years combined judicial experience unanimously found His Eminence, Cardinal Pell, innocent of the charges laid against him.

He had been in goal, including solitary confinement for most of the time, for 406 long days and nights. There was not one dissenting voice from the bench.

Not even on the most minor of details. He was exonerated, completely.

It is a day that will live in infamy for the State of Victoria who, unprepared, inconsistent, unabashed in their own personal convictions and personal vitriol for the man would, embarrassingly, come crushing down.

And while His Eminence does cover some parts of the proceedings before the High Court, I would strongly recommend that readers personally peruse the High Court transcripts to see what a web the State tangled itself into.

It is an interesting insight into the State’s paltry prosecution likely resulting from collusion or what is more generously known as “group think.”

Volume Three of Cardinal Pell’s prison journals, entitled The High Court Frees an Innocent Man, is just that.

Pope Francis poses for a photo with Australian Cardinal George Pell, former prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, during an audience at the Vatican 12 October, 2020. Photo: CNS/Vatican Media.

However, it does not commence in victory but in uncertainty and angst following his unsuccessful trial in the Appellate Court of Victoria. Nothing is certain and nor is it guaranteed.

The third iteration of Carinal Pell’s prison journals opens shortly before the holy season of Christmas when it appears that the High Court of Australia is likely to grant a hearing to His Eminence on the grounds that were laid against him by the State of Victoria, three of its Justices, the Victorian Department of Public Prosecutions and Victoria Police itself. And what a victory it would be.

Unlike his second volume where it seems that hope has been extinguished, for the reader at least, Cardinal Pell’s third volume of his prison experience quickly finds itself in the new year of 2020.

The High Court seems like it is going to rule in favour of an appeal hearing and His Eminence is finally moved to a new goal that isn’t as difficult as Barwon Prison.

However, despite the new environs and a hope reborn (from the readers’ perspective) it still seems to take an eternity to find His Eminence conveying his victorious High Court experience. Upon reading this third journal, you may find yourself wishing to jump ahead to the finale.

Australian Cardinal George Pell is surrounded by police as he leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Australia on 6 October, 2017. Photo: CNS/Mark Dadswell, Reuters.

But it is certainly worth the read and more so worth the wait.

While Cardinal Pell is still subject to many of the rigours that one “normally” experiences in gaol, it is pleasant to see him writing of easier access to family, friends and advisors. Not always, but mostly so.

Cardinal Pell openly express optimism at a free hearing but also expresses caution given his experience from earlier days where it was anticipated that the Appellate Court would rule in his favour. While an unsavoury outcome befell him in Victoria, he notes the importance of having the bench of the High Court hear his appeal outside of the State of Victoria.

In the end, Cardinal Pell faces the holy season of Lent “again” before awaiting the outcome of his trial. In the meantime, he calls out the many sections of the anti-theist media who, now suddenly believing in resurrection, openly report on a number of historical claims that were previously rejected by much lesser courts, facts and proceedings.

His final entries into his prison journals are a final relief for those who seek justice and for those who wish His Eminence well. He finally enters New South Wales, away from what he terms as “the People’s Republic” to the great feast of Easter that awaits him.

It is undoubted that there are many people in today’s society who do not agree with Cardinal Pell’s world-view, his theology, philosophy or teaching on anthropological matters and where the world has come from and where it is heading. The joy of the Church is that is it has many charisms that calls people from all walks or life., and perspectives.

However, his three journals are, and will remain for a long time, a testimony to a hope that cannot be extinguished by human hands, a faith that no zealot can drown and a love for all people regardless of their background, belief or character.

This is not a deification of the man but an example of person who does not lash out at his assures, respects those who have had difficult pasts within the Church and looks toward healing, as Cardinal Pell best-exemplified in the world as the Bishop in Melbourne in 1996.

As the Great Saint Pope John Paul II said, “You end up resembling the company you keep” and these journals are worth keeping company.