One night at the recent Bishops’ Conference, a number of us were sitting around talking when someone remarked on something surprising. He said there had been greatly increased numbers at his Easter Masses, which was hardly what one would expect after all the bad news in churches in recent times. This, however, matched my own experience. There were more people in the Cathedral on Easter morning than I can recall in any of my time here. And other bishops had the same thing to report. What had happened?
Recently I was at a meeting that involved a priest who is a leading commentator on film and television or, if you like, ‘popular culture’. In a coffee break, following a chance remark by some bishop or church bureaucrat, our popular culture man began holding forth on the need for us all to be watching reality television in order to be in touch with the prevailing values in our society.
We Australians are a sceptical lot. And for the most part I would say ‘Thank heavens for that’. We take the promises of politicians with very large doses of salt, distrust corporate leaders and have a keen ear for anything that sounds too good to be true. How, then, am I to speak about the most extraordinary ‘too good to be true’ story of all time?
It is now public knowledge that Cardinal Pell has been convicted on five charges relating to sexual abuse of minors, concerning two people, boys at the time of the alleged offences, one living and one now dead. The matter has become public because a second trial, on other offences, has been abandoned, removing the risk of the present verdict influencing another jury’s thinking.