Friday 29 January 2021

Prison Journal Volume 1 - George Cardinal Pell - The Cardinal Makes His Appeal

Prison Journal
Volume 1 The Cardinal Makes His Appeal
ISBN 9781621644484
eISBN 9781642291421

This book is an incredible read. Not since reading the works of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen van Thuan and Alfred Delp have I been so moved. Even while I was reading this amazing book, I was wondering about volume II. This book is encouraging, in that Cardinal Pell was aware of his innocence, and yet endured much. Through it all his faith was strong. His compassion immense. And his Concern and care for others amazing.

This volume spans the time in solitary confinement from February through July 2013. The beginning of the introduction by George Weigel states:

“This prison journal should never have been written.

That it was written is a testament to the capacity of God’s grace to inspire insight, magnanimity, and goodness amidst wickedness, evil, and injustice. That it was written so beautifully bears witness to the Christian character that divine grace formed in its author, George Cardinal Pell.

How and why the author found himself in prison for over thirteen months for crimes he did not commit, and indeed could not have committed, is another story, far less edifying. A brief telling of this tawdry tale will, however, set the necessary context for what you are about to read, even as it underscores just how remarkable this journal is.”

I had followed this story from afar. And was praying for both Cardinal Pell and the accuser. What I did not realize at the time was the depth of misinformation, And personal trials that Pell endured with faith, hope, and humility. This volume contains from his incarceration through to just before his first failed appeal. 

It was fascinating to read this journal. It brought to life in a new way the reality of life in prison. But also the life of a deep enduring faith. Pell states:

“Naturally, I am aware of the obligation to forgive those who wronged me with false allegations, be they fantasy or fiction. And I have done so and continue to do so. This was not difficult for the complainant, but takes more of an effort for anyone I suspect of shaping his recollections, or worse. I therefore prayed my rosary for one such suspect. It is not good to spend too much time considering these issues, but the decision to forgive is a bit like the gift of faith, which needs regular nourishment.”

The journal includes reference to many letters he received and sent. And I cannot but wonder if some day a collection or selection of them will be published. The journal like many follows the chronology, his prison routine, finding out how to work in the prison systems. Administrative mix-ups, and procedures for things as simple as a visit. But throughout the book are prayers. Prayers in Pell’s own writings. Prayers that were sent to him. I copied a few to my prayer notebooks and created reminded to pray them each day.

This book is very well written. I believe it has the power to become a spiritual classic like Merton’s Seven Story Mountain. Pell’s cross was not an easy one, and yet he bore it honorably. This is a book that any Catholic, any Christian could benefit from reading. It is a book that moved me greatly and I am certain it will have deep impact on any reader’s heart and mind.  

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by George Cardinal Pell:
God and Caesar: Selected Essays on Religion, Politics, and Society
Test Everything
Be Not Afraid: Collected Writing
Contemplating Christ with Luke
Rerum Novarum: One Hundred Years Later

Prison Journals:

No comments: