Wednesday 7 July 2021

Prison Journal Volume 2 - George Cardinal Pell - The State Court Rejects the Appeal

Prison Journal Volume 2
The State Court Rejects the Appeal
14 July 2019 – 30 November 2019
ISBN 9781621644507
eISBN 9781642291438
ASIN B094T948G6

Volume 1 The Cardinal Makes His Appeal was an incredible read. And volume 2 is just a good. I stated of Volume 1 that: “Not since reading the works of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen van Thuan and Alfred Delp have I been so moved.” This book is an amazing read and I was not aware until towards the end that there would be a volume three. This book is very encouraging, in that Cardinal Pell was aware of his innocence, and yet endured much. Including a sham of an appellate courts 2 to 1 decision. But through it all his faith was strong. His compassion immense. And his concern and care for others amazing. He shows concern and care for the alleged victims, other inmates, the guards, and even the misguided judges.

This volume spans the time in solitary confinement from July 2019 to November 2019. At the beginning is a chronology that spans from Pell’s being named auxiliary Bishop in 1995 to his high court appeal in 2020. The first entry is from Sunday, 14 July 2019 that first entry as a sample is:

“Elijah has returned, not as John the Baptist, but in excerpts from the Book of Kings which will run in the breviary as the first reading for the next week.

He is one of my heroes, from the ninth century BC, Elijah the Tishbite from Tishbe, “the troubler of Israel” who confronted Ahab, King of Israel, who “did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all that were before him”, and the even more formidable Queen Jezebel.

I have a beautiful two-hundred-year-old Russian icon of Elijah in my private chapel in Rome, and I revere him because he saved monotheism when it risked being eclipsed by paganism, in this case by Baal. The good Lord chose Elijah with Moses to represent the ancient dispensation at the miracle of the Transfiguration.

It is not enough to be spiritual in a sentimental, episodic fashion, because we are called to acknowledge and love the one true God. Immense consequences follow in daily life from the presence or absence of monotheism, as we are beginning to see in Western societies as God is obscured. George Steiner was one of the most brilliant, if maverick, intellectuals of the twentieth century, and he ascribed the visceral, counterproductive, and insane Nazi hatred of the Jewish people to the fact that Hitler and the Nazi leadership, as heads of arguably the most diabolical movement in all history (only Stalin’s or Mao’s Communism would be competitors), hated the Jews because they were the chosen people who brought monotheism into history. This wasn’t the Nazis’ stated aim or explanation, but it has a ring of truth for me. Their hatred was blind, fanatical, driven by a Force even greater than their infamous selves.

The breviary excerpt recounts the start of Elijah’s story as he confronts Ahab and prophesies the drought. Forced to flee, not for the last time, he is fed by ravens at the Cherith brook and then by the widow and her son, also starving, at Zarephath from her inexhaustible meal in the jar and oil in her cruse. She gave something from nothing, at Elijah’s request, and was rewarded with a constant supply until the drought broke.

My self-awareness alarm almost worked such that I missed only the early part of Mass for You at Home, celebrated again by Fr Michael Kalka, who preached a good moralistic sermon.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended the Hillsong Conference1 last weekend and prayed publicly, but he wasn’t present today with Pastor Houston,2 who preached on the rain in your life, once again reverting to pattern, from an Old Testament text in Genesis. The congregation was different from last week, a little more animated, and he prompted the best response when he defended “good old-fashioned lettuce” against this newly arrived kale. He got my vote on that issue.

Joseph Prince’s3 theme was similar, as he talked about “the year of latter rain”. Untypically, his text was from the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy. As always, he was Christocentric when he preached on the harvest of plenty and the damage wrought by plagues of locusts in our personal lives.

Songs of Praise was again from a British church, St John’s in Hackney, and featured a mixed black choir singing Negro spirituals. These developed among the tens of thousands of slaves on the plantations in North America from the Protestant hymns of John and Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts. These beautiful hymns move at different levels, religious, sociological, almost political. When Joshua “fought the battle of Jericho, the walls came tumbling down”; they sang that “my trials will soon be over” and that the famous chariot swung low—“coming for to carry me home”.

A couple of exercise sessions outside under an overcast sky and drizzle in the afternoon. The inventory of what the property section believes I have in my cell arrived, thanks to the section’s cooperative senior officer. It wasn’t completely accurate, but I passed two books and two Quadrants to Kartya.4 After a quiet couple of days, we have a noisy banger and shouter, in short bursts. But he doesn’t sound distraught.

The life of Elijah and, indeed, St Thomas More’s own life and execution show that More was correct when he wrote to his children twenty-five years before his death, “We cannot go to heaven in feather beds.””

Both St Thomas More and Elijah and themes that will repeat multiple times through out this work. And Pell drew great strength and encouragement from their examples. 

The beginning of the introduction to volume 1 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.”

And I stated in my review of that volume: “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 his first failed appeal, to the granting of a second appeal. While reading it we gleam a lot more information about the cases, the legal process, and the improbability if not impossibility of Pell having committed the crimes he was charged with.  

It was very fascinating to read this journal. It continues to bring to life in a new way the reality of life in prison. Strip searches, delayed mail, indignities, and bizarre rules or requirements. But also, the life of a deep enduring faith. This volume delves deeper into the Vatican Banking Scandal which many believe was the cause of Pell being set up to get him out of the way. The final words in this volume are:

“So, too, in Vatican finance, the divide is between those who strive to prevent and eliminate corruption and incompetence and those who are unwilling to do so, for whatever reason.

I conclude with a verse from the Canticle of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus 36):

 Have compassion on the Holy City,
 Jerusalem, the place of your rest.
 Let Sion ring with your praises,
 let your temple be filled with your glory.”

This book is an excellent follow up volume. Written with both passion and piety. Heartfelt. Sometimes documenting the mundane daily activities in prison and at others the spiritual and secular battle for the truth to out. Another excellent read, with the possibility of becoming a classic. Andy while stating  that I cannot help but think of Watchman Nee’s A Spiritual Man. A book that will encourage, and challenge us in our own lives.

A fantastic read that I highly recommend.  

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:

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