Tuesday 25 January 2022

Prison Journal Volume 3 - George Cardinal Pell - The High Court Frees an Innocent Man

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

The long awaited third volume. Volume 1 The Cardinal Makes His Appeal was an incredible read. Volume 2 The State Court Rejects the Appeal was deeply moving. 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 in some ways an easier read than the first two volumes. The chapters in this volume are:

Week 41: Advent Begins
Week 42: Breaking News at the Vatican
Week 43: A Blessing beyond Anticipation
Week 44: Christmas in Prison
Week 45: Appeal Moves Forward
Week 46: A New Jail
Week 47: Solitary No Longer
Week 48: Our Unusual Situation
Week 49: Australian Sympathies
Week 50: Currents for Good and Ill
Week 51: Optimism but No Certainty
Week 52: A Devastating Argument
Week 53: Lent Again
Week 54: The Path of Forgiveness
Week 55: A Final Appeal
Week 56: Awaiting the Decision
Week 57: Silence So Far
Week 58: Old Accusations Resurface
Week 59: Convictions Quashed

This story has intrigue, galore. And unfortunately leaves many questions unanswered. But in the end Cardinal Pell was vindicated by a unanimous 7-0 decision to overturn all previous charges. Once cannot help but wonder about money that changes hands, and the lack of integrity shown in this case by the police, prosecutors and even the Victoria Supreme Court that original upheld the decisions against Pell in a split decisions. In part reading this story was like watching an episode of CSI or Law and Order, except this time it is Pell and his team working through the evidence to prove his innocence, and the overwhelming improbability and even impossibility of his have committed the crimes he was convicted of. 

This journal tracks what he was reading, what he was writing and even what he was watching. It was interesting to follow Pell’s assessments of evangelical preachers he watch Joseph Prince and Joel Osteen. I was impressed by Pell’s openness in sharing his struggles to forgive, and move forward in grace. In this volume it was very interesting to follow Pell’s observations on the spread of Covid-19 from his prison cell. His commentary as it spread around the nations, the impact it was having, and how being a man set aside, he was looking at it critically and also with clearer eyes than much of the commentary I have seen. 

Pell is open and honest about many who supported him, and a few whose lack of support he felt deeply. He states: 

“Deacon Nick Donnelly from Cumbria, UK, one of my foremost champions in social media, told me he is walking beside me in my sufferings, while I also received a kind message of support from Caroline Farey in Worcester. It was my privilege to support both of them in their brave attempts to set up the School of the Annunciation for catechesis at Buckfast Abbey in Devon.”

Deacon Nick speaks from his heart, and I have read several of his books and been blessed by them. It was also moving to read how upon his release he was set free into a place with tight Covid restrictions.  He states:

“The Australian this weekend had an eight-page supplement on Covid-19, the coronavirus pandemic, full of excellent and informative articles. That gave me a wake-up call because I had been hoping the number of deaths and seriously ill would be kept low, that the lockdown, limited or severe, would last weeks, not months, that the economic decline might be 2 to 5 percent, not 25 percent as Goldman Sachs is now predicting for the US, and that unemployment might rise to 5 or 10 percent, not 20 percent plus, as is quite possible. The personal consequence is that if I am released after more than twelve months in solitary confinement, I face the prospect of another six months in comparative seclusion.”

And he further states:

“Originally, I had planned to stay in Melbourne for up to a week after my release to see my close friends and family and visit my oldest surviving cousin, Bob Burke, who is in Nazareth House. Press interest made this impossible, and I decided to leave immediately for home in Sydney with Chris Meney as my driver.”

And his foresight here was to be realized. In the afterward George Weigel states:

“Thanks to these journals, and thanks to the dignity and equanimity with which he has borne himself since his release from prison (not least in an hour-long interview with Australian broadcaster Andrew Bolt), George Cardinal Pell has become a spiritual hero to many. That this is to the consternation and fury of the cardinal’s many enemies is a source of considerable satisfaction to his friends. But not, I think, to George Pell himself. For as these journals have revealed, he is a much bigger man than his persecutors and his rabid critics. He holds no grudges. That they do is to their further shame.”

And I completely agree. Each of the three volumes can be read on their own. The writing and insights are powerful enough. But when taken as a whole it is deeply moving. These books have the power to become spiritual classics. And Pell’s insights, faith, devotion and his open honesty in the books is an inspiration. I do home he will release a fourth volume, of his thoughts and journals through the Covid lockdowns and adjusting to life back in society. 

This volume and all three are excellent reads. I highly recommend them. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 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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