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George Cardinal Pell… Says Trump Made A Positive Contribution To The Christian Cause

January 7, 2021 Frontpage No Comments

By PEGGY MOEN

“On the whole, I think [President] Trump has made a positive contribution to the Christian cause,” said George Cardinal Pell during a December 16 virtual press conference. Ignatius Press hosted the event.
Ignatius held the press conference to mark the release of Cardinal Pell’s Prison Journal, volume one, now available at Ignatius.com and also on Amazon. Volume one runs through July 13, 2019.
Wanderer readers will recall from John Young’s reporting that Cardinal Pell was released from prison on April 7, 2020 after the High Court in Australia overturned all his convictions on charges of “historic sexual abuse” (see The Wanderer, April 30, 2020, p. 5A, “The Pell Verdict: Some Reflections” by John Young). Those charges were based on the inconsistent testimony of the complainant, without corroborating witnesses or corroborating physical evidence.
George Weigel, in his introduction to Prison Journal and in his comments at the December 16 press conference, said: “This prison journal should never have been written,” as Cardinal Pell should never have gone to jail.
But, as moderator of the virtual press conference, Weigel told the 15 or so journalist participants that it’s “a grace and a blessing that it was written.”
In this book, he said, readers will find “a soul purified and strengthened through suffering” and “a radically converted Christian disciple.”
Weigel noted that he has known Cardinal Pell for 53 years.
Before his imprisonment, Pell began to see it “as an extended retreat.”
At the conference, The Wanderer asked Cardinal Pell about the March 30, 2019 passage (p. 91) in Prison Journal, where he said in part: “[President Trump’s] two appointments already to the U.S. Supreme Court will slow down the secularist advance, because the court there has immense power to shape society, much more than the Australian High Court possesses.”
Asked about his assessment now of Trump’s impact on “Catholic concerns and Christians generally,” Pell first recalled humorously that he had written that Trump is “a bit of a barbarian, but . . . he is ‘our’ (Christian) barbarian.”
He has “made some splendid appointments to the Supreme Court and many other appointments,” said the cardinal.
Also, “he was unusual as president in many ways, but I think he was also unusual because he kept many of his promises” — Trump didn’t enter into any new wars, brought some troops home, and improved the economy.
Pell also noted that Trump has sent out Christmas cards that say Merry Christmas and that he attended the March for Life.
Christians in a democracy, His Eminence reflected, have “a right and indeed an obligation” to struggle to maintain Christian values in public life. If those values disappear, “notions like truth and reason and free speech will come under great pressure.”
Cardinal Pell said he wishes Joe Biden well, but he suspects that life “won’t be quite as unpredictable and as interesting” as it was during the Trump administration.
He was critical of President Trump in one respect: “I’m not sure that he has been sufficiently respectful of the political process” and “it is no small thing to weaken trust in great public institutions.”
He concluded with his statement that “Trump has made a positive contribution to the Christian cause.”
Because of Pell’s unjust imprisonment, the theme of forgiveness runs through Prison Journal.
Deborah Castellano Lubov of ZENIT cited a passage on p. 339 of Prison Journal where Pell says: “Naturally, I am aware of the obligation to forgive those who wronged me with false allegations, be they fantasy or fiction.”
She asked His Eminence what advice he has for people who struggle to forgive others.
Cardinal Pell explained that it is “an act of the will to forgive . . . the feelings follow behind.”
“First of all you’ve got to keep praying,” he said, and ask God for help with clamping down on surges of animosity.
Weigel noted that Pell’s imprisonment meant that he was “not able to celebrate Mass for over 400 days.”
“Obviously I missed saying Mass,” Pell said, but he realized he had to make the best of things and “it was not as bad as it might have been.” The prison authorities “always allowed me to have my breviary” and eventually gave him a Bible. Also, he received Communion once a week.
Also, Pell watched some Sunday Evangelical services on TV, critiquing the sermons, but getting something out of them at the same time.
Those Evangelical services, however, “didn’t have a liturgical year and it came home to me…what a wonderful thing the liturgical year is.”
Thomas Szyszkiewicz of Relevant Radio asked him about his day-to-day experience as a prisoner.
Cardinal Pell described it as “pretty quiet . . . I was in a tiny cell.”
He was in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, with an hour outside — he tried to make it two half-hours.
As a great sports fan, he enjoyed seeing sports events on TV and watched the Tour de France for the first time in his life.
Elise Allen of Crux asked the cardinal if the Church prays enough for victims of clerical sexual abuse, and what also can the Church do to increase care for those victims.
His Eminence noted that “I did my Christian duty” while I was in jail by praying for the victims.
As to the adequacy of the Church’s response to the abuse crisis, His Eminence said that a lot depends on when and where we are talking about. “There have got to be counseling services and of course financial reparations.”
In Australia, he said, “we broke the back of this problem in terms of stopping the crime substantially in the middle of the 90s.”
Quite a number of victims have written to him to say that “they are not hostile to the Church.”
In response to a question from Ed Condon of Catholic News Agency, Cardinal Pell said he wrote Prison Journal “partly as a historical record of a strange time” and also because he thought his “reflections might be able to help people, not just those in jail, but people going through tough times.”

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