A provocative song by Australian musical satirist Tim Minchin has challenged the Catholic church's Cardinal George Pell to ‘come home’ to face the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Pell is a senior Vatican bureaucrat, appointed by Pope Francis to oversee church finances. He has been given permission by the commission to testify from Rome by video link because of ill-health.
He was at the centre of a cover-up controversy over a chain of child sex abuse allegations involving Catholic clergy in Australia which led to the setting up of the Royal Commission in 2012.
Many victims have been outraged by his absence and plan to fly to Rome, hoping to watch the Cardinal's evidence.
They were not the only ones to cast doubt on the cardinal's motive for not returning:
Pell looks hearty & jolly.
What could be keeping him from flying to #caroyalcommission ? pic.twitter.com/mC37Mj2X07
— Tim Jones (@Forthleft2) February 9, 2016
Proceeds from online sales of the song, Come Home (Cardinal Pell), are going to a fund to help send survivors of the Ballarat diocese in Australia — a ‘hub’ of alleged child sex abuse in the country — to Rome.
A crowd funding effort raised over nearly $130,000 in the first three days.
The website explained:
The City of Ballarat has come under the spotlight of the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Abuse as an epicentre of abuse over many years.
Cardinal George Pell was due to give evidence in Ballarat but is too ill to travel, missing the chance to not only give evidence in person but provide hope to the whole city.
The survivors of Ballarat and District child abuse feel that a face-to-face hearing is important for healing and understanding.
The lyrics are deliberately offensive, as is typical of Minchin's in-your-face comedic style.
He calls Pell a “coward”, “scum” and a “pompous buffoon”. In a very provocative red rag finish, he goads the Cardinal to “come home and frickin’ sue me”.
Cardinal Pell has since offered to “meet with and listen to victims and express his ongoing support”.
Frank Brennan, Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer, has lived up to his name with forthright comments in the past about “the closed system of clericalism” and definite “need for greater transparency” with regard to child abuse amongst clergy.
However, he has warned ‘that turning the commission into a “laughing stock” runs the risk of derailing proceedings’.
Fr Brennan has copped his share of criticism on social media:
@AndreaGorman8 @johndory49 Well Father Frank Brennan Shows where his care is, not with the Abused, Another disgraceful #catholic
— Michael Ryan (@mryansisland) February 18, 2016
Nevertheless, he has supporters:
George Pell controversy: Leftist pursuit of Cardinal hindering royal commission https://t.co/iMvtZlZMpm #auspol #ozcot #qldpol #nswpol
— Joe Qld (@Qlder) February 19, 2016
Another Oz satirist Dan Ilic joined the fray on Twitter:
The Church is saying that @timminchin‘s Pell song is harming victims of abuse… I'd hazard a guess, probably not more than actual abuse.
— Dan Ilic (@danilic) February 18, 2016
Tim Minchin appreciated Ilic's support:
@danilic You should see the messages I'm getting from survivors, Dan. Incredible. x
— Tim Minchin (@timminchin) February 18, 2016
Minchin has lost some fans with the song…
@timminchin First saw you at RAHall concert. I thought “what a talent!” Now, after Pell recording, I think, “what a biased, bullying sod.”
— David Walker (@dewalke) February 18, 2016
… while winning over a few new ones: The YouTube video of Minchin's song has had more than 800,000 views in its first four days.
It is not at all surprising that many people on social media have been making comparisons with the recently released film Spotlight, which tells the true story of the media investigation into allegations of child abuse by John Geoghan, an American Roman Catholic priest.
Geoghan was strangled to death by a fellow inmate in a Massachusetts jail in 2003 after being incarcerated on indecent assault and battery charges involving a ten-year-old boy the year before. He is believed to have molested dozens of young boys.
Just seen #Spotlight – after @BostonGlobe exposed his coverup of child sexual abusr Cardinal Law transferred to Vatican, just like Pell.
— Margo Kingston (@margokingston1) February 17, 2016