George Pell – Australia’s first Catholic martyr

If you were in a Catholic school in the 1950s, you would have been taught about the heroic saints, men and women, who preferred death to the denial of their faith. Indeed, the examples of the saints and martyrs were a primary vehicle for teaching pupils what their faith was really about. You have to be moved to the core to prefer to die rather than give up what you believe in. The saints and martyrs were moved to the core because they accepted the revelation that Jesus Christ was God-made-Man, ‘the way, the truth and the life’. They accepted St Peter’s declaration that Jesus was ‘the Christ, son of the living God’ (Matt. 16:16).

The first martyrs were those of the Roman persecutions, people of faith who submitted to the tearing jaws of wild beasts rather than carry out the act of offering a small sacrifice to the multitude of Roman Gods. Centuries later, much closer to Australian society, were the martyrs of the English Reformation who submitted to the barbaric penalty of hanging, drawing and quartering rather than condone Henry VIII’s trashing of key elements of Catholic teaching.

Among those English martyrs was Saint John Fisher, bishop, Cardinal and theologian (1469-1535). He was responsible for the strengthening of Cambridge University’s administration, eventually becoming the university’s vice-chancellor and then chancellor. He was inflexible and unflinching in defending the faith against Henry’s self-serving religious delinquency. Fisher stood up to Henry and his powerful court. The great Renaissance scholar, Erasmus, said of him:  ‘He is the one man at this time who is incomparable for uprightness of life, for learning and for greatness of soul.’ The whole of Europe was appalled at the news of the execution of an old man, frail in body but strong in mind. The parallels with George Pell are obvious.

George Pell has a degree in theology from Rome and a doctorate from Oxford University. He has been bishop and cardinal, showing himself a strong competent administrator. There was good reason for his appointment as the first Prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy. He has also had a role in Catholic tertiary education. He has the admiration of people around the world.

Why then has he suffered more than thirty years of vilification at a level never seen before in Australia’s history? Why have people in high and low places been unremitting in pumping their poison into the community?

The reason is that Cardinal Pell holds views and opinions that challenge the Marxist agenda which determines what Australians must believe on crucial social, political and moral questions. And he holds those views inflexibly and unflinchingly. He won’t deny his principles or his faith. It has meant his martyrdom.

To the objection that Cardinal Pell is not dead yet, I reply there are two forms of martyrdom: a white and a red. A red martyrdom is death while a white martyrdom is a total crushing of a person without killing him such that there is nothing left for him in life.

Even if Cardinal Pell’s appeal succeeds, and it is not at all sure considering the degraded state of the Australian legal system, his life as a citizen is finished. The persecution will go on by the same people and the same institutions. Indeed, it is likely that George Pell will become a red martyr either in jail, or in his home or on the streets. His persecutors will follow his coffin to the grave, abusing and spitting on it until the last shovel of dirt covers the polish wood and brass dedication.

George Pell is a Catholic martyr whose life and works are an example to be admired and followed, as one would do a red martyr like Saint John Fisher.