Book Review: Prison Journal Volume 2: The State Court Rejects the Appeal
Prison Journal Volume 2: The State Court Rejects the Appeal
by George Cardinal Pell
Available from the Canberra Catholic Bookshop
As we begin volume 2 of Cardinal Pell’s Prison Journal, the outcome of his appeal to the Victorian Court of Appeal is still unknown. By its end we know it has failed, however he has been given leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia. He continues his journal and routine which has helped him maintain equanimity and health.
It is a journal: “because of my musings on a disparate array of topics … and … I reflect on daily life in solitary confinement”. He acknowledges that if he wasn’t in solitary confinement someone would likely attack him. He lives a “sheltered life blessed that I can read, write, pray and receive letters, without the pluses and minuses of dealing with an interesting cross-section of people”.
He reflects a lot on penance and suffering and the value of each. He quotes St Thomas More who said “We can’t go to heaven in feather beds.” He also says that St Rose of Lima was “heavily into penance” but he found her penitential practices unattractive. However, he did agree with her sentiment that “without the Cross, there is no road to heaven”. This is the difference between Christian and secular attitudes to suffering. He hopes that the time spent in confinement will help balance out those penances he had not performed in his “long and comfortable life”. He tried to do some small penance on Fridays i.e. not eating meat and not having chocolate with chamomile tea, his late-evening treat; but the desert fathers, he suspects, were more serious about their penances.
He misses not being able to attend and celebrate Mass, particularly at the time of the death of former AFL footballer Danny Frawley, whom he knew.
He is worried about the future of the Church and of society “as God is obscured”. He thinks the more quickly and radically Christians adopt the tenets of modernity the quicker the collapse of the Church – Holland and Belgium he sees as proof. He is concerned about a schism in the Church in Germany, and what the outcome of the Amazon Synod may mean for the Church, particularly in relation to celibacy. He is worried that the Church is not close to the poor and believes a genuine concern for social justice is necessary.
On life issues, God needs to be brought back into the discussion. He acknowledges he and his fellow clergy have been guilty of leaving God out of the debate and that approach hasn’t been successful.
Having been Secretary for the Economy at the Vatican, he takes great interest in its finances and the ongoing battle to control them. He believes the battle against criminality has been won, but not the one against incompetence.
On Sunday mornings he continued his “Protestant devotions” although he discontinued following Brian Houston and took up following Joel Osteen and his son, Joel Jr. He found Houston’s approach was more Old Testament-focused than Christ-centred. Similarly, he liked the Christ-centred approach of American nun Sr Mary McGlone.
After his appeal to the Victorian Court of Appeal failed, his equilibrium was upset, but he recovered it quickly. Initially, he was reluctant to appeal, but once the decision had been made he felt he needed to contribute to efforts to clear his name “for the sake of the Church more than for myself”. He was very appreciative of the dissenting opinion of Justice Weinberg. It was as if it “had been written for the High Court, to guide them through their deliberations”.
This volume is fascinating on many levels. I heartily recommend it, but both volumes would be improved with an index
- Chris Rule is a parishioner at St Anthony of Padua Parish in Wanniassa