By Kristina Keneally
The first time I listened to Tim Minchin’s new song “Come Home (Cardinal Pell)” I cackled. Brilliant rhyming. Religion and prison. Bell with a Pellian knell. Minchin writes poetry with a pungent point.
The second time I listened to it I was just double checking that Minchin never used the word “fuck.” He often does. He didn’t this time. He didn’t have to – the grotesque nature of the circumstances doesn’t need to be punctuated by obscenity.
The third time I listened to it I cried. I was driving in my car. I cried big fat tears that caused me to pull over to the side of the road.
I’m not a victim of sexual abuse. No one in my family is. I do know people who are. I am a Catholic and a public critic of Cardinal Pell and the Catholic church on its handling of cases of child sexual abuse. I’ve expressed frustration at the church’s unwillingness to reform in response to this abject, catastrophic failure of its mission.
Tim Minchin asks George Pell to ‘come home’ in expletive-filled new song
Crying at Tim Minchin’s little ditty calling on Cardinal Pell to come home and face the music is the last reaction I expected to have.
Listening to victim’s testimony is harrowing. That makes me cry. Sometimes it makes me furious. And sometimes, I admit, I have to turn it off or stop reading because it’s too much to take in.
But a whimsical, acerbic and mocking take down of Cardinal Pell? What’s there to cry about?
For starters, it provoked sorrow at my loss of faith in the church, an organisation that has done much good but nonetheless values its rules, assets, and male privilege above all else.
I cried because there was little else I could do with my deep fury that neither Pell nor his mates at the Vatican appear to take seriously the need to respond fully and openly, and to reform the church, in the face of the child sexual abuse crisis.
Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down your life for another. Cardinal Pell says there’s no way I could risk my health by flying business class to Australia.
I know Jesus says “judge not lest you be judged” but I reckon it’s a fair question to ask, Cardinal Pell: what would Jesus do?
Jesus said “let the little children come to me” and “you must be like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus valued children in their innocence and goodness. The church allowed priests to destroy that goodness and then valued the institution above the victims.
But if I’m honest, it’s not just a loss of faith in a human institution. It’s a challenge to my faith in a loving and gracious God.
I long ago stopped buying the idea of intercessory prayer – the kind where you ask God or some saint or Mary to intercede on your behalf or someone else to cure an illness or relieve a burden. I don’t believe God interferes in human lives in that way.
But I do – well on most days anyway – still believe in a source of love, grace and goodness that motivates our human existence.
Watching Cardinal Pell flounce about in his regal gear and flout the royal commission, watching the institution supposedly founded by Jesus grotesquely morph into something so removed from the teachings of Christ: it shakes me to the core. It shakes the very foundations of belief. It gives me no hope.
When Minchin sings “And if Lord God omnipotent reigneth, he will take one look at you and say, go home Cardinal Pell … I think the lord is calling you home Georgie”, I wonder: where the hell God is in all of this?
I feel hesitant honestly expressing my reactions. How much more significantly, terribly, horribly wronged must victims of child sexual abuse feel? How much courage must it take to testify to a royal commission about something so foul that’s happened to you? How deep must their feelings of betrayal, sorrow, loss, and anger be?
Here’s fresh insight into Pell’s response to the child sex abuse crisis. It’s not encouraging.
How can we as a society not pay attention? How can the church, and one of its supposed “princes”, Cardinal Pell fail to face this great wrong and move heaven and earth to make it right?
No less a legal mind than Frank Brennan outlines the significant charges and questions that Cardinal Pell has to answer under oath and cross-examination. Or as Minchin simply sings: we have a right to know what you knew.
Cardinal Pell should, as Minchin sings, come home. But if he won’t, some victims of child sexual abuse want to go to sit in front of him when he testifies via video link. The proceeds of Minchin’s song are going to fund their travels.
If you want to support them, buy the song. Just be forewarned: Minchin is a genius who provokes hilarity and horror in just four minutes of melody. If you are Catholic, I recommend not listening while you are driving.