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BARROW-IN-FURNESS, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - A leading defender of Cdl. George Pell is calling for leading figures in the Victoria state police, judiciary and the taxpayer-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation to be investigated for their role in what many say is Australia's gravest miscarriage of justice.
In an exclusive interview with Church Militant, popular columnist and author Rev. Nick Donnelly, describes Pell as undergoing "martyrdom for the 'crime' of upholding the Catholic Faith" and reminds faithful Catholics that "we will all have to give an account of the support we gave to Christ's martyrs."
Donnelly, a permanent deacon in Lancaster diocese, England, has been one of the very few clerical voices who has almost daily voiced support for justice to be done for Pell.
In December 2019, Donnelly received death threats after appealing for Catholics to send Christmas cards to Cdl. Pell in prison. The British tabloid Daily Mail attacked Donnelly for his support of Pell, calling his appeal "bizarre" and insisting that Pell is a "convicted pedophile."
Donnelly pointed out that the real reason for the 30-year campaign of vilification against Pell was "because he upheld Church teaching about the immorality of homosexual acts and refused Holy Communion to LGBT militants."
Many Catholics believe the false allegations against Pell stem from his role as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in uncovering massive financial corruption in the Vatican Bank.
In 2014, Pell revealed that he had uncovered hundreds of million dollars of clandestine funds in the Vatican. Later he discovered nearly 1 billion euros in various other dicasteries.
Using social media as his megaphone, Deacon Donnelly, who has over 18,000 followers on Twitter, has continually called for prayers for the beleaguered cardinal, often reminding Catholics that Pell was not even allowed to celebrate Holy Mass in his prison cell.
Donnelly, a journalist and editor of the Protect the Pope blog, is blasting the Australian bishops for equivocating and "treating Cdl. Pell and the complainant as somehow equally worthy of belief."
He is continuing his campaign for Pell, demanding that an independent inquiry be brought to examine the role of prominent officials like Judge Peter Kidd, Victoria Magistrate Belinda Wallington, Crown Prosecutor Angela Ellis and Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton, and appealing for the "witch hunt" against Pell to be brought to an end.
The deacon is also hoping that the Vatican will drop its in-house investigation into Cdl. Pell.
The full interview follows.
Church Militant: When most of the Catholic media and the entire cadre of the Church's hierarchy left Cdl. Pell to rot in his cell, you were one of the lone voices who almost daily used your social media megaphone to plead his case. Why didn't you give up?
Nick Donnelly: Every day I was aware that Cdl. Pell was enduring 24/7 solitary confinement, banned from celebrating the Mass, restricted to a few books and the focus of a constant barrage of vilification and hate. I just couldn't abandon him, certain as I was that he was innocent of the absurd complaints for which he was jailed. In conscience, I felt it my duty to offer what support I could to a bishop who was undergoing white martyrdom for the 'crime' of upholding the Catholic Faith.
CM: Did you have occasional doubts about Cardinal Pell's innocence? If not, what bits of the evidence led you to defend him with almost dogmatic certainty?
ND: I never for one moment doubted the innocence of Cdl. Pell. The complaints against him were nonsense. I've assisted bishops at Mass and seen firsthand the constant busyness and bustle of people around them before and afterwards. The idea that a bishop would be left on his own and have the privacy to launch a six-minute sexual assault against two boys after Solemn Mass in a cathedral is totally ridiculous. There were 23 witnesses who testified in the trial that it was absolutely impossible, and the prosecutors never once challenged their account of events as being untruthful. They were just ignored and dismissed by the prosecutors, judge and jury in their eagerness to convict.
CM: Were you satisfied with the response of the Australian bishops to his trial?
ND: As far as I know there was only one Australian bishop who was unequivocal and outspoken in defending Cdl. Pell's innocence — Bp. Peter Elliot, emeritus bishop of Melbourne. All the other bishops equivocated, treating Cdl. Pell and the complainant as somehow equally worthy of belief — as though they could not discern the truth. Archbishop Comensoli even went as far as to say, "I believe both."
It's a shame they didn't learn from the British experience of the disastrous police investigation Operation Midland and the self-described "sex abuse victim" Carl Beech who, after wrecking the lives of many decent men, was eventually exposed as a serial liar and fraudster.
CM: Do you think Pell received the necessary support from the Vatican while tried and after he was sentenced?
ND: The Vatican's refrain of "its trust in the Australian justice system" made my heart sink every time. Despite the nonsense of the complaints and the abandonment of "innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt," the Vatican chose to go along with the show trial. Instead of showing solidarity with Cdl. Pell, I think their position gave credibility and legitimacy to his persecutors.
CM: What do you make of Pope Francis' statement on the day of Pell's release? The pontiff had tweeted: In these days of #Lent, we've been witnessing the persecution that Jesus underwent and how He was judged ferociously, even though He was innocent. Let us #PrayTogether today for all those persons who suffer due to an unjust sentence because of someone had it in for them.
ND: Pope Francis' statement was of support for those who suffer unjust sentences, like Cdl. Pell, but there is some question over whether the pope meant it explicitly for him. If it was about Cdl. Pell, it was late in coming. I guess we will be able to judge its sincerity if the Vatican drops its own in-house investigation into Cdl. Pell or if it continues the process, for the sake of appearances, no matter the personal cost to the cardinal.
CM: What were you hoping to do through your relentless barrage on social media asking for prayer support for Pell as well as encouraging people to send him a Christmas card? Was it the power of prayer or the influence of social media, or both?
ND: I know the power of prayer in my own life — how the prayers of others can uphold and empower you during personal crises. Also, I wanted Cdl. Pell to know that there were faithful Catholics around the world who supported him.
Further, I wanted the Australian establishment to know that their demonization of Cdl. Pell hadn't worked on everyone — that people around the world knew that he was innocent. I hoped that the Christmas campaign would result in the prison being inundated with cards so that the ruling elite would know Cdl. Pell wasn't forgotten.
CM: You haven't stopped pleading for Pell. A couple of days ago you wrote: "Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton should be investigated for his role in Australia's gravest miscarriage of justice." Tell us more about why you think Pell was singled out for persecution and how you plan to continue your fight for him.
ND: During the 1990s, Cdl. Pell refused to give Holy Communion to militant liberal Catholics who paraded up the aisles of his cathedrals wearing rainbow sashes. Since then the PC LGBT ruling elite in Australia has been out to get him. Paul Kelly, the eminent Australian commentator, wrote after the cardinal's acquittal, "State power has been recruited in an effort to destroy Pell. This situation cannot be swept under the carpet."
I believe that all those involved in this conspiracy must be identified and held to account.
CM: Finally, is there something that the Church could take away from this? What are the lessons faithful Catholics need to learn?
ND: The Church needs to wake up to the fact that there are some who are exploiting the sex abuse crisis to attack faithful and innocent bishops and priests for ideological and financial reasons, or just out of wickedness. Of course, the Church must support and encourage genuine victims of clergy sexual abuse, but not abandon reason and common sense when assessing the truthfulness of the complaints.
Faithful Catholics rightfully have a devotion to the martyrs of the past, admiring their passion for the Lord and the courage in defense of the Faith. We need to turn our eyes to the present and look for the martyrs of our generation who need our support. It's easy to admire the martyrs of Tudor England or Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union because it won't cost us anything.
It's harder to support a martyr like Cdl. Pell because you will be hated, called a "pedophile" and receive death threats. When we stand before Our Lord, we will all have to give an account of the support we gave to His martyrs.
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