Dear Parents and Carers,
On Wednesday the Victorian Court of Appeal has announced that Cardinal George Pell’s appeal has been dismissed and that he will continue to serve his sentence in jail.
We trust in the rule of law that we are privileged to live by in Australia. The legal process has been allowed to run its course and a decision made. We would encourage people to respect that decision and not indulge in a range of commentary that will not be helpful to anyone, and in fact may well continue the pain for some.
We acknowledge the great distress caused by this case on all sides, both those specifically affected, and the many others who have been victims of sexual abuse within the Church. It can only have served to re-open old wounds.
And we continue to be conscious of those in our own community who have suffered from physical, sexual or emotional violence in their own lives. We pray that we can support them in their hurt, a hurt which some have been able to share with trusted friends, but for others still remains a secret locked away behind doors too painful to open.
As a Catholic college community our prayers go out to all those affected by child sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the Church. We bow our heads in sorrow and strive to now provide whatever justice and compassion is possible as they seek to re-build their lives.
The following is a statement from the victim who remains anonymous. The former choirboy who was sexually assaulted by George Pell in 1996 and 1997 issued a statement following Wednesday’s appeal decision. The statement was read by the man’s lawyer Dr Vivian Waller after the Court of Appeal upheld Pell’s convictions.
This is his statement:
I am relieved by the decision of the court of appeal. It is four years since I reported to the police. The criminal process has been stressful. The journey has taken me to places that in my darkest moments I feared I would not return from.
The justice machine rolls on with all of its processes and punditry almost forgetting about the people at the heart of the matter.
Despite this, I appreciate that the criminal process has afforded Pell every opportunity to challenge the charges and every opportunity to be heard. I am glad he has had the best legal representation that money can buy.
There are a lot of checks and balances in the criminal justice process and the appeals process is just one of them. I just hope that it is all over now.
Some commentators have suggested that I reported to the police somehow for my own personal gain. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have risked my privacy, my health, my wellbeing and my family.
I have not instructed any solicitor in relation to a claim for compensation. This is not about money and it never has been
Some commentators have suggested that I am somehow out to cause damage to the Catholic church. I am not on a mission to do anybody any harm. Although my faith has taken a battering, it is still part of my life and part of the lives of my loved ones. I am not an advocate.
You wouldn’t know my name. I am not a champion for the cause of sexual abuse survivors, although I am glad that those advocates are out there. But that is not my path.
After attending the funeral of my childhood friend, the other choir boy, I felt a responsibility to come forward. I knew that he had been in a dark place, I have been in a dark place. I gave a statement to the police because I was thinking of him and his family. I felt I should say what I saw and what had happened to me. I had experienced something terrible as a child and I wanted some good to come of it. I would like to acknowledge my friend who passed away, the other choir boy.
I would like to acknowledge the courage of those people who reported to the police. For one reason or another, those matters did not proceed.
My heart goes out to you. I would like to acknowledge the Victoria Police and Office of Public Prosecutions. I am grateful for the steady hand of your honour Justice [Peter] Kidd in guiding the trial and his compassionate, balanced and fair sentencing.
In February, due to other cases not going ahead, I ended up in the spotlight alone. The suppression order was to be lifted and I suddenly found myself in the centre of worldwide media interest.
I asked Viv Waller to help me manage the considerable media interest in the case and to protect my identity and to protect my family. I could not afford legal representation but that did not matter to her. I will be forever grateful that Viv agreed to help me and to do so for free.
She has liaised with the media on my behalf. She has allowed the storms of public opinion to buffet her so that my young family could find safe harbour.
My journey has not been an easy one. It has been all the more stressful because it involved a high-profile figure.
I thank the media for respecting my privacy and for continuing to protect my identity. I need to be able to define myself away from all of this.
Recently I have started a new chapter in my life as a father. The experiences I have been through have helped me understand what is truly important.
I am grateful for a legal system that everyone can believe in, where everyone is equal before the law and no one is above the law.
Please take time to discuss the events of this week with your children. Do not assume that they don’t know of the case. For all Catholics and people associated with Catholic education there are a myriad of emotions and responses that are all real and understandable in a time of confusion and loss. We will wait to see what transpires with the possibility of an appeal, a response from the Church and the direction that the Royal Commission takes now that the Appeal has been resolved. There is one certain fact and that it is that there are still many people who are victims still hurting and we pray that that may be heard and supported.
Professional Learning – Marist & CMC
Last Friday we hosted the staff of Marist College on a shared Professional Learning Day. The teaching staff spent the day with Mr aGlenn Pearsall, an author, teacher and board member of Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA), and the remaining staff had the pleasure of Marist Principal Darren McGregor and me leading various sessions. A reflection on the learning and teaching aspect is included in the newsletter (Read). These shared days will continue into the future and are a valuable opportunity to network and discuss Catholic secondary education in Bendigo.
The response to the IGen program that starts next year at Year 10 has been well beyond our initial expectations with nearly ninety students choosing the program. Students are going to be offered the opportunity to visit the Bethlehem site and learn more about the program. The staffing for the program will be determined in the near future. The other great news whilst discussing subject selections is that our retention is improving. The number of students heading elsewhere is lower and that is the result of greater knowledge, communication and awareness of our programs and academic performance. Thank you to the staff, students and parents who have been so proactive during this important time in deciding pathways.
Future Direction 2020+
In the coming months the College will be inviting families to contribute to our Future Direction. All families will be invited to attend an evening and discuss the work that has already been developed by College staff. The document will be broken down into specific areas and form a foundation to the direction of the College over the next five years. We want to establish a document that is real and known to all so that the direction in each of the areas is clear to all current and future members of our community. With growing enrolments, partnerships and masterplan it is an exciting time and an opportunity to ensure that we are reflecting the needs and vision of our community. So, we welcome your involvement and feedback. An invitation will be sent in the coming week.
Mr Brian Turner, Principal