The Australian court recently convicted Catholic Cardinal George Pell on five counts of sexual abuse for acts committed in 1996-1997. Cardinal Pell was accused by two former members of the Melbourne Cathedral of sexually abusing them after Sunday Mass. This case has made headlines all over the world, with many coming down strong on either side of the fence.
In Singapore, former PAP minister George Yeo has been vocal about his support for Cardinal Pell who has maintained his innocence this whole time and is currently in the process of appealing his conviction.
On 6 March, Mr Yeo shared an article on his Facebook page in which the author shared the lessons he’s learnt from Cardinal Pell who he describes as being ‘a close friend’. The author described him as having a strong desire to serve the Church and possessing heroic fortitude as he faced these allegations.
Mr Yeo himself shared about his relationship with the Cardinal which developed after being invited by the Pope to participate the administration reform commission called the Council of Economic Affairs. Cardinal Pell served as Secretary for Economy. Mr Yeo said, “I got to know him well and developed a deep respect for his sense of mission. His recent conviction and imprisonment filled me and many others with pain.”
He also expressed hope that the Cardinal would be acquitted in the appeal and shared another article that detailed why he thinks Cardinal Pell has grounds for an appeal:
Some netizens shared the same sentiments are Mr Yeo:
Many netizens were upset by Mr Yeo’s stance on the matter, baffled that he seemed to still support a man who has already been found guilty of sexual abuse:
A few days later on 9th March, Mr Yeo took to Facebook again to respond to the criticism he’s received. On the issue of how he could still support Cardinal Pell and believe in his innocence even when he has already been convicted, Mr Yeo said that his belief in the Cardinal is ‘a matter of conscience’. He added that it he has been following the case closely and finds the circumstances surrounding the abuse is ‘unbelievable’.
However, he did also say that he accepted the jury’s decision to convict the cardinal and should all appeal avenues be exhausted, he ‘will have to respect the judgement of the Australian judicial system’.
He also addressed comments that pointed out how he came across as being insensitive to the suffering of the victims and their families. He said, “As a father, how can I not sympathize with their trauma which is often lifelong? As a Catholic, I share in the sense of shame and horror at the revelation in recent years of widespread abuse of minors in Church institutions. Pope Francis convened a special summit last month in the Vatican to battle this ‘enemy within’. This is a fight for the soul of the Church”