He was not yet a Cardinal, but his sexual activity was already known to the police. None of us, his students at the Catholic University, ever suspected what he was up to, nor did we ever imagine that before long an unsuspecting Pope would give him a red hat. To us he was just the most eccentric professor we had – and one of the most brilliant. We attributed his pathological agitation at the podium to what everyone recognized as the genius of the most erudite Professor of Church History we ever had.
A recent book by Jean-Marie Pontaut, “Sous les Jupes de la Ve” (“Under the Skirts of the 5th Republic”) has revealed that the Paris Chief of Police, Charles Cancès, discovered in 1965 during a raid on a well-known brothel, that one of its clients whose clothes, when he put them back on, contained a forged identity card which indicated his profession as a book-seller (his books, indeed, sold well), was, in fact, none other than the renowned and respected professor of the Institut Catholique, le Père Jean Daniélou, S.J. The refrocked priest was furious and insulted the policeman, almost upbraiding him for practising such a disgusting profession ! The hushed-up incident was reported to higher-ups, including no doubt, says the author, the President of the Republic, who nine years later was not surprised when the Jesuit priest, now His Eminence Cardinal Daniélou, died in the arms of a prostitute – while “carrying out his ministry to fallen women”.
It would be outrageous hypocrisy on my part to blame Father Jean Daniélou S.J., for “having sex”. I, Father Leon O’Meara O.F.M., did the same. But the Jesuit professor covered up his double life for years, and succeeded in concealing his hypocrisy to the point of pulling the wool over the Vatican’s eyes. His Franciscan doctoral student came clean immediately, publicly admitted that he found no sense in priestly celibacy, hung up both his cowl and chasuble, moved out of his monastery, married Marie-Claire (extra Ecclesiam) and sought in writing a dispensation from Pope Paul VI.
Neither the Jesuit Cardinal nor the Franciscan priest was ever accused of pedophilia, as is at present a diocesan priest, not yet a Cardinal at the time of his purported pederasty, facing trial by Australia’s Royal Commission. Cardinal George Pell, today Number 3 in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, may or may not stand public trial. But he must be accorded the presumption of innocence which neither Daniélou nor I could claim. He and I were “guilty” of the “sin of the flesh” (accompanied, in the Jesuit’s case, by blatantly dishonest hypocrisy). Pederasty is far more than a sin – it is an abominable crime involving one or more innocent victims. Coïtus between consenting adults may be scandalous when one of the parties has made a vow of chastity, but it is not a crime. It may be illegal where prostitution is forbidden by the law. But pederasty is a crime against humanity.
If Cardinal Pell is proven guilty, he deserves punishment. If he is innocent, he deserves not only his freedom but an apology and admiration for his courage in facing his judges. As his boss, Pope Francis, has said, we must leave Australian justice to decide.