December 11, 2015 — George Pell “too unwell” to appear before Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Cardinal George Pell’s legal team communicated to the Royal Commission on this date that he was too unwell to travel to Australia from the Vatican in order to give evidence in person. It’s possible that Pell was actually ill – he was quite old, and had had medical problems in the previous few years – but it was widely viewed as a stalling tactic by the general public in Australia.

And given that when he did finally testify he was charged with several crimes, it’s hard to think that it was anything else.

October 20, 1996 — The Catholic Church announces the “Melbourne Response”

The Melbourne Response was a program by the Catholic Church in Victoria aimed at responding to the rising number of complaints of sexual abuse being made against Catholic clergy in that state. It came from the highest levels of the church in the state, being led by Archbishop George Pell of Melbourne.

It was a great success, according to the Catholic Church.

It was less of a success according to the victims and their families, who were treated with suspicion, disdain, a lack of empathy (a charge often leveled against Pell in particular), pitifully small cash settlements and non-disclosure agreements. Some years later, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse would not be impressed by the Melbourne Response, but it sure saved the church a lot of money and kept a lot of people from going public, and isn’t that what’s really important (to George Pell)?

June 21, 1963 — Giovani Montini becomes Pope Paul VI

Cardinal Montini of Milan has been considered by some as a potential papal candidate in 1958, but as a non-member of the College of Cardinals was not eligible for selection. Pope John XXIII was chosen instead, seen as something of a non-entity and a safe choice by those who voted for him. He turned out to be the greatest reformer the Papacy had seen in centuries, calling the epochal Vatican Council II that changed the dogma and practices of the Catholic Church more than any single event since the Council of Nicea 1600 years earlier.

John died in office, and Giovani Montini became Pope Paul VI, inheriting the still going on Vatican Council II, which he saw completed and its reforms implemented over the course of his 15 year reign. Paul’s particular focus was restoring relations with the Orthodox churches of Eastern Europe who had split from the Catholic Church centuries earlier, but he excluded no one in his reaching out to all Christians, other faiths and even atheists. He was also the first Pope to visit six continents.

Paolovi.jpg
By Vatican City (picture oficial of pope) – Vatican City, picture oficial of pope Paul VI (vatican.va), Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel

1212 — The Children’s Crusade sets out for the Holy Land

The Children’s Crusade is the name given to a variety of fictional and factual events which happened in 1212 that combine some or all of these elements: visions by a French or German boy; an intention to peacefully convert Muslims in the Holy Land to Christianity; bands of children marching from various other European nations to Italy; and finally, the children being sold into slavery and failing entirely in their admittedly unlikely and quixotic mission.

It has become a byword for tragedy, waste, naivete and religious stupidity, although of course, since it was never officially sanctioned by Rome, the Catholic Church denies all responsibility for it.

January 13, 1129 — The Knights Templar are officially recognised by the Catholic Church

The actual beginnings of the Knights Templar (or to give their full title, “the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon”) go back another ten years, to a French crusader and knight named Hugh de Payens. De Payens recruited eight other knights (all his relatives by marriage or blood). They took upon themselves the task of guarding all pilgrims in the Holy Land. (Yes. Nine of them. And their horses. To cover all of Outremer.)

In 1129, at the Council of Troyes, the Knights were officially recognised by the Catholic Church, largely thanks to the efforts and influence of Bernard of Clairvaux (later St Bernard, although not the one the dog breed is named for – that’s Bernard of Menthon), who was a hugely influential figure in the Church (and also the nephew of one of the nine original members). The meteoric rise of the Knights Templar began here, with Bernard promoting their Rule as the noble ideal to aspire to. Their ranks and coffers swelled, and then, so did the rumours. Less than two centuries after their founding, the Knights Templar would be denounced as heretics and disbanded.