Revoke Cardinal George Pell’s Australian Honours

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We, the undersigned, call on the Council for the Order of Australia under section 25 of the Constitution of the Order of Australia as amended made under Letters Patent and the Terminations and Cancellations Ordinance as amended made under section 30 of the Constitution of the Order of Australia to:

  1. terminate Cardinal George Pell’s appointment as a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2005; and
  2. cancel his award of a Centenary Medal in 2001.

What is the Order of Australia?

The Order of Australia ("the Order") is Australia's version of the British Honours system (the naming of Knights and Dames etc).  It is the primary way that Australia recognises outstanding community members.

The Order has four levels, the highest of which being Companions of the Order.  Appointments as Companions of the Order are made for eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Australia or to humanity at large.  Well-known Companions include Professor Peter Doherty AC, tennis legend Roy Emerson AC, actor Cate Blanchett AC, businessman Dick Smith AC, and former NSW Governor Professor Marie Bashir AC.

Cardinal George Pell is a Companion of the Order of Australia

Cardinal George Pell was appointed a Companion of the Order in 2005. 

He also received a Centenary Medal in 2001, an award established to commemorate the Centenary of Federation of Australia, honouring people who have made a contribution to Australian society or government.

Why Cardinal Pell’s Australian Honours should be revoked

In December 2018, Cardinal Pell was convicted of sexually abusing two choirboys while he was archbishop of Melbourne. Carinal Pell was found guilty of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16, as well as four charges of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16. The offences occurred in December 1996 and early 1997 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, months after Pell was inaugurated as archbishop of Melbourne. You can read more about these here and here.

Cardinal Pell’s fitness as a member of the Order of Australia must also be re-examined in light of the findings of the 2013–2017 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse ("the Royal Commission").

According to the final submissions of Counsel Assisting, Gail Furness SC, to the Royal Commission, Cardinal Pell failed to exercise proper care for children in Melbourne and Ballarat by not acting on information of sexual misconduct by a paedophile priest. The Counsel Assisting also called for key evidence provided by Cardinal Pell to the Royal Commission be rejected. You can read the Final Report of the Royal Commission here. You can also read a brief article by the ABC's Louise Milligan on the allegations made against Cardinal Pell at the Royal Commission here.

There is precedent for termination and cancellation

There have been numerous people who have been stripped of their Australian Honours in the past, such as Roque Charles "China" Hammal in 2003, former Federal Court Judge Marcus Einfeld in 2009, and gold medal-winning paralympian Daniel Bell in 2013. You can read about these and other examples here.

The reputation and prestige of the Order of Australia and all those who have received Honours from the Council for the Order of Australia is paramount and must be protected.  We believe that the actions of Cardinal George Pell have brought disrepute on the Order.

We therefore respectfully call on the Council for the Order of Australia to terminate Cardinal George Pell’s appointment as a Companion to the Order of Australia and cancel his Centenary Medal.

Picture credit: Kerry Myers
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