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Is this Australia? The incandescent rage of bullies who won’t allow truth to inform their convictions threatens to disrupt Cardinal Pell’s funeral

Thousands of mourners will attend the funeral or pray before the coffin of Cardinal George Pell this week. It will, by far, be the largest “event” held at St Mary’s Cathedral for some time and will be a visual testament to how many people loved him and were grateful for his priestly and episcopal ministry that spanned six decades. It will also be a nice – and final – answer to those critics who labelled him as being out of touch with the faithful.

We know the mourners won’t be the only ones there, though.

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At least one “official” protest – titled ‘Pell go to Hell! LGBTI protest at George Pell’s funeral’ – has been planned. It has been advertised as including a march and speakers, with protesters encouraged to bring their own banners and placards. It has been advertised on social media and given space in the mainstream media as well.

There will likely be other unofficial protests on the day, and no doubt a risk that some will seek to disguise themselves amongst the mourners and disrupt the funeral itself.

This is hardly a surprise. We can’t expect this small but very vocal number – egged on by biased and bigoted media reporting – to behave rationally when it comes to the Cardinal’s death, given they gave no signs of rationality during his life. Hopefully, those who do seek to disrupt the funeral will be quickly dealt with by police and security so that those present will be able to maintain the spirit of prayer and solemnity that befits this historic moment.

What is surprising and, quite frankly, incredibly disappointing is that these planned and threatened protests have received no condemnation from any of our political leaders, nor have any of them sought fit to rebuke the vile comments being made on social media.

I would never suggest anyone should spend any time on Twitter, but if you took even a quick look at what has been tweeted since news of the Cardinal’s passing broke, you would see something disturbing and quite inhuman.

Cardinal Pell is seen after leaving the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in Australia on 26 July 2017. Photo: CNS, Mark Dadswell, Reuters

Where else, in the history of this country, has the funeral of a religious leader been subject to a protest?

When has the constant stream of disgusting and depraved commentary that has been directed at the Cardinal and the Catholic Church on social media platforms been left unchallenged?

Can you imagine one of the leaders of any other faith community being spoken about so publicly in such a way without it being labelled as ‘hate speech’ or some brand of ‘phobia’?

I can’t recall a protest ever being organised for the funeral of any other religious leader, but if it did, I would expect at least one senior political leader to encourage the planned protesters to stay home. I would expect them to stand up and say that it is indecent to protest a funeral or threaten to disrupt it; that whatever your thoughts on the deceased, those who grieve them should be allowed to do so in peace.

I would expect that if a religious leader was subject to such disgusting comments after they died, that at least one MP would put politics aside and say that such behaviour is unacceptable and unAustralian.

The silence is deafening – from both sides of parliament, state and federal.

The denial of a state funeral is one thing, and there were obviously politics at play there (not that it matters, because the State cannot add anything to the beauty of a Catholic Requiem Mass anyway.) Plus, there would have been criticism at the costs involved in offering a state funeral.

However, it costs absolutely nothing to take a stand for common decency and to tell people that, in Australia, we don’t protest funerals.

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