“George is feeling pretty unwell and not really up to flying to Australia for your hearing,” Cardinal George Pell’s doctor has written in a letter to the Royal Commission Into Child Sexual Abuse.
Although the exact details of Pell’s illness are not known, it is believed he is suffering from a relatively rare, but serious condition known as “justicitis”, whereby the victim suffers such extreme adverse reactions from legal hearings as to find travel to any hearings impossible.
The Vatican-based cardinal was due to fly to Ballarat next month to give evidence at a commission hearing on his response to child sex abuse allegations within the Catholic Church in Australia. An earlier hearing at which Pell was set to give evidence was postponed due to poor health.
The effects of justicitis on individual sufferers can vary quite widely. For instance, one of the most well-known victims of justicitis, fugitive Australian businessman Christopher Skase, had his lungs so badly affected by legal matters that he was often unable to walk.
So severe was Skase’s case in the 1990s, that while generally able to enjoy his normal, multi-millionaire existence on a Majorcan beach, the very mention of the word “extradition” left him wheelchair bound.
In Pell’s case, it is his heart that is reportedly affected. Several commentators, however, have raised questions as to the validity of Pell’s complaint on grounds that his role in the Church response to widespread child abuse raises serious doubts over whether Pell actually has a heart.
In the letter, the doctor indicated that Pell may prove well enough to attend the hearing via video link up. However, the letter did note that the Internet connection at the Vatican was notoriously poor and there was a strong possibility Skype could crash at crucial moments in the ailing clergyman’s testimony.