IT is two days before an Australian royal commission questions a cardinal in Rome about child sexual abuse, and a Hunter man is thinking about how it all started, with the death of his son.
John Pirona’s suicide in July, 2012, after he was sexually abused by Catholic priest John Denham as a child and left a final note that ended with the words “Too much pain”, was the catalyst for the Newcastle Herald’s Shine the Light campaign for a royal commission.
His father Lou Pirona accepts John’s death provided the focus for a community that said enough was enough. The loss of one life came to represent the loss of many.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is the legacy of John Pirona and the thousands of others whose childhoods were devastated, Mr Pirona said.
He will watch a royal commission live stream of Cardinal George Pell giving evidence from Rome on Monday about what he knew about child sexual abuse in the Ballarat area of Victoria.
Mr Pirona has nothing to do with the church anymore, and is scathing about the cardinal’s failure to return to Australia to give evidence, and the role of Pope Francis.
“You can bet your boots this is not just Pell's decision. The Pope's got to be part of this decision. It’s a snub to the royal commission by Pell and the Vatican. Pell has deigned to appear, but on his terms,” Mr Pirona said.
He believes the church has made a serious mistake.
“Pell’s attitude, supported by the Pope, is seen as symbolic of the attitude of the Catholic Church to abuse victims,” Mr Pirona said.
At his son’s funeral Mr Pirona, a retired Newcastle solicitor, told mourners he supported a royal commission into the Catholic Church because “No person or organisation should be above or outside the law”.
The then Prime Minister Julia Gillard was in Newcastle on that day. Three months later she announced a royal commission.
Mr Pirona says he is no fan of Cardinal Pell, whose years of legal action against abuse survivor John Ellis, despite the church accepting his allegations were true, “amounted to an abuse of a different sort on top of the original abuse”.
The death of his son, a Belmont North fireman, leading to the questioning of a cardinal who is number three in the Vatican is symbolic, significant, and a legacy for many, Mr Pirona said.