Gerard Henderson’s most recent Media Watch Dog (No. 315, 13 May) had a well-deserved go at Radio 2GB’s Ben Fordham for picking up a Daily Mail story about Cardinal Pell and his lunch, and running with the pack. The sneering mocking headline of the Daily Mail piece by an Australian ‘journalist’ is:
Heart condition improving then, George?
Cardinal Pell pictured tucking into steak, chips and beer in a Roman piazza – weeks after claiming he was ‘too ill’ to come home to face child sex abuse royal commission.
The headline tells us which sector of our liberal-democratic society is the object of his incitement.
The report is based on a series of photos that someone following the Cardinal around took of him at lunch in Rome with a fellow cleric. For anyone else, the actions of the photographer would have been harassment, stalking and an intolerable intrusion into one’s privacy. Not for the ‘hated’ Cardinal Pell. Anything goes.
The central point of the report is that Cardinal Pell indulges in a lunch that is harmful to his heart while he pleaded a heart condition to avoid appearing in Melbourne before the Royal Commission into institutional child sexual abuse. I will leave aside the official medical report and the availability of a video link granted to other interviewees. Let’s concentrate on the meal. Is it an unhealthy meal and would it be harmful to the Cardinal’s heart condition?
The photos show that the meal consists of a modest serving of chips, SALAD, and a piece of steak. Note in all the comments that followed the Daily Mail report the salad is never mentioned. Fordham did not mention it. To accompany his meal, the Cardinal has one ‘tall’ glass of beer, as if the height of the glass is of critical importance to his health.
Now, I would contend that far from being an unhealthy meal, it is the opposite. It is a good, rounded meal in its proportions. Many healthy Australian families would have such a meal several times a week. My mother, always concerned about a healthy balanced diet, served just this sort of meal to her family. One glass a beer is unexceptionable to have with one’s meal. But the real failure in this report, a failure which condemns it to the category of anti-Catholic bigotry, is that heart problems are not necessarily related to diet, let alone overeating. One should check the range of heart problems for verification.
Cardinal Pell has a heart problem that remains unaffected whether he eats a bowl of chips or a bowl of salad. But a long flight and a pressurised cabin do make a difference – a dangerous difference. This whole story about Cardinal Pell and his lunch is part of the unrelenting and merciless persecution he is subjected to. And that is a part of the revival of anti-Catholic sectarianism.
Ben Fordham’s 2GB drive spot appears popular, but he still has some growing-up to do.