Select Page

Book Review — Prison Journal Volume 1: The Cardinal Makes His Appeal

The Pell Prison journal demonstrates that the Australian High Court’s decision freed a man who could not be broken: a man whose vibrant Christian faith sustained him under extraordinary pressures…. Like More and Fisher. George Cardinal Pell took his stand on the truth, confident that the truth is liberating in the deepest meaning of human freedom. The journal you are about to read illustrates that liberation in a luminous way.

-George Weigel from the introduction

I don’t think I can better that paragraph from Weigel myself. Prison Journal Volume 1 is meant to be the first of three or so volumes, and convers George Cardinal Pell’s first several months in custody, for an offence which he never, and could not have committed; the sexual abuse of a teenage choir boy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in Melbourne Australia, after Mass in the end of 1996. The details of that case can be found in an excellent book I have recently reviewed, The Persecution of George Pell by Keith Windschttle, who supported Pell throughout his ordeal with articles written in Quadrant, one of Australia’s conservative magazines that also published Windschuttle’s book.

The journal entries start 27 February- 13 of July 2019. Each Chapter is divided into weeks, with the first twenty weeks in this volume. I am not sure if Pell initially intended this for publication. Yet Pell writes on April 1st he gives to his lawyer Kartya Gracer, a full pad written of his entries for his part-time sectary in Sydney to have them typed up. In the next paragraph following, with his many letters he was receiving that one woman wrote that the beginning of Catholic persecution (in Australia) was when Pell refused Communion to those homosexuals wearing rainbow sashes in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne. He comments further with Australian’s voting in favour of homosexual marriage, he writes we can expect to see further pressure to limit our religious freedoms to give Christian teaching on family, marriage and sexuality in our schools and churches and parishes.

The journal is full of entrees like this. In Corpus Christi, Sunday, June 23 2019, Pell writes on the Real Presence. Corpus Christi is of course the Latin for the Body of Christ, and that this medieval feast highlights the ancient traditional Catholic belief in the Real Presence, that Jesus is truly present, body and blood, soul and divinity in the consecrated Eucharist bread, and is presence is not merely symbolic. This doctrine is called transubstantiation, that difficult word with the four s’ as mentioned in a book I ready by Geoffrey Blainey A Short History of Christianity.

There are so many passages of writing throughout the book. At the end of nearly all diary entree’s, Pell includes a pray, sometimes of his own composition or by someone else, or a Psalm. As I was reading this, making notes I thought, for many of these days, this book would be useful for devotions. Yet, I wonder if Pell was writing this more for himself. All the time he spent in prison; he was in solitary confinement. He was let out of his cell for exercise, usually a very small he could walk around, praying the Rosary. His visitors were limited to I think from memory ten people, who had to be on a list. His food was basic, and often cold as dinner was served early, 3:30pm, as the section was locked down from 4:00pm until the next day. He spent his time, not just writing this book, but watching television, reading books like War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, in prayer, reading reflections from the breviary’s he received from Sr. Mary, the prison Chaplin who also brought him Communion a couple of times a week and was able to talk to him for a time as well. That is the part I really felt for Pell. He was not only of course unable to attend Mass, he was also couldn’t preform Mass either for the whole time he was in jail. He had to rely on Channel 10’s Mass for You at Home that was broadcast from 6:00 am. Sometimes, his watch alarm didn’t go off, and he may miss it. Pell knew some of the priest preforming the Mass. After this, he watched some of the Protestant services.  That may have been one of the hardest things during his ordeal. Yet he was always polite to his guards. He prayed for his enemies. He received hundreds of letters, often getting encouragement from people all over the world.

There is so much more I could write, but I encourage you to read the book. It ends on 13 of July. Pell was hopeful at this stage that after the appealing his conviction on the 5-6 of June with the Supreme Court of Victoria, that he would be found not guilty, yet he knew there could be a possibility it could go the other way. So I will need to wait until the second book to be released for his reflections on 21 August when the three judges rejected his appeal 2-1. This book will appeal to Catholics and non-Catholics everywhere. For those with unbelief who read this, I hope that they don’t find it confronting as Pell writes about God and His Son Jesus Christ. This is really is a pastoral book. I hear, and know from personal experience, it is rarely, if ever reason alone that people come to Christ. I think it is often seeing other people who live out their vocation. That their lives truly reflect that they love and fear God. (Pell also talks about the fear of God in this volume too). George Cardinal Pell in his writings in Prison Journal Volume 1 certainly provides the example of how Christians must try and love their enemies, and not curse them.


Author: George Cardinal Pell

Minimum Age: 16+

Type of Book: Autobiography/Journal

Book Length: 348

Published: 2020

Note: This book review is from Carl Strehlow, a valued member of Coffin Nation.

Photo credit: EWTN/YouTube


Tweet to Patrick HERE

Follow Patrick on Facebook HERE

Subscribe to the Podcast and the YouTube Channel

(Click on the images and then click on subscribe)

             Apple/Mac Users:                

Android Users:

Subscribe to the YouTube Channel:

While you are there, please leave an honest review.

Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated!