Former Minister for Foreign Affairs Minister, George Yeo, has drawn criticism after he threw his weight behind George Pell, in a public Facebook post on Wednesday (6 Mar).
Pell, who is widely known as Cardinal Pell, is the Catholic Church’s most senior official to be convicted of child sexual abuse. In June 2017, Pell was charged in Victoria with multiple historical sexual assault offences; he denied all charges.
Due to the charges raised against him, Pope Francis removed Pell from the Council of Cardinal Advisers on 16 August 2018. In December 2018, Pell was found guilty on five charges related to sexual misconduct involving two boys in the 1990s. His bail has been revoked and he is held in custody, with his sentencing scheduled for 13 March 2019.
Pell has lodged an appeal against his conviction on three grounds, including a claim that the jury verdict was unreasonable. Last month, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith initiated its own investigation of the charges against Pell, which could lead to Pell being defrocked.
The ex-ruling party politician has drawn criticism after he expressed support for Pell. Asserting that Pell’s “recent conviction and imprisonment filled me and many others with pain,” George Yeo wrote that he is praying “that Cardinal Pell will be acquitted in the appeal.”
Linking an article on Pell’s imprisonment, Yeo wrote: “In July 2013, I received a telephone call from Cardinal George Pell whom I did not know with an invitation to participate in an administrative reform commission called COSEA established by Pope Francis a few months after he was elected. In Feb 2014, I became a member of the Vatican Council for the Economy which meets 4-5 times a year.
“Cardinal Pell as Secretary for the Economy was always present at our meetings. I got to know him well and developed a deep respect for his sense of mission. His recent conviction and imprisonment filled me and many others with pain. Below is a piece written by Pablo Elton which I read with a heavy heart. We pray that Cardinal Pell will be acquitted in the appeal.”
Several netizens have blasted Yeo for his support for someone who is convicted for child sex abuse. Asking why he is defending a “paedophile,” netizens have criticised Yeo for his “blind faith” in Pell:
Yeo, a former military man who rose to the rank of Brigadier-General in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), left the army to pursue politics in 1988. He was elected into Parliament that year and went on to serve in various ministries, including the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
At the 2011 general election, the then-Foreign Affair Minister led the incumbent People’s Action Party team in Aljunied which was defeated by the Workers’ Party team. Yeo thus lost his seat in Parliament and his ministerial appointment.
Yeo announced that he was retiring from active politics on 10 May 2011. However, on 1 June 2011, he stated on his Facebook page that he was “thinking hard” about the possibility of becoming a candidate in the 2011 Singapore presidential election.
In June 2011, Yeo announced that he would not be standing for President and stepped down from the PAP’s Central Executive Committee months later. He is presently working in the private sector.
In July 2013, I received a telephone call from Cardinal George Pell whom I did not know with an invitation to…