CHILD abuse royal commission revelations about the extent of the Catholic Church's crimes against children was the shock and grief stage of our response to this global tragedy.
The conviction and sentencing of disgraced cardinal George Pell for child sex crimes has brought forth the anger.
As the ugliness of those crimes, the cover-ups, and the damage done was revealed over five years of the royal commission, people were numbed. There were tears, but the magnitude of what had occurred and the horrifying culpability of the church required time to come to terms with after the commission's final report in December, 2017.
Now there's anger, but it's not just about Pell.
He is a lightning rod for anger against the church, that is true. But he is also a lightning rod for anger about powerful people abusing power, throwing their weight around, acting hypocritically, telling the rest of society what to do and sticking together when things go wrong.
He represents discussions behind closed doors, secret meetings, the dead hand of legal documents and confidentiality clauses, the denial of public accountability. And that way of doing things extends beyond the Catholic Church into too many elements of Australian life.
Anger and resentment by many Australians towards powerful institutions that have failed them - think governments, corporations, banks, bureaucracies - helps explain why people objected to John Howard and Tony Abbott speaking up for Pell after his conviction was finally made public.
Pell's victims knew if they made allegations against Pell they needed to face not only a cardinal, but the whole powerful edifice of the establishment that stood beside and behind him personally. That kind of power silences the wronged and entrenches privilege.
Some of Pell's powerful supporters said "the man they knew" was not capable of committing such crimes, as if how Pell appeared to other powerful people was the only Pell. They didn't, and can't, see the abuse of power that is child sexual abuse, which is one reason institutional abuse occurred for decades in Australia, in plain sight.
Pell is a child sex offender in one of the most influential positions in the global Catholic Church - and certainly the most influential position in Australia for decades - who represents, in a most shocking way, the "Do as I say, not as I do" leader.
His life as a Christian man has been exposed as a lie.
His conviction resonates because the lie at the very heart of his power challenges community faith in the idea that when we cede power to the few, they will act in the public interest. He remained in power, in plain sight, and was promoted both within his church and in Australian society. All the mechanisms we had at our disposal to bring injustices to light failed for years.
That is a shocking thought.
Royal commission chair Justice Peter McClellan summed up well why institutional child sexual abuse continued for so long in this country, in one of his final speeches before the final report was made public.
Police in Sydney and Melbourne had an “understanding..for many years” about protecting church figures accused of child sex allegations, Justice McClellan said.
This “understanding” reflected a broader view that the community would suffer if its “pillars” were exposed as criminals, so that "assumed stability of society was seen to be more important than the protection of the child or justice for children through the prosecution of offenders,” he said.
It was "impossible not to share the anger" many survivors feel because of the extent of the institutional betrayal, which included "some of our most important state instrumentalities", Justice McClellan said.
Which explains the anger many are feeling today.
George Pell is in jail. His powerful supporters are praying for his appeal. Australia's bishops - many in power because of Pell's influence - are silent while prominent Catholics talk about reclaiming their church from the leadership.
Pell thought he could get away with it all those years ago. Two boys were caught tippling the altar wine and he saw an opportunity. Pell thought they would never tell. One did. And millions of Australians believe.