June 1st 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Scomo routs Labor, the Green, GetUp and the left-wing media by Patrick J. Byrne and Peter Westmore

CANBERRA OBSERVED Surprise! Polls aren't what they used to be

GENDER POLITICS The true cost of childhood gender reassignment

OBITUARY Bob Hawke, R.I.P.: astute politician, flawed policies

POETRY AND SOCIETY T.S. Eliot and the modern condition

WATER POLICY The time is ripe to revisit the Bradfield scheme

ASIAN AFFAIRS Taiwan upgrades U.S. links, asserts sovereignty

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Recapping the trial as Cardinal Pell's appeal approaches

THE FAMILY AND SOCIETY Working to bring down the Sexual Revolution

HISTORY OF SCIENCE Faith and reason and Father Stanley Jaki Part 2: Science and ancient cultures

HUMOUR A tidy planet is a happy planet

MUSIC Charles Ives: Modern elements aimed at sounding good

CINEMA John Wick 1: The lighting of the fuse

BOOK REVIEW Novelised true crime a true thriller

BOOK REVIEW The experiences of Phoebe Raye



FEDERAL ELECTION Queensland voted for jobs, life and country

NATIONAL AFFAIRS The trial of Cardinal Pell ... an injustice

EUTHANASIA D Day - June 19, 2019 - Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 begins operation

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The trial of Cardinal Pell ... an injustice

by Anne Lastman

News Weekly, June 1, 2019

Much has been written and spoken about the trial of George Cardinal Pell on charges of historical sexual abuse.

The media (especially the ABC), filled with indignation at the ban on reporting throughout Australia during the trial, showed their displeasure when this ban was lifted. The gates of rage broke open and the biased reporting went into overdrive.

Cardinal Pell had been charged and finally found guilty of five sexual abuse offences purportedly committed in 1996–97. Finally, on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, he was sentenced to six years jail with a non-parole period of 3.8 years.

The first trial resulted in a mistrial (a hung jury), yet, in the second, the jury came to an unanimous guilty verdict.

A short recap

The abuse was alleged to have been committed in the sacristy in Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral; and, indeed, if these allegations were true, they were utterly disgusting. Other charges alleged to have occurred elsewhere (at the Ballarat pool) were dismissed as having no merit.

Having sat through the entire first trial and about three weeks of the five weeks of the second trial, I found the cited offences and allegations preposterous and totally impossible to have happened.

Not one of the over 20 witnesses was able to assert that it was possible for the abuse to have occurred. From the two boys’ leaving the choristers procession after Mass to run off into the sacristy to drink altar wine, to their being discovered by the Archbishop who told them that they “were in trouble” and then proceeded to sexually abuse them in a matter of a few minutes, and to the two boys returning to join the procession to go on as per normal seemed too tall a tale.

Further, after the abuse, we are to believe that the same choirboys continued in the choir for the same church for another year.

A sacristy after a Mass, any Mass, is usually a very busy place.

The sacristy is where after Mass the priest – or in this case Archbishop – goes to disrobe. It is usually busy with celebrants, altar servers, sacristans, collectors and, at times, members of the public for one reason or another.

A sacristy is never empty after a Mass. It would be impossible for the lewd acts to have occurred there irrespective of the judge’s comments that Cardinal Pell was brazen and arrogant, and believed that even if caught he had the power to override the accusation.

This for me is difficult to understand because, from my knowledge of sexual abuse of a child (many years of counselling clients with this history), the child becomes fearful to be in a place where the perpetrator could be met, especially a place where the child could find himself alone with the perpetrator. This is a deep fear.

To hear that the two boys never discussed the event again (even between themselves) also stretches the imagination and they did not tell anyone of the abuse and continued thus for 23 years, until Cardinal Pell became a public figure as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy (2014–19) and was further elected a member of the C9: the Cardinals appointed to assist the Pope Francis in the governance of the Church.

Cardinal Pell has from the very beginning declared his innocence and vehemently denied all charges and has remained steadfast in his “not guilty” plea. It was for this reason that he returned voluntarily to Australia to “have his day in court” and once and for all clear his name and stop the vilification by the Australian media.

As the “guilty” verdict in the second trial was read out, a gasp went around the court, followed by silence. Then words came from the judge of the decision to lift the ban on reporting, and the public taunting and vilification ensued. The Cardinal was led out of court to be held in custody at the Melbourne Assessment Prison while he awaited his sentencing, which came on March 13, 2019.

Having followed the Cardinal’s career for over a quarter of a century and having known him for all that time, I have always found him an honourable, available, humble, holy priest who loved his charism of priesthood.

I may be a little biased because, when I began my work in the area of post-abortion grief counselling, it was he who came to my rescue financially and offered help with office accommodation and had from then on been available when I needed someone to talk to. I have had the great pleasure of meeting with him even since his appointment to the Vatican, sharing a coffee on occasion and talking about life and events in our lives.

Cardinal Pell never stood a chance in a jury trial at this time and place. With the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – in which the Catholic Church was singled out for special attention – Louise Milligan’s book, Cardinal, arriving on the shelves just before the beginning of the trial, and her appearance on a current affairs program, and Tim Minchin’s song, Come back, Cardinal Pell, in which he calls the Cardinal the filthiest of names (scum, coward, pompous buffoon, arrogant). And, of course, the national apology to those affected by child sexual abuse by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and another by then Opposition leader Bill Shorten. All these items were in the news just before the empanelling of the jury and subsequent trial.

This, as a background leading to the case being heard in Melbourne County Court before Chief Judge Peter Kidd. When Justice Kidd made the Cardinal sign the sex offenders’ register in the courtroom, I wept. This could have been done in meeting room but, no, it was done in full view of everyone present. This was followed by his words, “take him out of here”, and the Cardinal, in humility, looked at the judge and bowed to him as he left.

Was it even possible to find an “uncontaminated” jury? The media had hounded Cardinal Pell for many years.

I’ve also wondered if the media photo of Cardinal Pell walking with convicted paedophile Gerald Ridsdale also contributed to the hatred that the media, victims’ groups, and Australians in general had conceived for him as someone who was friendly and protective of paedophiles priests. To me it seemed the most right thing to do because, in this, I was reminded of Jesus saying: “No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age” (Mark 10:29–30).

A priest leaves his family to join himself to a new family. His father is now his bishop and, in this case, Ridsdale’s spiritual father was Auxiliary Bishop George Pell, who accompanied his spiritual son to court, as any father would accompany his son to court, even on murder charge. Parents would not let their son face a trial alone. So did Ridsdale’s “father” accompany a guilty son to court.

A father doing his duty, though suffering in the process. Never liking what his “son” had done, but accompanying him on this road. The photo of George Pell and Ridsdale has been interpreted as a sign of the Cardinal’s guilt.

As I followed Cardinal Pell’s move through the ranks of the Church, which eventually led to his position as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy (what we call National Treasurer) and as a member of the Pope’s advisers, I held my breath. I wondered what would emerge to trip him up. I expected that something would happen.

His cleaning up diocesan financial and other issues as Archbishop of Melbourne and then of Sydney, and his unwavering orthodoxy, I thought would somehow lead him into serious difficulties, especially from those who didn’t want anything discovered.

In his position as Prefect for the Economy, he made enemies, especially when asking about cash stashes tucked away in various Vatican accounts that were not otherwise recorded. Vatican departments had for long been free with their finances, and what went on was the norm. According to the Cardinal, the various departments had guarded their activities and were jealous of their independence, thus making accounting difficult; and his delving into long established “methods” and attempting to reform these methods were not met with enthusiasm among those whose pattern of financial dealings would be disturbed.

A poor church is the ideal of Pope Francis, “but not a poorly run one”, was Cardinal Pell’s retort. So he set out to run a transparent office of the Vatican Economy.

I can hear the accusation, “conspiracy theorist”, but to me it seems that there has indeed been a project to have the Cardinal removed from his position as head of the Economy, which has been successful thanks to communications between Vatican/Italian connections with their Australian counterparts.

Were promises made here to ensure that the Cardinal would not be returning to his position as head of the Economy? Well, this has been achieved: his tenure as Prefect has been terminated.

I note further, and as I have thought and said in the past, that Cardinal Pell was originally accused of knowing about paedophile priests and the Church’s treatment of them and doing nothing about it. However, after his appointment as head of the Economy, he himself was accused of being a paedophile. An alleged crime and eventually a trial that would ensure the removal of someone who was attempting to clean up messy areas and bring about financial transparency. Most convenient!

Cardinal Pell remains in jail as he awaits his appeal in the first week of June.

Anne Lastman is a clinical counsellor.

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