From John Ray's shorter notes
March 29, 2019
The case of His Eminence Cardinal George Pell
There were a number of press reports about the trial and conviction of His Eminience and I put up three comments on them. I present the comments below in one file as I believe that they complement one-another
February 28, 2019
Many people do not believe that Australia's Cardinal George Pell is guilty of child sex offences
Nor do I. We must note that he has not had his opportunity to appeal the verdict yet. It is common for verdicts to be overturned on appeal. So regarding the case as closed could be most unwise and expose those who do leap to conclusions to some contempt. John Crowley of St Patrick’s College in Ballarat certainly runs that risk.
One needs to note that the case boils down to one person's word against another and that fantasies about sexual matters can be readily taken as true when they are not -- as we saw in the hugely disgraceful matter of "Nick" in Britain, who is now being prosecuted for his lies. He wrecked the lives of several people before he was disbelieved
It is reminiscent of the Nick affair that in this matter many of the details the complainant gave were improbable, if not impossible.
That the conviction is very fragile can also be seen in the fact that the first trial of the matter left a hung jury. It was only on retrial that His Eminence was convicted. It seems likely to me that in such a finely balanced matter knowledge of misdeeds by other Catholic clerics swung the verdict towards guilt. That is of course guilt by association, long recognized as a grave injustice
News of Cardinal George Pell’s conviction for child sex offences is being greeted with disbelief by shocked Catholics around the world.
Pell is the most senior Catholic cleric in the world to be found guilty of these offences and apparently, some just can’t believe it’s true.
Ed Pentin, the Rome correspondent for the oldest national Catholic newspaper in the United States, the National Catholic Register, has pointed to conspiracy theories circulating in the Vatican that Pell was set up.
“Most people here don’t believe the verdict,” Pentin told the Nine newspapers. “Most here believe Pell is innocent, certainly those who worked with him.”
Pentin said there was scepticism about the guilty verdict because Pell was investigating Vatican corruption and there was suspicion about the timing of the charges.
Suppression orders were lifted in Australia today that has allowed the conviction to be reported, although the judgement was handed down in December and reported by some international news outlets.
In an article for the Register, Pentin notes that after news broke in December about the verdict, a source told him, “People in court saw how flimsy the evidence was.
“This is an act of outrageous malice by a prejudiced jury. The media convicted him long ago in the court of public opinion and he did not receive a fair trial.”
Pell has faced years of negative coverage over what he knew, or should have known, about the activities of paedophile priests including the notorious Gerald Ridsdale, a former friend of Pell’s who was convicted of the abuse and indecent assault of 65 children, some aged as young as four years old.
Pell’s own hometown of Ballarat had such a high incidence of sexual abuse that the city was used as a case study in the final report of the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, which Pell gave evidence at in 2016 via video link from Rome.
Some believe Pell became a poster child for all that went wrong with the way the Catholic Church handled the abuse scandal.
Victorian County Court’s Chief Judge Peter Kidd acknowledged this, telling the jury at his trial that “you must not scapegoat Cardinal Pell”.
Peter Westmore, Pell’s friend of two decades and who attended the trial, told reporters outside the court: “I think the public mind has been so contaminated by the misdeeds of the Catholic Church and by the complaints, which people have raised, which have not been dealt with, that they said, ‘Well, he must have been guilty.’”
Others believe Pell didn’t help himself by refusing to give evidence in his own defence.
“Pell didn’t take the stand, and that definitely made a negative impression; it doesn’t look good if you won’t deny it with your own lips,” one source told the Catholic News Agency in December.
However, Father Frank Brennan, a Jesuit priest who attended some of the Pell proceedings noted that the complainant’s evidence must have been compelling for the Cardinal to be convicted.
The media and public were not allowed to be present when the complainant gave his evidence, which is normal in sexual assault cases.
But the case hinged on this testimony and in the end, the verdict came down to the jury believing the complainant was telling the truth.
“I was very surprised by the verdict. In fact, I was devastated,” Father Brennan wrote in an opinion piece in The Australian.
He noted that Pell’s defence barrister, Robert Richter QC had poked holes in the complainant’s evidence but ultimately the jury had still found the Cardinal guilty.
“Although the complainant got all sorts of facts wrong, the jury must have believed that Pell did something dreadful to him,” Father Brennan wrote.
“The jurors must have judged the complainant to be honest and reliable even though many of the details he gave were improbable if not impossible.”
Pell’s old school St Patrick’s College in Ballarat has also announced it will remove the Cardinal’s name from a building that had been named in his honour. It will also revoke his status as a Legend of the school and a line will be struck through his name on a College honour board listing ordained former students.
“The jury’s verdict demonstrates that Cardinal Pell’s behaviours have not met the standards we expect of those we honour as role models for the young men we educate,” the school’s headmaster John Crowley said.
Mr Crowley said the college must respond to the jury’s findings, although it reserves the right to revisit the decision if the conviction is overturned on appeal.
Today Pell’s lawyers confirmed they have lodged an appeal against the conviction and Pentin does not believe it’s likely Pope Francis will take any action until this has been heard.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not commented on Pell’s conviction and either has Liberal MP Tony Abbott, a Catholic and vocal supporter of Pell in the past.
But senators Derryn Hinch and Sarah Hanson-Young are calling for the Cardinal to be stripped of his Companion of the Order of Australia.
Meanwhile, senior Catholic figures in Australia have also expressed shock and disbelief at the verdict.
“While acknowledging the judgment of the jury, I join many people who have been surprised and shaken by the outcome,” Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli said in a statement.
“I fully respect the ongoing judicial process, noting that Cardinal Pell continues to protest his innocence. An appeal against the verdict has been lodged. It is important that we now await the outcome of this appeal, respectful of the ongoing legal proceedings.”
He said his thoughts and prayers were with all victims who had been abused by clergy, religious and lay people in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
“I renew my personal commitment to do all I can to ensure victims of such abuse in Melbourne receive justice and healing,” Archbishop Comensoli said.
“I also acknowledge all in the Catholic Church who are walking with survivors and communities harmed by the scourge of abuse, and who are committed to building a culture of safety for our children and vulnerable people.
“At this time, may I assure you that I keep all involved in my prayer.”
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge released a statement on behalf of national body, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
“The news of Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on historical child sexual abuse charges has shocked many across Australia and around the world, including the Catholic Bishops of Australia,” the statement said.
“The Bishops agree that everyone should be equal under the law, and we respect the Australian legal system.”
March 01, 2019
Why the complainant in Cardinal Pell’s trial was so compelling
ABC journalist Louise Milligan does not know what she is talking about. She says the accuser is highly believable ("compelling"). But there are two reasons why he might be believable but not truthful
1). He could be a paranoid schizophrenic. Many paranoids seem perfectly normal except for the focus of their delusion. And they can sound very reasonable about their delusion. Psychiatric nurses sometimes remark that some of their patients make more sense than a lot of people "outside". And religion is often the focus of schizophrenia. Older Brisbane people might remember soapbox orator Ted Wixted (1927-2001) and his arguments against the Virgin Birth. Ted had a good day job as a museum curator but did admit that angels appeared to him.
2). He could be a fantasist. Fantasists too can be very believable. One of the world's most cynical bodies of men would have to be the London Metropolitan Police. And yet they believed the child sex allegations of "Nick" for months -- until nothing in his story worked out. And some innocent men were ruined in the process.
"Nick" (Carl Beech)
Fantasists often continue to believe in the reality of their fantasy even when shown it cannot be true. Nick is at the moment being prosecuted for his lies but he still entered a firm "Not Guilty" at the beginning of his trial
An ABC journalist would be very easy to fool by either type of liar. If they can swallow global warming and the "patriarchy" they could swallow anything.
Cardinal George Pell, a man who rose to become, not just Australia’s most senior Catholic, but one of the most powerful men in the Vatican, had been found to be a paedophile.
When the news broke yesterday that Pell was found guilty in December of child sex offences, many expressed disbelief but others just couldn’t accept the verdict.
In an opinion piece, Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt said he believed Pell had been “falsely convicted”. The Daily Telegraphcolumnist Miranda Devine also said: “I don’t believe that Pell, who I know slightly and admire greatly, could be guilty of assaulting two choirboys in a busy cathedral.”
Yesterday, the 77-year-old disgraced cardinal was taken into custody and spent his first night behind bars before being sentenced on March 13. However, his legal team is pushing for a retrial and intend to appeal his child sex convictions with the Court of Appeal.
Speaking on his Sky News show on Tuesday night, Bolt said he had “serious misgivings” about Pell’s guilty verdict. “I just can’t accept it, based on what I consider is the overwhelming evidence of this trial,” he said. “And I base that opinion also on how many times Pell has been accused of crimes and sins he clearly did not do.
“Pell could well be an innocent man who is being made to pay for the sins of his church and made to pay after an astonishing campaign of media vilification.”
ABC investigative journalist Louise Milligan is one of the few people in Australia who knows the identity of Pell’s complainant. She tracked him down while researching her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, for which she won a Walkley Book Award.
She acknowledged on 7.30 on Tuesday night there had been a “lot of doubters” about the case but something she’s always said to people through the years was: “I defy anyone to meet this man and not think that he is telling the truth.
“He has absolutely nothing to gain from this and everything to lose.”
In her book Milligan calls Pell’s complainant The Kid and described him as an ideal witness from a police point of view.
“The Kid has not led a chequered life,” Milligan notes in her book. “He’s university-educated, he hasn’t had trouble with the law. He has a lovely young girlfriend, lots of friends, he’s a pillar of his community in a sort of understated, slightly ironic way, and in that part of his life, he is, he told me, very happy.
“He’s managed, just, to keep it together. He’s been able to compartmentalise. He’s the sort of complainant you’d want as a Victoria Police detective alleging historic crime.”
Both Bolt and Devine have pointed to the improbability of the scenario put forward in court.
The two boys were abused by Pell after he found them in the sacristy, a room used by priests to get dressed, where they were swigging sacramental wine after a Sunday Mass.
Both Bolt and Devine point out the attack is meant to have happened after Mass, when Pell would usually have spent time speaking to worshippers and that it happened in the sacristy, which is a busy room that someone could have walked into.
They also note Pell was normally accompanied everywhere he went by the master of ceremonies, Monsignor Charles Portelli. Their views echo an article written by Father Frank Brennan who also pointed out his concerns with some of the evidence presented.
“Anyone familiar with the conduct of a solemn Cathedral Mass with full choir would find it most unlikely that a bishop would, without grave reason, leave a recessional procession and retreat to the sacristy unaccompanied,” he wrote in Eureka Street.
He also noted that the priest’s garments could not have been pushed aside in the way described and it was “impossible to produce an erect penis through a seamless alb”.
“The police never inspected the vestments during their investigations, nor did the prosecution show that the vestments could be parted or moved to the side as the complainant had alleged.”
Father Brenann said the idea that the offences were committed right after Mass by a fully robbed archbishop in the sacristy with an open door and in full view of the corridor “seemed incredible to my mind”.
The public have not been allowed to see the complainant’s testimony but it was the key piece of evidence that decided the case.
The complainant did not appear in person at the trial but footage of his testimony and cross-examination from an earlier trial, which resulted in a hung jury, was shown instead.
“Although the complainant got all sorts of facts wrong, the jury must have believed that Pell did something dreadful to him,” Father Brennan acknowledged in his article.
March 16, 2019
Cardinal Pell And Australian Conservatism
John Tomlinson is a welfare academic. In the far-Left "New Matilda" he writes:
"I have always had a grudging tolerance for the classical conservative position with its defence of the established order, a belief in the imperfection of human beings, the necessity of privilege and leadership. Associated with the conservative position is adherence to traditional values (such as the primacy of the extended family), the importance of work and of sexual restraint, the sanctity of private property and an abhorrence of utopian social change."
That's not a bad definition of conservatism. The thing he leaves out of the definition, however, is the key to his whole attack on Australian conservatism. He leaves out the importance of individual responsibility. He clearly believes instead in social responsibility. He sees no problem in taking money off people who have earned it and giving it to people who have not earned it. Conservatives do see a moral problem there but in a classical conservative way resort to compromise: Do it but limit it as far as possible. Tomlinson is clearly uninterested in limits to redistribution.
He seems in fact to be uninterested in balance of any sort. Take his comments on Cardinal Pell. That anybody might take a nuanced view of His Eminence fills him with rage. He writes:
"Amongst those who gave court character references there was a ‘Craven’ vice chancellor of the Catholic University, an ex-‘socially conservative’ prime minister who had a track record of being reluctant to sack ex-Governor General, Peter Hollingsworth (who had previously been an Anglican Archbishop, who was, at the time, enmeshed in his own scandal).
It takes a particular style of myogenous, misanthropic troglodyte, with a total commitment to turning away from the obvious towards the promotion of arch-conservatism to stand where these men found themselves. They can’t claim to have been blinded by God, and fear and light – it is just that they have lost sight of any sense of right.
Then, of course, there were the trainee galahs in the media such as Andrew Bolt and Janet Albrechtsen who despite, the twelve and true finding Pell guilty of five counts of child molestation, declared the Cardinal innocent.
Howard, Craven, Albrechtsen and Bolt are all part of a right-wing putsch determined to drive out decency and humanity from our nation. But are they conservatives in the classical meaning of the term? In Howard’s court reference for Pell he writes:
“I am aware he has been convicted of those charges; that an appeal against the conviction has been lodged and that he maintains his innocence in respect of these charges. None of these matters alter my opinion of the Cardinal.
“Cardinal Pell is a person of both high intelligence and exemplary character. Strength and sincerity have always been features of his personality. I have always found him to be lacking hypocrisy and cant. In his chosen vocation he has frequently displayed much courage and held to his values and beliefs, irrespective of the prevailing wisdom of the time.”
I suppose that when Pell was rabidly denouncing gay sex, same sex marriage, abortion, divorce, adultery and environmentalism Howard considered him to be “displaying much courage and holding to his values and beliefs, irrespective of the prevailing wisdom of the time”. Clearly as the same sex plebiscite established, Pell was neither reflecting the general will nor the wisdom of the time.
The schmozzle of ideas professed by Pell, Howard, Craven, Albrechtsen and Bolt seem to have little to do with sexual constraint or conservatism generally but rather more to do with a particular reading of a neoliberal, protofascist conception of conservatism.
That anyone should doubt the guilt of His Eminence can only be due to foul motives in Tomlinson's view. The thought that His Eminence might be the victim of a wrongful conviction cannot apparently be allowed into Tomlinson's mind. If Tomlinson had any kind of balance in his mind he might have considered the prosecution ongoing in Britain at the moment of the fantasist "Nick" -- a man who did immense damage with his lies. His Eminence was convicted on one count by one accuser. Could that accuser also be a fantasist? His story was certainly replete with improbabilities
And wrongful convictions generally are a dime a dozen. Black men are exonerated of serious crimes in the USA on an almost weekly basis. Are Catholics seen as negatively to some people in Australia as blacks are in America?
We have certainly seen other instances of wrongful convictions that seem to have arisen from a jaundiced view of a group to which an innocent person belongs. Take the notorious case of Welsh footballer Ched Evans. Evans spent a couple of years in jail and had a couple of unsuccessful appeals before he was finally exonerated. So how come? Evan was convicted of rape under the leadership of a gaggle of feminist officials even though the alleged rapee had consented and had never lodged any complaint about Evans. The big mistake Evans made appears to have been being a typical footballer -- a type anathema to feminists. The one male involved in the prosecution thought Evans had no case to answer.
So conservatives -- such as myself -- are simply being cautious until we know the outcome of his Eminence's appeal. Could he have been convicted not because of anything he did personally but because of the evil deeds of others in his church? Being cautious is very conservative, after all. It may even be definitional of conservatism. The foul motives that Tomlinson attributes to conservatives in relation to Cardinal Pell in reality reveal the foul and bigoted mind of John Tomlinson.
The two examples I have just given are from Britain but Australians will remember the quite notorious case of Lindy Chamberlain -- where a devout Christian woman -- wife of a Pastor -- was convicted of murdering her baby -- on precisely zero evidence. She was however a Seventh Day Adventist and a redneck jury apparently saw that as "weird" and making the woman capable of anything. She spent some years in prison before she was finally exonerated.
Excerpt from a comment in a larger piece about the priesthood published on 28 March
I am particularly concerned that the foul deeds of a few may lead to victimization of innocent priests. Like most Australian conservative writers, I suspect that we have already seen a grievous instance of that in the conviction of Cardinal Pell -- who added to his sin of being a priest the even greater sin of being an outspoken conservative. He doesn't even believe in the great Leftist global warming hoax! Unforgiveable! And that he was doing important work in a senior position at the Vatican also put a target on his back
So the Left were out to "get" him for years, with a constant blizzard of unsubstantiated accusations hurled at him so when even a very weakly substantiated accusation of pedophilia against him came before a jury they appear to have decided that there is no smoke without fire. It seems very likely that the court of appeal will exonerate him.
So am I a Catholic apologist? Am I writing to defend my own faith? As Margaret Thatcher famously once said: "No, no and no" For starters, I am in fact the most thoroughgoing atheist you could meet. I agree with German analytical philosopher Rudolf Carnap that no metaphysical statement is meaningful. If you want to know why, read Carnap.
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