All sorts of Catholics, both those working for the well known papal knight, Rupert Murdoch, as well as those from the church hierarchy and associated entities are all casting aspersions on the jury verdict in the Pell trial, which was unanimous. Mostly they are attempting to pretend that the jury either didn’t properly consider the evidence or simply that they could not believe that Pell could do such a thing. It is unlikely that many of these co-religionists sat through the trial and heard all the evidence, after all there was no way Pell could have been considered guilty, right?
In Murdoch’s Daily Bellylaugh, columnist Miranda Devine wrote in defence of Pell (I cannot read it because it is behind a paywall; and I refuse to bay form Murdoch drivel). She also said, that she was sorry if her “defence of Pell upsets victims of child sexual abuse. What has happened to them is monstrous and no punishment is enough for the evil paedophiles who infiltrated the church, masqueraded as men of God and preyed on innocents. But making a martyr of an innocent man won’t right those wrongs. It just compounds the evil”1. Notice how she seems to be offering an implied protection of the church and indicating that paedophiles had infested the church from outside, whereas we know from experience in numerous countries, that it is the church which seems to be the main reservoir of paedophiles. How she thinks she knows that Pell is innocent, she doesn’t explain. This is especially curious given the unanimous verdict, by a jury which had heard all the evidence. Andrew Bolt and sundry others piled on too, in attempting to call the verdict incorrect, implying either that the jury were incompetent or the complainant was a liar.
Vice Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, Greg Craven, has stated in the Australian that what we have witnessed “is a combined effort by much of the media, including the ABC, and elements of Victoria’s law enforcement agency, to blacken the name of someone before he went to trial.” One almost expects the government to start to pile on the ABC, and to eventually blame it all on the Labor Party, and in particular, Bill Shorten.
Jesuit priest, Frank Brennan apparently heard all the publicly available evidence. Much evidence was not available to the public, particularly a recording of the evidence from the previous trial in which the jury could not reach a decision. As Brennan said, “no member of the public has a complete picture of the evidence and no member of the public is able to make an assessment of the complainant’s demeanour.” Precisely. As Brennan notes, details of the recording could only be interpreted from quotes related by the barristers in their examination of other witnesses and in their final addresses. Brennan said that he heard someof the publicly available evidence and has read most of the transcript, but still he says he was devastated by the verdict, and surprised by it. Brennan seems to blame the Victorian parliamentary enquiry, the federal royal commission into child sexual abuse, the publication of Louise Milligan’s book Cardinal, the federal parliamentary apology to the victims of child sexual abuse, and even Tim Minchin’s song Come Home (Cardinal Pell) for swaying the jury3. That is drawing a long bow.
ABC journalist Louise Milligan has reported that she has been contacted by parents from catholic schools in Sydney and Melbourne; they were livid that every family was sent a copy of Frank Brennan’s article3, which they perceived as an attempt to discredit the jury verdict. One of these schools was St Kevin’s, the school attended by Pell’s victims. The victims lost their scholarships when they left the choir the year after being abused4.
Why are all the Murdoch nutters and sundry other apologists piling opprobrium onto the jury verdict in the Pell case? How come they didn’t support Rolf Harris this much when he was convicted? It is because Pell is one of theirs: one of the powerful and the nation’s top Catholic. He is the topmost member of the worldwide Catholic Church to be convicted of molesting children, and this will cause many ructions in the church, with many of the progressives glad to see the back of him. He is a social conservative, and was vehemently opposed to same sex marriage, which immediately endears him to many of the religious far right of the Liberal Party. He is also a climate change denier which immediately makes him a favourite of the Murdoch nutters as well as far-right Liberals. He is also in thick with the far-right climate change denying, neoliberal Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), having attended its 70thanniversary celebrations in 20135. However, overall, it is because he is an influential leading culture warrior, and to lose his voice and support would be another nail in the coffin of the far-right. While Pell’s conviction is going to be appealed, and nobody can really guess how that will turn out, it will be the end of Pell as a public and political figure. Frank Brennan accused various people and events of slanting the public climate such that it influenced the jury to lean towards a conviction. That is an old technique; to accuse the ‘opposition’ of that which you ‘side’ are guilty. All the opprobrium heaped on the Pell verdict by Brennan, the Murdoch hacks and others could be construed as part of a softening up of the judiciary to attempt to make it more likely the appeal will be successful.